Top 20 Musicians to Watch
These rising stars in Nashville will soon be household names, get the scoop on who to hear now.
Written By: Valerie Hammond
Genre: Folk, Contemporary Bluegrass
Latest Album: Humming House, 2012
These rootsy jams are the long-awaited home of lead singer Justin Wade Tam's adventurous lyrics. While they don't recommend building a band backwards as they did, sometimes it just works out. This collection of soul-singer, sociology professor, songwriter, composer and straight-up bluegrasser fell into the hands of producer Vance Powell (think the new Jack White album, Chris Theiele, etc); and their self titled debut album is gaining more national attention by the day, including features on CMT and NPR's Americana Playlist. A majority of the toe-tapping tunes were recorded live—all instruments and vocals together, capturing a special moment in time. While they are in the studio making their first true record as a band, we asked who's on their Top to Watch list? Local Americana artist Andrew Combs, the clap-happy Kopecky Family Band, pop cellist Ben Sollee from Kentucky and the Brooklyn based duo Pearl and the Beard.
Sounds like: Nickel Creek + The Decemberists
Start with: "Gypsy Django"
Latest Album: Greg Bates EP, 2012
You may not know his name, but you've definitely heard his current Top 5 hit, “Did It For The Girl.” Bates's traditional country crooning has put him on stage with Darius Rucker, Rodney Atkins, Willie Nelson, Kellie Pickler, and Randy Travis, among others. He is currently out on the road with Brantley Gilbert’s Hell on Wheels Tour.
Sounds like: Kenny Chesney + Alan Jackson
Start with: “Did It For The Girl”
Photograph by Jeremy Cowart
Genre: Pop, Rock
Latest Album: Leagues EP, 2011 — full length You Belong Here coming January 29, 2013
If the Avengers formed a band, it'd be LEAGUES. Consider this Nashville's super-human amalgamation of musical talent: songwriting god Thad Cockrell, unbelievable drummer Jeremy Lutito and two time Grammy-winning guitarist Tyler Burkum. The video to their new single "Spotlight" recently premiered on MTV Hive and was shot by Nashvillian, Allister Ann.
Sounds like: Coldplay
Start with: "Haunted"
Photograph by Heidi Ross
Cory Chisel and The Wandering Sons
Genre: Americana, Folk Rock
Latest Album: Old Believers, 2012
With a song titled "Tennessee," it's about time this band made it on the Nashville locals list (due in large part to Brendan Benson). The soulful harmonies of Cory Chisel and Adriele Harris belie their years; each weathered song is powerful and familiar. Recent late show appearances on Letterman and Conan prove this band is only getting bigger.
Sounds like: Early Springsteen + John Lee Hooker
Start with: "I've Been Accused" or "Over Jordan"
Latest Album: Marc Scibilia EP, 2012
There's a whole lot of heart in this young troubadour from New York. A humble, confident performer with songs that have you wondering if it's a Dylan cover or if it's an original. Keep your eyes on Scibilia, surrounded by legends like acclaimed bassist Michael Rhodes, as he's being groomed by the masters. You may have heard one of his tunes, "How Bad We Need Each Other" featured on the TV show Bones.
Sounds like: Paulo Nutini with a mix of young Ricky Nelson
Start with: "Better Man"
Latest Album: Youth, 2012
Accomplished film composer and singer/songwriter Keegan DeWitt joined forces with the musical man-about-town, Jeremy Bullock, to form Wild Cub. Prepare yourself for more electronic, rhythmic sensibilities than the smooth acoustic sounds you've come to expect from Keegan's solo albums. Their music videos are works of art in their own right, being premiered on IFC.com and Spin Magazine.
Sounds like: M83 + early U2
Start with: "Thunder Clatter"
Genre: Pop, Blue-eyed Soul
Latest Album: Stories to Tell, 2012
A veteran of the college singer/songwriter pack, Barnes has moved up to a new playing field. In addition to being an incredible songwriter ("God Gave Me You," cut by Blake Shelton), this native funny man is a super collaborator. He has been working with artists from Lady Antebellum to Amy Grant and more.
Sounds like: Somewhere between Marc Broussard and Jon McLaughlin
Start with: "Someday Sarah"
Latest Album: Gutter Gaunt Gangster, 2012
A special thanks to the mighty Mississippi for washing The Weeks upon Nashville's musical shore. This band of brothers and friends is like a melodious cocktail: two parts rock to one part southern sensibility, a dash of stomping/clapping to taste.
Sounds like: The Strokes + OK Go + Kings of Leon
Start with: "Slave to the South" or "The House We Grew Up In"
Genre: Singer/songwriter Rock
Latest Album: Solarstorms, 2012
A transplant from the UK, singer-songwriter Doyle is the talk of the town these days. After being discovered by winning the Guitar Center Singer Songwriter contest his American fan base has exploded. His introspective lyrics complement the steady vocals and guitar, but you have to hear it for yourself.
