5 Rising Country Artists to Watch

sam hunt, men of style 2015
David Needleman

Sam Hunt photographed on Aug. 12, 2015 at Industria in New York City.

In the world of country music, so much press goes to the headline acts, the ones whose names are listed in the larger print on your concert tickets. While that statement is actually true in any genre, your stars on the A-list usually didn’t get there overnight.

10 Hot Country Artists to Watch in 2015

Reba McEntire opened for the Statler Brothers. Garth Brooks once got the crowd warmed up for Kenny Rogers and Eddie Rabbitt. And the reigning CMA entertainer of the year Luke Bryan learned valuable tips from Tim McGraw, who once opened for Joe Diffie.

Here are five acts who we think are headed quickly to the fast lane:

Sam Hunt
It’s very unusual to see an opening act thrill a crowd as much as the headliner. But in the same case of Hunt, he gave Lady Antebellum a run for their money on the group’s Wheels Up tour, delivering a set that kept most of the crowd on their feet throughout. Of course, Hunt’s good looks and charisma didn’t hurt either, as the audience -- particular at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena last month -- sang his lyrics back to him word for word. Somehow, we don’t think that Hunt will remain on this list for long.

Mickey Guyton
Brad Paisley made one of the wisest touring moves of his career by inviting Capitol Nashville’s Guyton to open shows for him this year. Industry insiders know all about her vocal prowess -- her 2013 Country Radio Seminar performance at the Ryman Auditorium remains widely talked-about among radio. But her performance on the Paisley tour helped to open fans’ eyes to a talent who just might be Nashville’s best female artist since Carrie Underwood.

David Nail
One of the biggest musical injustices in the format is that Nail is not a household name. Whether it be rocking the crowd with an uptempo hit or captivating fans with just himself and a piano, as he does on the magical “Sound of a Million Dreams,” Nail is the gold standard. He doesn’t have a bigger fan than Darius Rucker, who said of his 2015 opening act, “David is the real deal. I go out and watch him and his voice is so full of life. And he is a GREAT guy!!”

Randy Houser
Technical pyrotechnics at Luke Bryan’s July Vanderbilt tour de force aside, one of the most talked-about performances was that of Houser. He’s been paying his dues for years now, and he’s more than ready -- and capable -- of taking that next step. He can show his rock swagger as good as anyone, but when Houser delivers a ballad, the show might as well be over. It’s one of those Montana-to-Rice, A-Rod at bat, Jordan at the line moments. Game over.

Chris Janson
If you go to a show where Janson is featured and you didn’t forget your problems and have a good time, it’s your own damn fault. Whether you’re a fan of old-school country like Hank Williams or modern hits like Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah,” which he co-wrote, you will leave a performance feeling energized. The old saying about a country artist standing in one place for the entire show definitely doesn’t apply to Janson. We don’t think he stands in the same place -- more than once.