CRS 2024 New Faces Show Spotlights George Birge, Megan Moroney, Conner Smith, Dillon Carmichael, & Corey Kent

These are the new faces of country music.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

March 3, 2024

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George Birge, Megan Moroney, Conner Smith, Dillon Carmichael, Corey Kent; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

The annual Country Radio Seminar (CRS) welcomed members of the industry back to Nashville’s Omni Hotel for three days of business-focused panels, star-studded performances and opportunities for some of country music’s most promising new artists to put their talent on display.

This year’s industry-only event, which took place from February 28 to March 1, rounded out with the annual New Faces of Country Music Show. Hosted by Elaina Smith and Katie Neal, the late-night show introduced the Class of 2024: George BirgeDillon CarmichaelCorey KentMegan Moroney and Conner Smith.

Since its inception in 1970, the New Faces show has been renowned for providing a glimpse into the promising careers of several artists who were hand-picked by members of the country music industry and country radio. Every emerging artist who has taken part in one of the most anticipated events of CRS has been chosen based on their success on the airwaves and then given the platform to display their talent and tunes in front of key business leaders in various radio and music industry fields. The performers of the 2024 showcase once again did the genre proud as they exemplified the abundance of talent cursing through the genre at the moment.

Corey Kent; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Corey Kent; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Corey Kent

First to take the stage was Corey Kent, the Oklahoma native/Texas-based artist who set the tone for the evening with his raw vocals and authentic songwriting skills that filled the entire room and had the audience completely captivated. For his four-song performance, the Sony Music Nashville/RCA artist offered a look through his musical journey, beginning with his 2020 release, “Gold.” He then made the crowd feel alive with his delivery of “Something’s Gonna Kill Me” before celebrating his debut Platinum single and very first No. 1 hit, “Wild As Her.” Finally, he debuted his brand-new tune that’s soon to impact country radio, “This Heart.”

Corey Kent; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Corey Kent; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

As part of the New Faces show, it’s also become a tradition for the select group of artists to each create their own unique introduction video that typically offers a look behind the curtain and into their personalities off the stage. Kent opted to bring the audience inside his home with family-centered footage that highlighted the people who encouraged him to never give up on his dreams. While Kent’s path may have included a few ups and downs, it’s clear that his dedication to music paid off this evening as he proved why he deserved to be a part of this year’s New Faces class.

“It’s always been my dream to be a young dad and to start a family. My wife and I, I feel like this has been a team effort of trying to find this balance of real life and building a dream,” Kent said over the clip.

George Birge; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
George Birge; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

George Birge

Next up was Records Nashville’s George Birge, who also took the wholesome family route as he tapped his wife and two sons to appear in his introduction video. Sitting down inside his house, he reflected on his musical journey that began at 14 years old in Austin, TX, and explained how his love for singing and writing eventually brought him to Nashville where he has since established himself as a chart-topping, star on the rise. Birge ended the footage with one final message of gratitude for those in country radio who played a part in his “life-changing year.” 

“I would not be sitting here today if it wasn’t for y’all believing in me. Thank you so much for changing my life this year, I feel like I finally found who I am, I finally was able to find what I wanted to say and the music I wanted to make. To have you guys wholeheartedly lean into that and believe in it has been life-changing for me in a way that I could never describe for you guys.”

George Birge; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
George Birge; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Birge made sure to extend that same gratitude into his performance which found him putting forth an electric energy paired with a bright smile that never fell from his face. In addition to showcasing his first-ever No. 1 hit on the Mediabase country chart, “Mind On You,” Birge also treated the audience to several unreleased tunes like “Hard On The Bottle” and “Damn Right I Do.” He wrapped up his set with a delivery of his latest release, an upbeat country anthem titled “Cowboy Songs.”

Conner Smith; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Conner Smith; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Conner Smith

Valory Music’s Conner Smith followed, introducing his set with a trip down memory lane told from a series of home videos that featured a very young Smith singing covers of songs by musical greats like Kenny Chesney, Travis Tritt, and more. The fuzzy footage was overlayed with audio from Smith’s moving speech at his 2022 Grand Ole Opry debut, demonstrating just how early his love for music began and how his passion for singing has never faded. 

Taking the stage at New Faces allowed Smith to show the room full of industry professionals everything he’s made of while offering a special look inside his just-released debut album, Smoky Mountains. He instantly made a close connection with the audience as he began by singing the first verse of the title track before seamlessly transitioning into the buzzing tune, “Baby, I.” The high energy and larger-than-life vocals continued with three more tracks off the project – “Heatin’ Up,” “Roulette On The Heart,” and of course, “Creek Will Rise,” the sultry love song that serves as Smith’s first-ever top 20 hit at country radio and signified the start of a new chapter in his career.  

