The artists tapped for October's list of country artists to watch are an especially eclectic bunch, with distinct styles, noteworthy lyrics and undeniable talent.
This list has a particular distinction in that it features two outlaws: Sam Williams, who descends from a family that is integral to the history of country music, and Orville Peck, a mysterious singer with a haunting voice who’s helping to break down the walls for queer artists in the genre. Additionally, two of the chosen acts are from countries outside of the U.S., as Peck hails from Canada and Jade Bird is London-based act.
While most artists this month fall under an Americana umbrella, Ryan Hurd is an outlier who's representing mainstream country. Several of these artists have crossed paths literally or figuratively, with both Hurd and Brent Cobb scoring cuts by superstar artists. Cobb recently teamed up with his former tourmate Bird for a duet, "Feet Off the Ground."
Here are five artists to watch in October 2019.
You'll be instantly intrigued by Orville Peck’s appearance, because his face is almost entirely covered by a Lone Ranger-style mask that only reveals his eyes. But the air of mystery surrounding this phantom-like singer, who identifies as queer, is only one element of his distinct artistry. Peck's voice is reminiscent of Roy Orbison, blended with an aesthetic that merges his admiration for cowboy culture with a '70s vibe. He's fascinating! His 2019 debut album Pony is filled with stunning moments, from the visualizer "Dead of Night" to the underlying sadness of "Queen of the Rodeo" and dark poetry of a song called "Hope to Die." Peck is creating his own universe within country music, one that's defined by his artistic vision. He's opening doors for queer storytellers to establish their place in the genre.
While this may be your first introduction to Bird, she’s already been tapped by several in the Americana music world. The English singer is an avid fan in Sheryl Crow and was one of the many women who earned a coveted slot performing at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival onstage with the Highwomen and Dolly Parton. She's also scored opening slots for Jason Isbell and Brent Cobb and won them all over with her attention-grabbing 2017 EP Something American and a pure voice — listen to “Something American” or “I Get No Joy”. With her 2019 self-titled debut album continuing to prove that she's a master of her craft, expect Bird to take you on a journey musically. It won’t take long for mainstream audiences to catch onto this under-the-radar powerhouse.
Hurd has been building a praise-worthy resume for himself since his start in Nashville, launched with cuts from an impressive roster of more than 20 artists. That's his mark on Blake Shelton's "Lonely Tonight" and the swanky "You Look Good" by Lady Antebellum, but Hurd stands just as confidently as his own act, as demonstrated on his new five-song EP Platonic that reflects all sides of his artistry. Listen to the suave "Florida With a Girl" or the sweet and thoughtful "Wish for the World," then hop to the romantic pop-R&B number "To a T."
Cobb has long been one of Nashville's best storytellers. His distinct point of view shines through even on the songs he doesn't lend his voice to, such as the rootsy "Old Shit" by Miranda Lambert and the thought-provoking Kenny Chesney cut "Don't It." It's no wonder Cobb has a loyal supporter in Chris Stapleton, who, like many, recognizes that his blend of blues, Southern rock and country layered by pensive lyrics leaves an impact. Cobb's talent is indisputable and deserves your attention.
Though he comes from a long line of country music royalty as the son of Hank Williams, Jr. (and the grandson of Hank Williams, Sr.!), Sam Williams is determined to write his own destiny. This fury manifests in the raw honesty he infuses into his lyrics, which is like his relatives, but unique. His voice somehow sounds 20 years older than his 22-year-old self while simultaneously feeling like it’s straight out of the '50s. Williams is creating a timeless catalogue — the brooding “Gemini” is intense, finding him torn between two different worlds, both where he sees a piece of himself. With the ability to grab listeners' ears from the first note, Williams' starpower is only bound to grow.