Top 10 Biggest Breakthroughs of 2015
2015 was an especially big year for new country acts breaking through in the US, filling the airwaves with their fresh and original takes on the genre. Some pushed towards a poppier sound while others dialled things way back, but all brought their own vibe to an already crowded format. We took a look at the top 10 biggest breakthroughs in country music in 2015.
10. Chase Bryant
Red Bow recording artist Chase Bryant broke out with his debut single ‘Take It On Back’ this year, attracting plenty of female fans for his young, hip looks and guitar skills. The pop country tune made it to the top 10 and follow-up ‘Little Bit of You’ is pushing towards top 20. No album plans announced as yet, but he does have an EP that came out back in September 2014. Look for further breakout from him into next year.
9. Brothers Osborne
Although they signed with EMI Nashville in 2013 and released their debut top 40 single ‘Let’s Go There’ later that year, it wasn’t until more recently that the Brothers Osborne really broke out. Their 2014 single ‘Rum’ was a very slow climber but eventually reached top 30, while this year ‘Stay A Little Longer’ has reached top 10 and still rising, making it a hit. The success of the song led to the boys announcing their debut album ‘Pawn Shop’, due January 2016, and their stars can only rise higher.
8. Canaan Smith
Canaan Smith signed to Mercury Nashville in 2011, but debut single ‘We Got Us’ didn’t take off in the way the label had hoped, so they were forced to go back to the drawing board. The follow-up ‘Love You Like That’ arrived during Summer 2014, but didn’t reach the #1 spot until a whole year later, making it one of the longer chart runs of the past few years. Its success spawned a self-titled EP in March and debut album ‘Bronco’ in June, leading to third single ‘Hole In A Bottle’ which is currently in the top 40. Canaan’s brand of good-boy pop country has plenty of gas in the tank going forward.
7. Michael Ray
Michael Ray also hit #1 with his debut single this year, the catchy ‘Kiss You In The Morning’. Like many new and attractive male acts, he didn’t have a lot of trouble picking up support at radio after signing with Warner Music Nashville, and his self-titled debut album garnered respectable sales. It helped of course that he co-wrote Big & Rich’s current top 15 single ‘Run Away With You’. Now working new single ‘Real Men Love Jesus’ in the top 40, expect to hear more from him next year.
6. A Thousand Horses
Another debut single to reach #1 this year, A Thousand Horses caught a lot of ears for the polished southern rock sound and imagery they employed on the hit ‘Smoke’. Their album ‘Southernality’ dropped in June and has sold over 50,000 copies to date, while new single ‘(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial’ is receiving a similar reaction to the first, by currently residing inside the top 30 with further to go.
5. Old Dominion
This band, made up of several successful Music Row songwriters who put the band together for fun, made their debut back in 2014 with single ‘Shut Me Up’ and their self-titled EP, but it was their single ‘Break Up With Him’ that really engaged listeners in 2015. In February they signed with major label RCA Nashville after the boundary-pushing single had begun to gain traction, and the label backing helped them to surge to commercial peak while they were working on their full-length debut album. ‘Meat and Candy’ dropped on November 6 and they look set to follow up their first #1 with another hit in ‘Snapback’.
She’s not had that elusive #1 hit yet, but Cam found her breakout the day she played ‘Burning House’ on the Bobby Bones radio show in late June. She had made top 60 previously with her debut single ‘My Mistake’, but ‘Burning House’ was an instant hit and has been making great gains in sales and airplay in the months since its prompt release. She crossed the pond to support Carrie Underwood at the Apple Music Festival in September, receiving a warm reception that is likely to boost her album ‘Untamed’ when it’s released on December 11. And bear in mind, ‘Burning House’ is still working up to that #1 spot, currently inside the top 10.
3. Chris Janson
One of the most buzzed-about artists of 2015, Chris Janson, like Cam, got his big launch on the Bobby Bones show. However, he had been rather active in the industry in the years previously, writing hits like Tim McGraw’s ‘Truck Yeah’ and working with the likes of Lee Brice, Justin Moore, Hank Jr and Randy Houser. He also has two duets on Holly Williams’ 2009 album ‘Here With Me’, has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry over 1000 times, and was signed to BNA Records until the label restructured a couple of years later. In 2013 he signed with Bigger Picture Music Group and released a couple of singles and an EP, but the label closed in 2014. The day he appeared on the Bobby Bones show in March 2015, Chris had self-released a new single called ‘Buy Me A Boat’ to iTunes. Bobby played it so much that sales went through the roof and Warner Music Nashville signed him up immediately; the track went on to become a #1 and his similarly titled album dropped in October. His new single, ‘Power of Positive Drinkin’’ has just been released, and his cheeky Brad Paisley-esque stylings mean he’s likely to be around for the long haul.
2. Kelsea Ballerini
Kelsea Ballerini broke a few records when her debut single ‘Love Me Like You Mean It’ climbed to the #1 spot back in June. She had originally released the single the year before, but continued promotion and some endorsement from Taylor Swift eventually pushed it to the top, helped by her poppy debut album ‘The First Time’. She became the first female artist since 2012 to reach #1, the first female artist to reach the top with her debut single since 2005, and the first artist ever to net her label Black River Entertainment a #1 hit. She was nominated for Female Artist of the Year and New Artist of the Year at the CMAs and she seems to have a lot of crossover appeal which will stand her in good stead for the future. New single ‘Dibs’ is already in the top 15 and still rising.
Chris Stapleton released his debut solo album ‘Traveller’ in May to modest sales, critical praise but ultimately relatively little fanfare (and zero radio play). However, that was all to change come September, when he was nominated for three CMA Awards: Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year, and New Artist of the Year. He was booked for a performance on the November 4 show and brought in good friend Justin Timberlake, who helped him deliver the performance of the night. Chris won all three awards, and his sales rocketed literally overnight; he sold 150,000 copies of the album in just 28 hours, and continued to sell really well in the weeks that followed. Now his album tracks are charting all over and single ‘Nobody To Blame’ has cracked the top 30 at radio after just a couple of weeks. He’s due to perform at March’s C2C Festival.