UPstar. Music's 25 Artists to Watch in 2023 Vol. II
As 2022 comes to a close, it is time to jump ahead to artists we think are going to make big moves in 2023. A large part of what we focus on at UPstar. Music is artist development and growth for artists over the course of a few years. This is one thing I believe makes UPstar. Music's "Artists to Watch" unique and special. Of the 25 artists featured, each is at different stages of their career; some are cashing in on record deals and will be breakout stars in 2023. Others have released their first songs in 2022, have great potential to make a name for themselves this coming year and will reach great heights in the near future. All of these individuals are at different stages in their career but there is one thing they all have in common - these are stars in the making, who have undeniable talent and at some point will be at the top of Country Music. There are common themes in this article and characteristics the artists share. They include the ability to be authentic with their music, pave their own path to success by finding their own sound and the ability to write genuine, outside the box songs which separate them from the rest of the genre. Give it a few years... these are the stars of tomorrow. From the heart of Nashville, to the Red Dirt scene we got a wide variety of artists for you.
Mae Estes is bringing that old school traditional sound back to Country Music and has a badass mentality doing it. Influenced by legends Keith Whitley and Lee Ann Womack, Mae puts all her energy into her music as every song is electrifying and makes listeners feel each emotion to its fullest. Whether its feeling love for a significant other in "Your Hands", getting a little curious in "Thinkin' Bout Cheatin”or taking on the bars of your hometown in "Die in a Bar", Mae puts you in those moments for the time you listen to each song. As Country Music has been heavily influenced by Pop the last decade, Mae stayed true to her roots and sang about experiences. She did so in a style she knew, near and dear to her heart. I'm no expert, but I truly believe the traditional sound is becoming cool again led by Hailey Whitters, Lainey Wilson and Ashland Craft. I think in a few years Mae Estes will be leading the charge with these ladies, bringing traditional Country Music back! Mae has a peaceful, yet fierce and demanding voice that turns heads and instantly shows her star power, pulling you in, just wanting to hear more. This Arkansas native may not have come across your speakers just yet, but I'd highly suggest you take a gander down her discography and discover her sheer talent. Mae is a barrel of gunpowder ready to explode at any moment. 2023 is going to be her year - I can already feel it.
Songs To Check Out: "Thinkin' Bout Cheatin'", "Roses" and "Die in a Bar"
Parker Graye is a star in the making. There is so much up and coming talent in Country Music and the #1 thing most artists lack is authenticity. Many are just looking to write songs which will get them on the radio. Well, Parker is the complete opposite of that. Parker is writing personal and vulnerable songs that are striking a chord with so many listeners. Each song is filled with so much life and substance. As she lives by her signature catch phrase - "saddies for the baddies" - most of her songs encapsulate that. Songs such as "Good At Gettin' Gone" and "Last Time" are prime examples of songs that will rip your heart out. Parker has been in rotation on a number of Canadian and US radio stations as well as multiple editorial playlists across all platforms. She recently surpassed 1 million streams across all singles and platforms including: Apple Music, Amazon and Spotify. Parker Graye is a full out listening experience. Every song, from start to finish, is a masterpiece in slow motion, each line a personalized piece to the puzzle. Graye has a similar vibe and listening experience as the legendary Kacy Musgraves... blending her influences of Country, Pop, Folk and Americana. Parker is paving her own path in the genre by showing her authentic self and bringing a one of a kind sound to listeners. Parker Graye is one of the most underrated up and coming artists in this year’s class and I couldn't be more excited for Country Music fans to jump on the bandwagon because big things are ahead.
