Country Now Awards: Favorite Breakthrough Artist
These are the nominees for Favorite Breakthrough Artist.
Pour yourself something strong and kick off your cowboy boots because Country Now is celebrating the devoted artists that have made an influential impact on Music City and throughout the country music genre in 2021 with the inaugural Country Now Awards.
For the first time ever, Country Now is recognizing signed and independent musicians that have scored high placement on the charts, released smash hits, held epic performances, and even the country newcomers who have placed their name on the map since January 1, 2021.
Music fans have the opportunity to participate in the 2021 Country Now Awards, as they now have the chance to scroll through all 14 categories and hand-pick their favorite artists, songs and albums.
Fans can start voicing their opinion with unlimited votes beginning on Monday, November 15 at 9 AM CT. The polls will close on Tuesday, November 30 at precisely 11:45 PM CT.
To support your favorite artist, head to countrynow.com/vote.
This award goes to an artist who enjoyed breakthrough success in 2021.
Callista Clark is taking the country music space by storm. The young songstress broke into the industry with her five-track EP, Real To Me. The collection of radio-worthy hits showcases her mature vocals, thoughtful storytelling, and unique country-pop sound. “It’s Cause I Am,” the lead single from her debut EP, can instantly give anyone the confidence to face anyone or the day head-on. Throughout the track, you will hear the fierce songstress take ownership of her creative ventures. The empowerment anthem embodies who Clark is at her very core. Therefore, she opened her Grand Ole Opry debut set with the track in August. She already has a slew of tour dates planned for 2022.
Country music fans might be hearing Drew Parker’s voice on the radio for the very first time, but they have listened to his storytelling for years. Parker has had a hand in penning some of the hottest hits in the country – such as Luke Combs’ “Forever After All” and Jake Owen’s “Homemade.” Now, the award-winning songwriter is keeping some of his impressive melodies to himself to embark on his solo career. The way he intertwines his ‘90s country inspiration with modern musical elements is what makes his latest release, “While You’re Gone” an instant fan favorite. In 2021, the budding vocalist became one of the fastest debut artists to hit the Billboard chart. Parker also made his Grand Ole Opry debut.
Nashville’s promising newcomer, Elvie Shane, has made a splash in the industry and on TikTok with his 15-track debut record, Backslider. His beautiful tribute tune, “My Boy,” became his claim to fame, as he achieved No.1 status on country radio and went viral on social media. The sentimental anthem is a friendly ode to his stepson and stepfathers everywhere looking to be a positive role model. Once the lovely melody arrived on the powerful platform, blended families created their own videos by capturing monumental moments. The track became so successful that Shane created a “My Girl” version of the song for stepdaughters. In 2021, Shane scored his very first Gold-certified record, performed at various festivals, made his Grand Ole Opry debut, became a father once again, and jumped on the Brooks & Dunn Reboot 2021 tour. The successful artist will also launch his first-ever headlining run, with his My Kinda Trouble Tour. The country newcomer will start his multi-city run with Frank Ray in February of 2022.
Singer-songwriter HARDY broke into the industry in 2020 with his debut record, A Rock. However, he made a name for himself with his star-studded collection, HIXTAPE: Vol. 1 – which features chart-topping party song “One Beer” with Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson. The country newcomer turned hitmaker kept the positive momentum up as he rolled into 2021. He released several tracks from HIXTAPE Vol. 2, toured with Jason Aldean, joined Brantley Gilbert and Toby Keith on “The Worst Country Song Of All Time,” performed alongside BRELAND and Dierks Bentley at the 2021 CMA Awards. In 2022, HARDY’s career is destined to soar to new heights as he’s been confirmed as direct support for Morgan Wallen on The Dangerous Tour.
Following the release of Jameson Rodgers and Luke Combs’ fun-filled track “Cold Beer Calling My Name,” the two saw rapid success. The hitmakers reached No.1 on country radio, which served as Jameson’s second No. 1 after his 2019 debut single “Some Girls.” This year, Rodgers had the opportunity to relish in the success of his career-defining hits on his Cold Beer Calling my Name Tour with several country newcomers such as – Drew Parker, Jordan Rowe, Drew Green, and more. On tour, he shared tracks off of his 2021 debut album, Bet You’re From A Small Town, which is more than worth of a listen. The project showcases Rodgers’ impeccable songwriting and knack for storytelling.
