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Hot Artists to Watch in 2016: Sarah Ross [No. 9]

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You’ll have an immediate opinion about country newcomer Sarah Ross, because one tends to form quick, immovable opinions about things that scare us a little. Ross’ polish is impressive. Her quick transition between soaring melodies and spoken-word urban licks is intimidating.

The singer couldn’t be sweeter. During an interview with Taste of Country, Ross talked about how her Italian grandparents love her new music, explaining how her grandfather shares it with his friends. The 20-something rising star isn’t afraid to post pictures from her childhood on Instagram (Chicken Croquet, anyone?) and admits to her vulnerabilities about a ballad called “Happy Hour” on her Calm Before the Storm EP.

“I’m kind of nervous (about it) because everyone’s seen the kind of rougher side to my music,” she admits, referring to her cover of “You’re No Good” and “Shotgun,” a song that makes the Band Perry‘s “Chainsaw” sound like something the Teletubbies would sing.

If you’re looking for an underdog to count on in 2016, Ross is an good option. The current radio climate isn’t perfect for her mix of hip-hop and country, but satellite radio and streaming services have started to dictate who future hitmakers are, and her current single “Lovin’ This Beat” has surpassed a million streams on Spotify. SiriusXM has also picked the song up. Ross’ storm is drawing near.

By comparison, this newcomer hasn’t been chasing a country dream as long as others on this list of Hot Artists to Watch in 2016. Now just a few years removed from high school, she admits she didn’t really start singing seriously until age 16, and she didn’t perform for a year after that. As she prepares songs for a 2016 full-length album, she admits she’s still trying to figure out who she is, and who her audience is. The crowds have been enthusiastic, but mixed demographically. And of course there’s those who think she’s the worst thing to happen to country music since the electric guitar.

“It doesn’t really hurt me,” Ross insists of any criticism. “It’s what I love to do, and someone else’s opinion isn’t going to change what I love to do.”

Ross is on Colt Ford‘s Average Joe’s Entertainment record label. A more fitting home is unimaginable, as Ford himself has been forced to find other ways to get his music to fans. The Mud Digger compilations are popular (“Shotgun” is on Mud Digger 5). Touring is a must. Expect Sarah Ross to hit the road hard in 2016, and keep up with her on social media to learn the latest (like so many talented artists these days, you need to do a little extra work to keep up with Ross). But it’s worth it.

See All 10 Hot Artists to Watch in 2016

Next: Meet Artist No. 10

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