Songs To Check Out: "Good At Gettin' Gone", "Last Time" and "Cowboys Go"
The first time I heard Lexie's song "Another Friend", I instantly stopped and thought to myself "this girl has got it"! Lexie Hayden has the "IT factor". Sometimes it doesn't matter how good of a songwriter you are, how well you can sing or how well you can perform on stage. If you don't have "it", all that doesn't matter. Lexie has such a magnetic voice that she instantly pulls you in and that voice is matched by her naturally impressive songwriting. Hayden was a part of writing Priscilla Block's massive hit "My Bar" which has surpassed 24 million streams on Spotify alone. Lexie Hayden is the full package and it's a matter of time before all of Music City knows who she is. Lexie was featured on the first season of MTV's "Becoming A Popstar", opened for Bobby Bones twice at The Country Music Hall of Fame, was selected by Pepsi and United Masters as one of 12 artists who were part of the Pepsi Music Lab Academy Class of 2022-2023 and has reached over 2.5 billion streams on Apple Music and Spotify. Lexie is picking up steam at the perfect time as she is about to reach new heights in 2023. Country Music is filled with badass females taking over the scene and Lexie Hayden is going to be at the forefront of that next wave of talent.
Songs To Check Out: "Another Friend", "Pretty Damn Close" and "Somewhere Drinking"
Greylan James may be in his mid 20's, but has already proved himself as a respectable industry vet. He is amongst the top songwriters in Nashville. Greylan has consistently shown off his gold pen by writing massive hits such as "Happy Does" by Kenny Chesney, "How Is She" by Cole Swindell, "If That Ain't God" by Chris Young, "Next Thing You Know" by Jordan Davis and several other major label cuts. While he is still writing for others, Greylan decided to pursue his own artist career debuting his first artist release "Anything Cold" in February of 2022. Within a year he has skyrocketed to become one of the most intriguing young artists in the genre. Greylan is quickly drawing attention for his catchy melodies, cool, crisp voice and distinguished songwriting. He is bringing a fresh new sound to Country Music. His first few singles and debut EP "I Hope She Hears These" has shown consistency and has proved he belongs as an artist as well as an elite songwriter. Hard work pays off. From showing that he belonged in the top songwriting rooms in Nashville to now establishing himself as an artist, there is very little Greylan James can't do. As if songwriting and singing weren't enough, Greylan was once named one of the best under 21 guitar players in the world by Guitar Center Magazine's Brotherhood of the Guitar Top 100. Greylan is signed to Universal Music Publishing Group. This is a name you definitely want to keep on your radar moving forward.
There are very few up and coming artists as hot as Corey Kent right now in Country Music. Corey has been on my radar for quite a while and took a big step with his album "'21". Steady from top to bottom and highlighted with hits like "Gold" and "Ain't My Day" featuring Kolby Cooper. Corey took an even bigger leap and exploded onto everyone's radar with his massive hit "Wild As Her" which has surpassed 58 MILLION STREAMS on Spotify alone and has pushed this talented Oklahoma native to the top of everyone's list as the next breakout star in Country Music. Corey Kent has the ability as a songwriter to make listeners feel something as though they are the only person in the room. Corey can also take a song he didn't write and make it his own, allowing his talent to shine. Listeners are attracted to his music due to Corey's raw and real approach, while incorporating influences of Rock and Country into his music. A man who is much deserving of the success coming to him, Corey’s accomplishments are starting to add up. "Wild As Her" went #1 on Sirius XM's The Highway Top #30 Countdown, “Wild as Her” is also certified Gold and his album "'21" was the #4 album debut on the Spotify Global Charts. Corey has also shared the stage with respected acts such as Cody Johnson, Parker McCollum and Eli Young Band. Corey Kent will be releasing a new song "Man of the House" in January, be on tour with Parker McCollum in the spring, and will be on a tour in Fall but that announcement is under lock and key. Life is picking up for this star-in-the-making and it's only going to get crazier. Corey is a humble family guy putting out damn good music. How can you not root for this guy? Excited to watch his story unfold. Corey is signed to Sony Music Nashville, Triple 8 Management, Combustion Music Publishing and WME.