Country music rising star Lainey Wilson has touched many hearts nationwide with her anthem “Things A Man Oughta Know” from her major label debut album, Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’. The chart-topping hit gives men out there a little piece of advice on how to treat people right in a romantic relationship and delivers a few life lessons. The empowering message hit No.1 at country radio, and the go-getter also became the first new solo female artist to claim the spot since Gabby Barrett’s smash hit “I Hope.” Wilson has become one of country’s most buzzed-about new artists, as she was included in CMT’s “Next Women of Country” 2021 class, presented at the 2021 CMA Awards, became an Opry “NextStage” artist and toured with Jason Aldean. Most recently, the female powerhouse announced that she will be hitting the road with Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, and Tenille Arts come 2022. The bell-bottom country hitmaker announced a new collaboration with Cole Swindell.
It was Stell’s 2019 love song, “Prayed For You” that jumped-started his career in country music. Upon release, the touching anthem spent two weeks at No.1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay Chart and became NSAI’s “10 Songs We Wish We’d Written,” garnered over 270 million streams, and scored 20 million views on the official music video. The newcomer kept up the positive momentum and kicked off 2021 by making power moves within the country music scene, as he surprised fans with a new breakup song, “That Ain’t Me No More.” The 6’7 artist shocked music-goers on The Bobby Bones Show back in February. Throughout the single, fans hear Stell reflecting on his past relationship and sharing how he has changed as a man. The beautiful ballad that exhibits his personal growth was penned by the award-winning artists HARDY, Hunter Phelps, Jack Mitchell, Nick Donley, and Smith Ahnquist. Following the smash hit, he joined forces with HARDY and Dierks Bentley on HIXTAPE Vol.2 track “Hometown Boys,” released mid-tempo tune “Boyfriend Season,” and toured with Old Dominion.
Mickey Guyton always manages to leave chills running up your spine with her moving melodies. Her title track, “Remember Her Name,” off of her 16 piece debut collection, shares the ups and downs of pursuing her craft in Music City. “Remember Her Name is a culmination of the last ten years of my life in Nashville,” Guyton shared. “This album is the closing of a chapter. All those years ago, I set out to create music that would make people feel self-empowered, loved, and comfortable with being themselves, and this album holds true to all of that. I hope everyone who listens finds something that connects and speaks to them.” Guyton performed the empowering “Love My Hair” at the 55th Annual CMA Awards alongside country newcomers Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards. The influential songstress was previously honored as Breakout Artist of the Year at the CMT Artists of The Year ceremony in Nashville. The trailblazer is set to perform at the American Music Awards on Sunday, November 21 and the Bud Light Super Bowl LVI Music Fest alongside Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani in Los Angeles in February.
Before getting his big break in Nashville, Parker McCollum dominated the Texas airwaves with his 2015 record, The Limestone Kid. The country breakout star has come a long way as a vocalist since his independent release. Once the hitmaker stepped foot in Music City, he created a stir with his remarkable sound and impressive play on words. It wasn’t long until his songwriting earned him a publishing deal with Warner/ Chappell Nashville in 2018 and a recording deal with Universal Music Group in 2019. However, it was 2020 when he started to gain positive traction with his hot release of Hollywood Gold. The six-track collection became the highest-selling debut country EP of 2020 and included his certified Platinum hit, “Pretty Heart.” In 2021, McCollum released his major-label debut – Gold Chain Cowboy.
Nashville’s promising new artist, Priscilla Block, never fails to surprise us with her empowering anthems. Similar to many other musicians, the blonde powerhouse experimented with TikTok during quarantine and started sharing original material. Her unfiltered and relatable songwriting earned her recognition on social media and scored her a record deal with UMG. Before Block became a signed musician, she released an unapologetic anthem, “Thick Thighs.” The track sparked a conversation around body positivity and instantly gained her a loyal fan base. Following the up-tempo banger, she dropped her breakup ballad “Just About Over You.” The single highlights her vocals and the harsh reality of moving forward after a messy breakup. Block’s audience resonated with the relatable lyrics so much that they rallied together to independently fund the song’s recording. Upon release, “Just About over You” scored high placement on the iTunes Country and All Genre Song Charts. Now, Block is making waves in Nashville with her recently released the single “Peaked In High School” and jumped on tour with award-winning artist Ashley McBryde.
