The 50th annual Country Radio Seminar ended on Friday evening (Feb. 15) with the New Faces of Country Music Show, which highlighted the genre’s most promising up-and-coming talent. While Jimmie Allen, Russell Dickerson, Lindsay Ell, LANCO, and Dylan Scott were voted onto the show by America’s top radio programmers and performed a short set for the industry audience, the evening also served as a celebration of the seminar’s fiftieth anniversary.
Tim McGraw surprised the crowd of radio executives when he kicked off the evening with a performance of “Don’t Take the Girl.” His one-song set followed a video package where he looked back on his New Faces showcase from 25 years ago and recalled that fateful day in 1994 when he met his future wife, Faith Hill, who was also on the lineup that year.
Additional video packages from Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and Lee Brice were shown as they reflected on how their New Faces appearance helped launch their careers. Keith Urban was also on hand to honor CRS executive director Bill Mayne, who is retiring this year.
The evening showcased a diverse roster of talent within the country genre where Dickerson and Ell’s star power was apparent. Dickerson led the charge with an energetic four-song set that highlighted his headliner status. Set opener “Every Little Thing” had the performer running around the stage accompanied by hand-snapped rhythms, infectious beats and a sing-along chorus as he sang of a woman he just can’t get enough of. His lively set continued with a one-two punch of his first two chart-toppers, “Blue Tacoma” and “Yours,” before he closed with “MGNO,” which stands for “My Girls Night Out.” As he belted snippets of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” he leapt into the audience to dance with radio executives, thanking them for believing in him and making his dreams come true.
Having toured with Urban, Brad Paisley and Sugarland over the last year, Ell commanded the New Faces stage like a pro. She kicked off her guitar-driven set with Top 20 hit “Criminal” as fiery electric guitar features and a megaphone drove the song’s message home. The soulful “Castle” and atmospheric “Space” showcased her undeniable talent while the debut of a new song captivated the room. “Thank you so much to every one of you for putting me on this stage. You changed my life and I will be forever grateful,” she said.
Much like Dickerson’s spirited performance, Allen made a point to show his appreciation to the radio industry by walking to the back of the room and high-fiving as many people as he could. Following a touching video where his four-year-old son Aiden thanked country radio for playing his dad’s music, Allen launched into the catchy “County Lines.” He then expressed his gratitude to the genre for accepting him.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity,” he said, thanking country radio for his first No. 1 with debut single “Best Shot.” “I get to look my son in the eyes and tell him, ‘If you work hard enough and surround yourself with the right people, your dreams can come true.’” The triumphant “Underdogs” followed “Best Shot” before he closed his performance with the poignant “All Tractors Ain’t Green,” which he penned about being a black artist in the country genre.
Both LANCO and Scott also debuted new material during their New Faces performance. While LANCO peppered their set with memorable radio singles “Born To Love You” and previous hit “Greatest Love Story,” the band’s new track “Save Me” struck a chord as it was written from the stories their fans have shared with them, specifically how people in their lives saved them during times of hardship.
Scott closed 2019’s CRS by highlighting his versatile influences. After performing the bass-heavy “Hooked” and his fastest rising single “Nothing To Do Town,” the singer covered “Don’t Close Your Eyes” from his hero, Keith Whitley. Strapping on an acoustic guitar, the emotional ballad was the perfect segue from “Nobody,” a new piano ballad he penned for his wife. He closed the show by performing his first No. 1 “My Girl,” which was inspired by his wife rapping along to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
“In 2013, I attended my very first CRS New Faces show. I remember thinking to myself, ‘If I could ever play this stage it’d be the biggest thing in my career,’” he recalled before thanking those in the room. “Thank you to country radio for giving me a voice and letting me play my music. It’s been a long ten years, I’ve been here ten years, but I’m so happy and blessed.”