After reading through Corey’s top 10 artists to watch in 2016 I started thinking of who I would put in that list. There are definitely similarities between my 10 and Corey’s, as you will see. 2015 has been a big year for Canadian country music from the tour perspective with all the major players hitting the road, Dallas Smith started the year with his hugely successful “Tippin’ Point Tour” featuring Sundy Best and now this fall Dean Brody and Paul Brandt just wrapped up their “Road Trip Tour”, Brett Kissel and Jordan McIntosh are currently on the road with their “Airwaves Tour” and Tebey kicks off his “Three’s A Party Tour” with Jason Blaine and James Otto on Friday in Halifax and to cap off the year Tim Hicks is hitting the road with Cold Creek County and Jason Benoit for their “Get A Little Crazy Tour”. Notice something missing? Out of all the tours above only the “Road Trip Tour” featured tomatoes as an added ingredient with Lindi Ortega, Jess Moskaluke, Madeline Merlo and Whitney Rose featured throughout the tour.
So let’s take a look at who I think has the greatest chance of breaking out in the coming year, 2016.
10. Abby Stewart – There’s no question that I’m personally a huge fan of Abby Stewart and I know she has the team and the support that she will need to breakout. In 2016 Abby turns 15, after a very successful 2015 which saw Abby really spread her wings and fly, or perhaps in racing terms push the pedal to the metal. With appearances at major music festivals across Ontario we fully expect to see her added to the lineup of at least one major event outside of the province next summer, not to mention a much deserved spot on the ballot at either the CMAO Awards or the CCMA Awards (or both). Abby’s current single “I’m Still Faster” can be requested at country radio across Canada!
9. Danielle Marie – I recently had the chance to speak to this very talented young lady from western Canada. 2015 was a big year for Danielle as well, she was a CCMA Spotlight Performance Winner and held a spot in the fan-favourite Legends Show: A Tribute to Yesterday and Today which was held in Halifax, NS this past September. This weekend Danielle is nominated for 4 BCCMA (Album/EP of The Year for Here Right Now, Female Vocalist of the Year, Ray McCauley Horizon Award and the Fans Choice Award). Watch for our interview with Danielle coming in early November. Danielle’s latest single is “What You Can’t Have“, request it on your favourite country radio station today!
8. Arlene Quinn – Arlene is no stranger to the business of country music, Arlene first broke onto the scene in 2001 with her debut CD No Doubt from which the title track was very well received by country radio across Canada and Europe. But deteriorating health and a diagnosis of fibromyalgia ultimately forced Arlene to step away from the business to focus on getting well again. 2015 marks the year that Arlene returns to the scene armed with a new single “Nowhere to Go But Up“, a song she co-wrote with Brea Lawrenson. The business has changed drastically since 2001 but she has the voice, the team and the talent to be successful. Hard work and determination are her keys to success and if she can push through and release a few more strong singles, get some airtime and a strategic placement on a national tour in 2016 it could be a good year for her. Watch for an upcoming interview with Arlene.
7. Brea Lawrenson – 2015 saw the release of Brea’s new CD #Brealieve as well as 2 CMAO (Country Music Association of Ontario) nominations (Rising Star and Female Artist of the Year). She’s had success in getting her music added to the rotation of both Ottawa country radio stations, one of the toughest tasks for artists today. She made the coveted lineup for the 2015 RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest as well as numerous smaller festivals in the Ottawa region including opening slots for Tom Cochrane (Kemptville Live Music Festival) and Brett Kissel (Navan Fair). 2016 will be a critical year for Brea, she has a solid, dedicated fan base and she’s not afraid to work hard but she needs to work on her marketing and needs to get an opening slot on a national tour with a strong headline act, this could be the key to her breakout. Her latest single “Canadian Pearl” is available on iTunes and can be requested on country radio.
6. Cory Marquardt – Cory ranks right up there with artists like Tim Hicks and Brett Kissel when it comes to his live show, it’s high octane and guaranteed to keep the crowd on their feet. Cory’s music comes from some of the top songwriters in Nashville including Eric Paslay (She Don’t Love You, She’s Just Lonely) who co-wrote Cory’s latest single “This Man“. 2015 saw it’s share of success for Cory, first with a successful national “Outlaws and Outsiders” tour with Aaron Pritchett, and King & Cash followed by a string of festival dates and opportunities to open for Toby Keith in western Canada and Brantley Gilbert in Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon and Toronto. Although he still struggles to get radio to embrace his music I think it’s just a matter of time before the right single really catches radio’s attention. I for one believe that, with a few solid tracks that could still be released as singles from his debut release This Man, his radio breakthrough is just around the corner. The major tour managers see something in Cory, the fans see something in Cory it’s just a matter of time before radio sees that too and when that happens Cory will go from playing bars to arenas. The key question is will it be in 2016? I believe it will be. Music runs through this man’s veins and he works hard at what he does, he deserves to be rewarded for that hard work. Something tells me he’s on the edge of a breakthrough. If I were to pick his next single I would bet that either “Don’t Count Saturday Night” or “Teach Me” could be the song that unlocks radio for him, but time will tell. He’s got the right team behind him. Be sure to grab your “Smartphone” and dial your local country radio station and request his latest single “This Man” today!
