by Alison Bonaguro
Today, CMT reveals the 10 country artists to watch in its much-anticipated 2021 Next Women of Country campaign, which recognizes and supports country music’s most promising and powerful female artists.
The 10 artists joining this year’s prestigious Next Women of Country roster are: Ashland Craft, Priscilla Block, Brittney Spencer, Reyna Roberts, Hannah Dasher, MacKenzie Porter, Harper Grae, Tenille Arts, Sacha, and Chapel Hart.
What started in 2013 as a way to shine a spotlight on country music’s next generation, CMT’s Next Women of Country campaign has grown to become an annual event. The initiative began at a time when the genre was starting to become dominated by male artists in an effort to support and expose female talent, both signed and unsigned. The year-long campaign raises awareness for new female artists with support for their music and videos across CMT and CMT Music channels, CMT Hot 20 Countdown, CMT.com along with CMT’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages.
Some of the most notable alumnae of CMT’s past classes of NWOC include Kacey Musgraves, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, Lauren Alaina, RaeLynn, Lindsay Ell, Caylee Hammack, Gabby Barrett, and Hailey Whitters.
Read more about the 10 new Next Women of Country:
Emerging as one of the most exciting new voices in the genre, Big Loud Records’ spitfire Ashland Craft from South Carolina is introducing her own brand of no B.S. country music. Her new love-drunk single “Two Wildflowers and a Box of Wine” follows her soul-infused debut release, “Trainwreck” to critical acclaim. Billboard raves that Craft “makes a big loud entrance with the captivating Southern rock-tinged, chugging track that recalls Gretchen Wilson,” and American Songwriter hails, “There’s a New Country Badass in Town,” claiming, “This girl has star quality flying out of her boots.” After making a splash with a Top 10 stint on season 13 of NBC’s The Voice, Craft was selected to open on tour for such major artists as Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen and more. Craft also has plans to perform alongside Combs, Alan Jackson and Jason Aldean this summer at the 40th Anniversary Country Concert on July 8-10 in Fort Laramie, Ohio.
Country artist Priscilla Block is known for her unfiltered, relatable songwriting and undeniable melodies. With an honest and upfront approach, Block promotes self-love, empowerment and acceptance through her own blend of country pop and southern rock, dubbed the ‘Block Party’ sound. Originally from Raleigh, N.C., Block moved to Nashville to pursue music shortly after graduating high school. During quarantine, she began experimenting with new songs on TikTok, which led to her independently raising funds to professionally record her now hit song, “Just About Over You.” The single raced to the top of both the iTunes Country and All Genre Song charts in just 12 hours, and is now climbing country radio’s Top 40.
Brittney Spencer is a free-spirited, singer-songwriter with a love for molding life, truth and wild imagination into songs. Her passion for storytelling drove the Baltimore native to Nashville in 2013 with dreams of singing and writing country music. She’s since toured and performed as a background singer for such artists as Carrie Underwood and Christopher Cross, all while establishing herself as a songwriter in Music City. In late 2020, Spencer began her ascent to stardom with the release of her debut EP Compassion, which garnered rave reviews from the likes of Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, Billboard and American Songwriter. Morris sang Spencer’s praises as an ‘artist to watch’ during her recent CMA Female Vocalist of the Year acceptance speech. Spencer will continue to promote her latest EP and has been invited to make appearances with both Morris and Shires.
Reyna Roberts is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter by way of Alaska, Alabama and California. She began performing at a young age and was exposed to a wide variety of music — classic rock, R&B, pop, country, gospel and more — which laid the groundwork for her vibrant musical style. Her cover of Carrie Underwood’s “Drinking Alone” caught the attention of Mickey Guyton and Underwood herself; while her first single, “Stompin’ Grounds” debuted to critical acclaim and appeared on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. As well as being an accomplished singer, athlete, songwriter and pianist, Roberts is an active volunteer within the community and is committed to supporting military service members and veterans through her work.
