There's a spirit that these five artists bring into their music that makes them unique storytellers.
Singer-songwriters are a dominant force on this month's list of country artists to watch in July, with budding writer Lena Stone standing alongside a seasoned one, Natalie Hemby. Two former reality singing show contestants also appear — former X Factor contestant Willie Jones was selected for his lyricism and talent for blending genres, while the potent storytelling of Austin Jenckes, who appeared on The Voice, also makes him a standout. Newly-formed group King Calaway, whose harmonies are as charming as their songs, round out this diverse list.
Here are five up-and-coming country artists to watch in July 2019.
Austin Jenckes' mission statement is profound: “I sing & write songs to move people. To evoke emotion and show that there is vulnerability in us all." In his music, these words are more than just a description, they're a promise. He conveys this in his debut album, If You Grew Up Like I Did, a line pulled from the universal song “Fat Kid” that touches on the range of feelings we go through during the days of our youth, or the sweet “Never Forget” that pulls the listener in to the “perfect summer night” and all of the other details that beautifully tell the story the night he met his wife, Brittany. But it’s the moving “If You’d Been Around” that truly brings Jenckes’ mission to life, as he vulnerably chronicles his own story of loss, proving him to be the type of compelling songwriter that country music thrives on.
Natalie Hemby is one of those songwriters whose music has been a part of every country music fan’s life, whether it be Little Big Town's hit “Pontoon," the upbeat nature of Lady Antebellum's "Downtown" or the striking twist that is “White Liar" by Miranda Lambert. For years, Hemby has been creating insightful, thought-provoking songs for the likes of Lambert, Keith Urban, Kacey Musgraves and so many more that have impacted the country charts and fans alike. Though she’s long been one of Nashville’s prolific songwriters for superstars, she has a compelling voice all her own. It pours through on her 2017 debut solo project Puxico, whether on the poignant “I’ll Remember How You Loved Me” and “This Town Still Talks About You.” Her work is so admired that she's been welcomed as as a part of the all-star group, the Highwomen, alongside fellow revered artists Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires — a platform that will not only elevate her voice, but allow her brilliance to continue to evolve.
The moment you press play on any of King Calaway’s songs, the undeniable harmonies of Chris Deaton, Simon Dumas, Jordan Harvey, Chad Michael Jervis, Austin Luther and Caleb Miller strike you. Drawn together from all parts of the world, ranging from Minnesota to Gibraltar, the six-member band are engaging singers as they are confident musicians. Their vast roots are connected through their sunny lyrics and uplifting spirit they channel into songs, both of which shine through on their debut self-titled EP, particularly on the inviting “World for Two” where their gentle voices capture the beauty in the lyrics. Look for them to be a breakout act in 2019.
Willie Jones proved his determination to be a country singer when he stepped on to the X Factor audition stage in 2012 with a surprise cover of Josh Turner’s “Your Man" that received resounding approval from judges Britney Spears, Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato and LA Reid. Citing a range of acts from Ray Charles to Kenny Chesney — along with the storytelling of country music — as formative influences in his career, Jones is continuing to make an impression on fans with his blend of country, hip-hop and pop. What allows his music to stand out is the storytelling behind it, whether chronicling blissful moments with his family in “Runs in Our Blood” or calling on a nostalgia-themed video that references the beloved classic Reading Rainbow to proclaim his loyalty to the person he loves in “Down for It.” Between his booming voice, infectious melodies and compassionate lyrics, Jones is bound to keep making an impression on fans.
Lena Stone checks off all the boxes of a hit songwriter with her catchy melodies, enticing lyrics and relatability in her storytelling. A staple in Nashville’s all-female singer-songwriter troupe Song Suffragettes, Stone is helping to lead the charge of powerful female writers in the city with her endearing songs. She demonstrates this in “Running Out of Red Lights,” a catchy pop-country tune wrapped around the universal story of going back to the person you can't break free from, while the equally charming “October” continues to reflect her songwriting talent as she captures the feeling of comfort to disconnect in a former relationship. Her latest single “Kids These Days” finds her critiquing the millennial way of life through thoughtful lyrics and a bubbly melody, both of which contribute to what makes her a standout artist.