Priscilla Block; Photo Provided
Restless Road burst onto the country music scene when they scored a joint record deal with Kane Brown’s label 1021 Entertainment and Sony Music Nashville. After releasing “Took One Look At Her Momma,” the trio later turned heads with “Bar Friends,” which arrived just in time for summer. The relatable upbeat track that captures the true meaning of friendship has raked in over 190K views on YouTube and scored them a spot on Pandora’s largest country station. “Bar Friends” also hit a million streams on Spotify, and as a heartthrob band – they made their way onto Brown’s Worldwide Beautiful and Blessed & Free Tours. The trio just announced their first-ever headlining tour – the Bar Friends Tour – for 2022.
Tenille Arts came into the country music space hot with her critically-acclaimed – Love, Heartbreak, & Everything In Between record in 2020. However, her first No.1 single, “Somebody Like That,” placed her on music radars nationwide. The up-tempo anthem created history, as it was the very first track performed and produced by all females to top the country charts. The smash-hit also marks her very first Platinum-certified single, which was presented to her at CMT’s Live In The Vineyard event in Napa, California. Most recently – the breakthrough artist released her 2021 album, GIRL TO GIRL. While writing and recording new material, Arts was out on the Road with Lady A, received her first ACM Award nomination for New Female Artist of the Year, and was included in CMT’s “Next Women of Country” class of 2021.
Travis Denning knew he wanted to become a country music star when he picked up a guitar in grade school. However, the Georgia native did not move to Nashville until he was 21-years-old. When he arrived to town, he did not waste any time and started writing for Jason Aldean, Justin Moore, and Chase Rice. In 2020, Denning scored his first Top 20 hit as a songwriter with Michael Ray’s single “Her World or Mine.” Less than five years later, Denning received a record deal and started writing-recording his own material. Leave it to Travis Denning to carefully craft a breakup ballad that gets music fans laughing. The country newcomer cleverly kisses his future ex goodbye as he spells it all out for her in the chart-topping track “Abby.” The star begins the song by breaking the bad news to his significant other. The not-too-serious anthem marks Denning’s third single off his 2020 six-track debut collection, Beer’s Better Cold. His introduction project debuted in the Top 20 of Billboard’s Country Albums Chart. Following his rapid success, he shared the stage with Cole Swindell, Alan Jackson, LANCO, Riley Green and embarked on his first headline tour, Heartbeat Of A Small Town Tour. His captivating country sound captured the attention of several notable names in the industry, and he became an Opry NextStage recipient and a CMA KixStart Artist.
You can’t press play on the radio without hearing the viral TikTok hit, “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes. Following the release, the up-tempo date night anthem became Hayes’s first No.1 single after topping the Billboard Country Airplay Chart in November of 2021. However, the smash hit spent more than 17 weeks on the very top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart and scored No.3 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. The buzz-worthy track that was penned by Cameron Bartolini, Josh Jenkins, and Shane Stevens dropped back in June, but he did not go viral on TikTok until he showed off his swoon-worthy dance moves with 15-year-old daughter Lela. The original dance raked in over 32 million views, scored him a partnership with Applebee’s, and captured the attention of TikTokers worldwide. In 2021, Hayes also dropped his EP, Country Stuff. Walker’s EP is his first project to hit streaming platforms since his 2019 8Tracks, Vol. 3: Black Sheep. The new six-piece collection features hits with Carly Pearce, Lori McKenna, and Jake Owen. After a successful year, the hitmaker will be taking center stage at the 2021 American Music Awards on Sunday, November 21 and will be embarking on The Fancy Like Tour in 2022 with Mackenzie Porter.
Are you ready to cast your vote for Favorite Breakthrough Artist? If so, head to countrynow.com/vote. Country Now readers have until November 30 to make their selection.