Conner Smith; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Conner Smith; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Prior to taking the stage, Smith sat down with Country Now to reflect on the honor of being named a member of the Class of 2024. He shared, “I remember coming to CRS over the last couple of years and seeing the list of New Faces and just thinking about how I kind of looked at that and those guys and those artists, and then to be one of those artists now is a surreal thing.”

Dillon Carmichael; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Dillon Carmichael; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Dillon Carmichael

Dillon Carmichael took a slightly different approach than his fellow artists as he put his good-humored spirit on display in his introduction video in the form of a comedic skit. The footage opened with him giving a tour of a luxury tour bus that featured a fridge full of beer, multiple bunks and a cozy lounge in the back. However, his tour was suddenly interrupted when country superstar Justin Moore appeared at the door and questioned what the Riser House artist was doing on his bus. After Carmichael was caught red-handed, he returned to his actual mode of transportation on the road – his less-than-spacious GMC truck. This earned a round of laughs from the audience and set the tone for the rest of his unformattable performance. 

Dillon Carmichael; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Dillon Carmichael; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

With his name written in lights behind him, Carmichael appeared on the smoky stage in his all-black ensemble. Red, white, and blue lights flashed from the top of the stage as he launched his set with “Raised Up Wrong,” followed by his breakthrough hit, “Son of A” and an unreleased, tongue-in-cheek tune, “Tiny Little Fiddle.” He wrapped things up with a rousing delivery of his chart-climbing party-starting anthem, “Drinkin’ Problems,” which resulted in a singalong with the audience.

Megan Moroney; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Megan Moroney; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Megan Moroney

Megan Mooney, the only female artist in this year’s New Faces class, closed out the evening by taking the audience on a journey through her most recent collection of fan favorites. But first, the Sony Music Nashville/Columbia artist introduced her set with a hilarious video filmed alongside her band members. While taking a break from rehearsals, they read and reacted to a series of mean tweets that aimed to tear down her confidence and challenge her rapid rise in fame. Instead, she used the harsh words as a chance to reaffirm her faith in her music and the current direction of her flourishing career. Moroney brought that same energy into the first song of her set – the upbeat title track to her latest project, “Lucky.” The audience dialed into her talent even further when she grabbed her bedazzled white guitar and erupted into her next number, “I’m Not Pretty.” She then showcased her “emo cowgirl” energy with “No Caller ID,” got vulnerable in her relatable “Girl in the Mirror” and ended with the No. 1 hit that hard-launched her viral success, “Tennessee Orange.”

Megan Moroney; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Megan Moroney; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Amid her set, she looked into the crowd with sincerity in her voice as she said, “Thank you for your support of me and my songs. I love writing songs…I love to do this and I get to do this because of y’all so thank you so much.”

Out of all her fellow class members, Moroney undoubtedly brought the most glitz and glamour to the stage as she stunned in her signature style that featured a hot pink, shimmering dress and tall, white cowboy boots. While her ensemble was enough to declare star power, it was her gritty vocals and renowned songwriting that ultimately sealed the deal for the audience. In addition to putting a handful of her most popular releases on display, the Georgia native promised that more music on the way which she admits she’s “really excited for.” 

“I’ve got a lot of new music coming out this year that I’m excited for you to hear,” she teased.

George Birge, Megan Moroney, Conner Smith, Dillon Carmichael, Corey Kent; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
George Birge, Megan Moroney, Conner Smith, Dillon Carmichael, Corey Kent; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

“In Loving Memory” Of Toby Keith

In addition to all the fresh new talent that filled the room on Friday, the evening also included a special tribute to the late Toby Keith in honor of it being 30 years since he made his own New Faces debut. Earlier in the day, CRB/CRS executive director RJ Curtis revealed that the country icon had hopes of performing during this year’s CRS, however, he unfortunately passed away on February 5, 2024, following his battle with stomach cancer. Luckily, his legacy and impact on the genre was still able to be recognized through a clip featuring Keith’s New Faces performance of “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” followed by an interview that captured what it meant to him to be a part of the 1994 class alongside Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Clay Walker.

“He lived life fully, right to the end,” said Kurt Johnson, the CRS Board of Directors president.

Co-partnered by the Academy of Country Music and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the New Faces showcase has taken place during the annual Country Radio Seminar (CRS) for over five decades. Megan Moroney, George Birge, Cory Kent, Dillon Carmichael, and Conner Smith now officially join the long list of previous members who have gone on to leave a lasting legacy in the genre, including Lainey Wilson, George Strait, Taylor Swift, Jelly Roll, Tim McGraw and many more. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.