Whether she’s whipping up a recipe for her viral Stand By Your Pan series on TikTok or penning her next hit with top songwriters, Georgia native Hannah Dasher is boldly chasing her dreams. After graduating from the University of Georgia, Dasher moved to a small attic apartment off Music Row where she worked five days a week at Bass Pro Shop to make ends meet. Dasher was ultimately fired for writing songs during work hours. But when one door closed, another one opened and she landed her first publishing deal. And as fate would have it, her first cut — Brad Paisley’s “Go To Bed Early” — began as an idea she’d been working on during her last days at Bass Pro Shop. She continued to attend writer’s nights and local showcases such as Whiskey Jam where she got the nickname “Hannah Damn Dasher.” She has since opened up for Hank Williams Jr., The Cadillac Three and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Dasher is signed to Sony Nashville.
Singer-songwriter MacKenzie Porter is a rising talent signed to Big Loud Records. Porter is surging now with her recently released EP Drinkin’ Songs: The Collection, an arsenal of two years’ worth of new music produced by sought-after Nashville producer Joey Moi. Since moving to Nashville in 2014 from her native Canada, Porter has developed a radiant country style which threads the needle between traditional heart and modern energy, often collaborating with songwriting mainstays such as Nicolle Galyon, Craig Wiseman, Natalie Hemby and Tommy English. Her “mesmerizing vocals and hook-driven songs” (Billboard) have sparked a list of headline-worthy accolades, including multiple Canadian Country Music Award nominations. Porter has found momentum in the U.S., sharing the stage with Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Chris Lane, Blake Shelton and Dallas Smith. She’s appeared in numerous film and television productions, including co-starring in the Netflix series Travelers.
Rolling Stone Country has called Harper Grae “a platinum-voiced country-pop singer with a flair for turning her harrowing past into high art.” Hailing from Montgomery, Alabama, Grae’s difficult childhood has fueled her ascent to artistic prominence. After graduating from Auburn University and appearing on Glee Project, Grae decided she wanted to pursue country music as a career. Her first album Break Your Crowns came out in 2017, and since then, she’s released singles, catching the attention of iHeart’s Bobby Bones. Grae was named as one of “Five LGBTQ and Americana Artists You Need to Know” by CMT and received a 2020 GLAAD Rising Country Star. Grae’s song “Muddy Water” was released last year and the video peaked at #3 on CMT’s 12 Pack Countdown.
Born and raised in the small prairie town of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Tenille Arts picked up the guitar and penned her first song at age 13 and has been performing ever since. She made her first appearance on ABC’s The Bachelor in 2018, which resulted in a record deal with indie label Reviver Records. She made her second appearance on the show in 2019 performing her single, “I Hate This.” The song hit #1 on the U.S. and Canadian iTunes Country Charts and #9 U.S. iTunes all-genre. Her third appearance on The Bachelor preceded the release of her new album Love, Heartbreak, & Everything In Between early this year. Arts’ music has tallied over 51 million streams. Pandora and CMT listed her as one of their new artists to watch, and Rolling Stone called her “an edgy, Fearless-era Taylor Swift with crystalline vocals; ideal for hopeless romantics who are fire signs.” Arts made her Grand Ole Opry debut on September 21, 2019 and has made appearances on the TODAY and the Radio Disney Music Awards; and she sang the Canadian National Anthem at Game 3 of the 2019 NBA Finals and at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.
Born and raised in Ontario, Sacha was exposed to country music and country living from a young age. As a black female country artist, Sacha is a pioneer, fearlessly working toward equal representation for young women of all creeds and color to be deservedly embraced and included in the country music landscape. She’s already caught the attention of “Color Me Country”’s Rissi Palmer who recently predicted that Sacha was headed for superstardom.
Her latest EP The Best Thing is an exciting, undeniable reckoning of searing, electric vocals that steadfastly honors its first-rate, enduring songs. In addition to her musical career, Sacha believes strongly in giving back to her community and is a committed philanthropist supporting several nonprofits in her hometown.
Chapel Hart is a trio of cousins from Hart’s Chapel, Mississippi, consisting of Grammy-nominated Danica Hart, Trea Swindle and sister Devynn Hart. The group cut their teeth on the New Orleans music scene, and soon discovered that their hearts belonged to country music. In 2019, the trio headlined the Innsbruck New Orleans Festival, and although it was their first time playing outside of their fanbase, they were greeted by a crowd of fans lined up around the building. That enthusiasm is evidenced in their current single “Jesus and Alcohol,” which will appear on their upcoming second album. New music is expected this year and will feature collaborations with such songwriters as Jim McCormick, Tony Haselden and Derek Norsworthy.
Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.