Sounds like: Snow Patrol + local Matthew Perryman Jones
Start with: "Solarstorms"
Photograph by Valerie Hammond
The Delta Saints
Genre: Blues, Rock
Latest Album: Death Letter Jubilee, out January 2013
These bayou boys make sound so thick you feel like you're wading in blues rock waist deep. With mesmerizing lead vocals and a harmonica that can heal all wounds, the Saints put on a live show every one in Nashville needs to hear to believe.
Sounds like: Needtobreathe + North Mississippi Allstars
Start with: "Bird Called Angola"
Genre: Country, Rock
Latest Album: “Party Til The Cow’s Come Home” single, 2012
It's easy to spot the influence of Lynae's co-writer and producer Jamie O’Neal in the single and hopefully more of it when the debut album is released. This brown-eyed brunette left her home and commercial fishing family in Alaska to chase a whale of her own — the country music dream.
Sounds like: Martina McBride + Jamie O' Neal
Start with: “Party Til The Cow’s Come Home”
Latest Album: Some Things Never Change EP, 2012
The city is chock full of talent including Brentwood boy-wonder, Tyler Flowers. His bright, honest songs are a perfect add on to any playlist. Luckily he just came out with his first EP and is working on producing a full length album in Nashville.
Sounds like: Eric Hutchinson + Jon McLaughlin
Start with: "Jefferson Street"
Genre: Pop, Indie
Latest Album: SYZYGY, 2011
A band with lots of textured sounds and a fantastic mix of instrumentation, their drum driven pop comes off easy like Sunday morning. The latest Colorfeels album is marked by a number of special guests including My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel.
Sounds like: Vampire Weekend + Fleet Foxes
Start with: "You Know"
Photograph by Melissa Madison Fuller
Latest Album: Confessions of a Nice Girl, 2010; Fall Into Me, coming January 15, 2013
As her album title suggests, Katie is of one the chart climbing young bunch in country music. Take a listen to this Texan turned Tennessean if you like upbeat, contemporary country (or if Taylor's latest is getting a little too mainstream for you).
Sounds like: SHeDAISY + LeAnn Rimes
Start with: "Kiss Me Now" or "Strong Enough"
The Apache Relay
Genre: Modern Roots-Rock, alternative
Latest Album: American Nomad, 2011
This quintet of talented Belmont boys have been layering their lively folk n' roll since 2009. They've graduated to the limelight as the opening act for band-friends Mumford & Sons (including the Hollywood Bowl in November). A must-see live performance—replete with a little ruckus and a lot of fun.
Sounds like: Arcade Fire with hints of Death Cab for Cutie
Start with: "Lost Kid" or "Can't Wake Up"
Latest Album: Child Of The Country Sun, EP 2012
If NBC's The Voice was first time you'd been introduced to country starlet Nicolle Galyon, know that she is first and foremost a songwriter for Warner-Chappell. Her talents have fallen into the hands of big names like Lauren Alaina and Josh Kelley; her latest adventure is co-producing the Raelynn record for Republic Nashville/Big Machine Label Group with renown producer Dann Huff.
Sounds like: Taylor Swift
Start with: "Goodbye Too"
Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown
Genre: Classic Rock and Roll
Latest Album: From The Sandcastle, September 2011; upcoming release of Wild Child in January 2013
Fittingly referred to as a prodigy, guitarist Tyler Bryant has been playing his way to rock legend status since he was 6. Now at 21, he and his band of "brothers" have opened for Jeff Beck, performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live and are the only unsigned artists to have a song in Guitar Hero 5.
Sounds like: Guns & Roses if you were taking them home to meet your parents (tucked in and presentable)
Start with: "Say a Prayer"
Photograph by Joshua Black Wilkins
Latest Album: Heart, 2012
The beauty of Assad's music is that it doesn't stand out as markedly "Christian"—something that often deters non-religious listeners. Her piano driven melodies and thoughtfully constructed lyrics are deep but approachable.
Sounds like: Sara Bareilles
Start with: "The Way You Move"
Sugar + The Hi-Lows
Genre: Retro soul (50s-60s)
Latest Album: Sugar + The Hi-Lows, 2012
Feel good music from two well-versed artists, Amy Stroup and Trent Dabbs collaborate to make an old sound brand new. It's easy to get caught up in these danceable tunes and embrace the nostalgic quality these two bring to the stage.
Sounds like: The Temptations meets She & Him
Start with: "This Can't Be the Last Time"
Photograph by Tec Petaja
Genre: Americana, Folk, Roots
Latest Album: The Fourth Wall, 2012
The Vespers are throwing a pickin' party, and we're all invited. Guided by the mandolin, banjo and upright bass, this double sibling quartet is an etherial daydream of bluegrass and whimsy.
Sounds like: A Fine Frenzy + The Civil Wars
Start with: "Grinnin In Your Face" or "Will You Love Me"
There are more than 20 you should be watching — listen to them on our New, Upcoming Nashville Artists playlist.