Artists to Watch in 2015 – No. 1: Chris Lane
Chris Lane is a natural choice for Taste of Country's top Artist to Watch of 2015. It's unlikely you've heard of him yet, as he doesn't even have a record deal. However, Lane rose to the top of this list -- a list that took notice of Sam Hunt last January, long before 'Leave the Night On' hit airwaves -- like he does everything ...
There hasn't been a big splash or a 'Eureka!' moment for this North Carolina native. Country music wasn't his dream since childhood. Lane didn't roll the dice on Nashville after high school, much to the displeasure of more traditional parents. He just picked up a guitar one day. Then he formed a cover band.
Then he started playing locally, and a little less locally. Before long he'd cut some songs independently and was fielding calls for shows across the state.
“Somebody helped me set up some co-writes," Lane tells Taste of Country of how he got here, "and I started coming to town and I ended up with a bunch of meetings and, you know … Nashville is a pretty small place.”
That's the story of how he moved to Music City. To recap: word got around.
Pretty sexy, right?
You're not going to find a gimmick with Lane and his music. He hustled as a rising artist out of Kernersville, N.C., booking his own shows and media while writing and recording with little help or guidance. Of course, he had a day job.
“I helped my dad do landscaping from when I was 14," he says, "and then every summer when I’d come home for college, I’d play on a travel baseball team, but during the day I’d do landscaping.”
The truck with the tore-up roof you see in his 'Broken Windshield View' video (below) is his landscaping truck. Dad still uses it, as Lane recently moved up to a GMC Denali in White Diamond.
The singer moved to Nashville a year ago after signing a publishing deal with Big Loud Mountain, home of Florida Georgia Line's Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard. The three became friends, then touring partners when FGL hit the road with Nelly last summer. Jerrod Niemann and Lee Brice are a few other tours he hitched onto in 2014. He's hoping there's more in 2015.
“All at one time, all this other stuff started happening. People started flying out to watch me play. It was all through word of mouth," he assures. "All because of the touring schedule.”
Lane's debut EP is his focus right now, and he hopes to have it out before spring. 'Broken Windshield View' was released independently to radio last year. His sound complements FGL's, but they're two very distinct acts. Lane's lyrics go deeper, and his early songs show more range than one finds on early FGL songs.
Signing with a major record label would be nice, Lane says, but he's confident he'll succeed if remaining independent proves to be the better option. The 20-something is road-tested, and knows his way around a writers' room. He brings a lot to the record label/artist relationship that most new artists do not.
“The way everything is going in Nashville now is they want people who have been out on the road making a name for themselves," he says. "That’s a lot less work they have to do."
The 10 artists on ToC's Artist to Watch in 2015 list were all chosen and ranked for their potential. Lane is still unknown to fans who find their country on the radio, but that figures to change in 2015. If you're looking for an artist to bet on this year, this former college baseball player is a natural choice.
Watch Chris Lane's 'Broken Windshield View' Video