Songs To Check Out: "Wild As Her", "How You Know You Made It" and "Ain't My Day"
Rachel LaRen may be a fresh face to many Country Music listeners and is an absolute diamond in the rough who's time is coming to be a star in Music City. Vocally, I would put Rachel up with any artist - male or female. The Texas native matches her mesmerizing voice with clever and illustrious songwriting to bring listeners a once in a lifetime experience. Rachel is releasing songs that are influenced by Chris Stapleton, Tyler Childers and Kacey Musgraves. While adding hints of these artists into her music, she is also pouring in her own heart and soul and creating a new sound that is so calming and enjoyable. Rachel LaRen's debut EP "Cowboys Don't Change" showed Country Music the potential she has and how Rachel can be a dominant force in the genre. Her songs "John Wayne" and "Darlin'" are vibey and put you in the clouds as fans cruise to a calming and rich listening experience. For me, Rachel is one of the artists creating her own sound and has the drive and passion to be a top artist in Country Music for the next decade. You may not know her name yet, but you will... mark my words.
Songs To Check Out: "John Wayne", "Darlin'" and "Jesus and Me"
If you look at some of the biggest names in Country Music, most of them started out as top tier songwriters writing hits for other artists. That was how they got a foot in the door to start their own career as a successful artist. While Wyatt McCubbin may just be getting his artist career on the ground, he has been one of Music City's most well respected songwriters penning hits for Cody Johnson, Dustin Lynch, Tracy Lawrence, Drew Parker, Jacob Bryant, Kameron Marlowe, Randall King, Riley Green and the list goes on. Wyatt is now showing the world his artistry and the reason he also belongs on stage and not just in a writing room. One of the biggest things I look for in up-and-coming artists is the consistency in the songs they release. Wyatt has 5 songs out right now and all 5 are solid and full of substance. In my opinion they are massive hits. The way in which Wyatt paints a picture with each line he sings is up there with the best of the best. How he brings a story together is second to none. His smooth, calming twang warms the hearts of traditional country fans. Wyatt intertwines his singing with real songs listeners can relate to. He has mastered bringing simplistic ideas and stories to the surface, but does so with complex and intriguing songwriting. McCubbin just finished up the "We Were Cowboys" Tour with Kameron Marlowe as direct support. Wyatt McCubbin has quickly become one of my favorite artists in Country Music, without a doubt. It blows my mind that he isn't a superstar yet. But it is just a matter of time. Wyatt is signed to 50 Egg Music, Tape Room Music, Why & How Management and WME.
Songs To Check Out: "Tearin' Down Memories", "I'm Drinkin' She's Drivin'" and "Honky Damn Tonk"
Life comes at you fast. Just ask John Morgan. Within a few years, John has written "Trouble With A Heartbreak" by Jason Aldean and "If I Didn't Love You" by Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood. He has opened the "Rock N Roll Cowboy" Tour with Jason Aldean also featuring Gabby Barrett, Chase Rice, Travis Tritt and Tracy Lawrence. The Western North Carolina native also represented his state on American Song Contest (NBC), where he performed his original hit "Right In The Middle" and advanced to the semi-finals. While making all these career moves, Morgan has released 4 songs. His debut single "Coldest Beer in Town" was released at the end of 2021 and he has been dropping absolute JAMS since. Already a top notch songwriter, John has now proven his ability as an artist. His stock is only rising. John has found his sweet spot of writing hits for the radio that are relatable to the majority of country listeners, while still being authentic and penning genuinely good songs. John's songs pull from a wide variety of genres, making his music easily digestible for all types of music listeners. His influences range from Keith Whitley to John Mayer, Foreigner and Tom Petty. John Morgan is a humble and talented individual who shows off his talent through his songwriting and songs and he allows his credibility to do the talking. John is signed to Night Train Records, Triple Play Publishing, Maverick Management and Neal Booking Agency.
Songs To Check Out: "Friends Like That", "Right In The Middle" and "Coldest Beer in Town"