Traditionally, the New Faces Show is one of the top moments of the week that is known as Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. The 2016 showcase, which closed out the event’s first year at the Omni downtown, was one of the best the seminar has seen in recent years – providing answers not just to the question as to who the top newcomers in the format are, but which performers might be graduating to the “A-List” very soon. Take a look at these five talented artists, all who were voted on to play the show by their supporters in radio.
Kelsea Ballerini — The East Tennessee singer launched her career a year ago with the release of her single “Love Me Like You Mean It,” and is currently climbing the chart with the infectious “Dibs.” The songstress — she was recently celebrated as a “Rising Star” at the Billboard Women In Music event in December — also performed album tracks “XO” and “Peter Pan” to a rousing applause. Some have said she took a page from the playbook of Taylor Swift with her infectious hooks and youth-influenced lyrics. She could do worse. On stage, the singer-songwriter delivered a four-song set that was long on swagger and energy. Upon introducing her breakthrough hit, she told the audience “This song has completely changed my life because of you.” Look for her world to keep changing, as she could very well be the next artist to cross genre lines, a la Swift. She’s definitely the entire package!
Chris Janson — If there has ever been a case of good guys finishing first, it’s Janson. Once a resident of his car, Janson made the strongest statement of the night that he has arrived. Hitting the stage in his harmonica-playing glory, Janson had much of the radio crowd on their feet during his last two songs — a New Faces rarity. Vocally, Janson shined perhaps the brightest of the night on the magnificent “Holdin’ Her,” a song in which he dazzled by segueing from Merle Haggard-stylings in the verses to showing his range in the chorus. Of course, his final song was “Buy Me A Boat,” of which he told programmers “Thank you for putting food on my table and letting me feed my family.” I think it’s a safe assumption that the radio folks are going to head home and increase spins on his new single, “Power of Positive Drinkin.” The hit of the night, for sure. Slam dunk. Touchdown. Whatever you want to call it!
Cam — The California native first turned heads with her debut, “My Mistake,” before dealing an ace to the industry with the exquisite “Burning House.” It’s a statement that borders on the dramatic I know, but in ten to fifteen years, don’t be surprised if the song is mentioned among great female performances as “Crazy,” “Stand By Your Man,” and “I May Hate Myself In The Morning.” Perhaps the most versatile performer of the night, the singer playfully thanked radio for her ballad breakthrough — something that doesn’t happen that often. “I want to thank everyone for their support on a ballad in the summer. I know you were like….F—!” The audience roared with approval. It’s definitely within the realm of possibility that she could wind up breaking Miranda Lambert’s hold on the Female Vocalist of the Year trophy. You read it here first.
Brothers Osborne — Brothers T.J. and John Osborne have been honing their craft for a while, and their recent breakthrough with “Stay A Little Longer” proves they are on the right track. The duo delivered a solid set from their Pawn Shop disc — including their nostalgic new single “21 Summer.” The Maryland natives are a dual threat, between T.J.’s unique vocal approach and John’s soulful grooves on the guitar. One of the opening acts in Miranda Lambert’s “Keeper of the Flame” tour, the sky is the limit for this act, definitely one who has their own style and sound.
Old Dominion — The RCA recording act has gained a reputation as being one of the best live bands in the business, and they proved it on stage last night. While “Break Up With Him” and “Snapback” definitely are good representations of what is on the radio these days, there’s a lot more to their sound than just airplay-friendly hooks. “Said Nobody” is one of the wittiest album tracks out there on the market today — fine evidence of their songwriting prowess, which has brought hits for artists such as Kenny Chesney and Craig Morgan. At the same time, these guys shine the best on harmony-laden songs like “Song For Another Time” and the stunning “Nowhere Fast.” RCA Nashville has made breaking Old Dominion a priority, and it’s good to see that the band has the goods to back it up!