After a one-year hiatus, Country Radio Seminar (CRS) returned to Nashville. The three-day, industry-only event, which took place February 23-25, showcased performances by some of country music’s newest artists and biggest stars as well as featured business-focused presentations and panels.
As it does each and every year, CRS capped off with the New Faces of Country Music show featuring the Class of 2022: Gabby Barrett, Walker Hayes, Parker McCollum, Jameson Rodgers, and Lainey Wilson.
The artists were hand-picked by members of the country music industry and country radio. The show was formed in 1970 and remains one of the most anticipated events of CRS as it has played a pivotal role in the careers of many of country music’s most prominent hitmakers.
This year’s show proved country music is in great hands as each of the artists delivered stellar performances showcasing their vocal abilities as well as a knack for entertaining.
Kicking off the show was Parker McCollum, who graciously thanked country radio for supporting his music. Performing tracks such as “Hell Of A Year” and the chart-topping “Pretty Heart” from his debut album, Gold Chain Cowboy, McCollum effortlessly displayed his unique vocals and received overwhelming support from the audience. He appeared to be holding back his emotions as a huge smile flashed across his face.
Up next was Gabby Barrett, who opened her set with the empowering “Jesus & My Mama.” After performing her second No.1 single, “The Good Ones,” and sharing a sweet moment with her husband and lead guitarist, Cade Foehner, on stage, Barrett showcased her powerhouse vocals with a goosebumps-inducing rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” The powerful moment had jaws dropping throughout the packed ballroom. She closed her set with her record-breaking debut single, “I Hope,” which prompted a sing-along among the CRS attendees.
There’s a long-standing tradition at the New Faces show where some artists create a skit or funny video that plays before their set. Jameson Rodgers kept the tradition going with an extended version of his “Cold Beer Calling My Name” music video. The hilarious clip found him back at his beer delivery job putting in his two-week notice in order to pursue his musical ambitions. His grouchy boss joked that it would never happen. Rodgers’ duet partner, Luke Combs, even got in on the fun in the video clip, calling him up to join him for a beer.
Rodgers powered through his No.1 hits “Cold Beer Calling My Name” (sans Combs) and “Some Girls” before performing “I Don’t Know About You,” a song he co-wrote that Chris Lane took to the top of the charts in 2019. A highlight of his set was the band’s cover of the Eagles’ “Seven Bridges Road,” which was incorporated as the intro to his upcoming radio single, “Missing One.” The Mississippi native had one of the most energetic sets of the night.
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If there was an award for most creative video, Lainey Wilson would undoubtedly take home the trophy. The Louisiana native had the entire room laughing with a skit that featured Cole Swindell, Jon Pardi, Jimmie Allen, HARDY and Tracy Lawrence. Wilson played the role of herself and three characters and her country cohorts appeared in flashbacks sporting her signature look: bell bottoms.
Wilson stole the show with her infectious personality and commanding stage presence. After an a cappella version of “Fat Bottomed Girls,” Wilson demanded the crowd’s attention with an energetic performance of “Straight Up Sideways” from her debut album, Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’. She went on to deliver an awe-inspiring rendition of her breakout hit “Things A Man Oughta Know” and had the room full of industry power players in the palm of her hand with her debut performance of her next single, “Heart Like A Truck.”
While Walker Hayes may not be considered “new” to many country music fans, he didn’t enjoy breakout success at country radio until 2021, so it was only fitting that he joined the New Faces of Country Music class in 2022. Hayes closed out the night with performances of “Drinking Songs,” “AA,” and “Fancy Like” from his just-released project, Country Stuff: The Album. The viral superstar closed out the night with an emotional performance of “Briefcase,” the stirring track he penned about his late father. The moment allowed Hayes to show the country music industry another, more personal side of his artistry.
After witnessing this showcase of rising talent, it’s evident that McCollum, Barrett, Rodgers, Wilson and Hayes have a bright future ahead of them.
Country Radio Seminar will return to Nashville March 13-15 2023.