5. Wes Mac – Wes is another artist who has had a banner year in 2015, he hit the road with Shania Twain and released his debut album, Edge of the Storm. When it comes to the male half of Canada’s emerging artists I think it’s safe to say that he’s one of the top solo artists and I fully expect more from Wes in the coming year. I also had the opportunity to chat with Wes recently so watch for that interview coming up in early November as well.
4. River Town Saints – The first group on my list for 2016 is Ottawa’s River Town Saints. RTS performed at the Sound Check sponsored Capital Country Fest / Spencerville Stampede this July and it’s all been up from there. Recently added to a few southern Ontario dates with Autumn Hill and Jason Benoit and a hot new single “A Little Bit Goes A Long Way” I fully expect 2016 to be a big year for this quintet, a strategic tour placement with the right act along with more singles and hopefully an album and it could be the stepping stone to big things for these boys.
3. Jason Blaine – Jason has been a player in the Canadian country music scene for a number of years now but with a strong showing of a couple of singles, including a top 10 for the title track off of his latest album Country Side, and a nationwide tour with Tebey and James Otto to round out 2015 he’ll be starting 2016 on a high note. Few artists have worked harder to perfect their craft over the course of their career than Jason and 2016 could very well be the year that see’s that hard work finally pay off. Jason’s 6th album Country Side was released on Friday (October 23) and I’m willing to bet it will be his most successful to date. His latest single “Spotlight” is already showing strength on the Canadian Country Charts, request it on country radio today and don’t miss out on the “Three’s A Party Tour” coming to a city near you!
2. Tebey – Tebey is the perfect example of someone who worked hard and never gave up. An early career record deal with RCA eroded in 2002 when his debut single, “We Shook Hands (Man to Man)”, didn’t crack the Top 20 on the US charts (it broke the Top 40 US Billboard Country Singles Chart and peaked at #3 in Canada). For many this would mean the end of the dream, not for Tebey. To Tebey it was fuel to fight harder and reach further. Since getting back in the game in 2012 with his album The Wait Tebey has had 5 top 20 singles and 2 top 10. With two strong singles (“When the Buzz Wears Off” and his most recent “Jealous of the Sun“) and a new album due within the next few months, not to mention the co-headlining national, “Three’s A Party Tour” with Jason Blaine and James Otto there’s no question Tebey is going to end 2015 on a high note and set himself up for a strong start to 2016. Tebey was twice nominated for the CCMA Rising Star Award (2013 & 2014), 2016 could be the year that sees Tebey finally get the recognition he deserves with a Male Vocalist Nomination at the CCMA Awards and the CMAO Awards. The video for “Jealous of the Sun” was released earlier this weekend, the song is in rotation across Canada on country radio and could become one of his biggest hits to date.
1. Cam – Like Corey I couldn’t pick just 1 for the #1 spot and I didn’t feel that any of the others deserved to be excluded so two artists will share the top spot. The only artist to make my top 10 is California native Cam. Since hearing “My Mistake” for the first time about a year ago on Sirius XM’s The Highway I’ve been hooked. There’s a certain addictive quality about Cam’s vocals and song lyrics. Much like my #1 pick on this list Cam is as close to a sure thing as you can get. Her songs are on heavy rotation on most radio stations with her latest single, “Burning House“, already charting in the top 5 on the US Hot Country charts south of the border 2016 will be Cam’s year to really breakout in Canada. With her success south of the border in 2015 she’s almost a shoo in for the 2016 lineup for Boots and Hearts, Cavendish Beach Music Festival and others across Canada.
1. Cold Creek Country – Another group that seemingly came from out of nowhere and has become a solid name in Canadian country music much thanks to their huge debut single “Our Town”. CCC is a must for any watch list because they are the sure thing. Signed with Sony Music Canada since 2014 and about to “Get a Little Crazy” with Tim Hicks in a week’s time I fully expect that 2016 will be the year that Cold Creek County is nominated (and wins) group of the year at the CMAOs, CCMAs and heck possibly even the Juno’s. By far the strongest new group to come out of Ontario these boys are going to hit the road “Until the Wheels Come Off” their debut album is currently on shelves. And I wouldn’t be surprised to wee these guys headline their first tour by early to mid-2017.
What I’d also like to see in 2016 is a resurgence of the ladies into the world of Canadian Country Music and more variety in the tour front. Just some of the tour ideas that I think would make for a great night out include:
Jess Moskaluke, featuring Madeline Merlo and Danielle Marie
Small Town Pistols with Runaway Angel and Brea Lawrenson
Cold Creek County with Blackjack Billy and River Town Saints
Terri Clark with Arlene Quinn and Whitney Rose
Paul Brandt with Brett Kissel and Erik Dylan
Tim Hicks with The Road Hammers and Cory Marquardt
Dean Brody with Alan Doyle and Tristan Horncastle
Kip Moore with Tebey and Wes Mac
The combinations are endless there is so much talent in this country we just need to give it a chance, the combinations grow even more when you mix in some of the rising US stars. One thing is certain we need to get more of the ladies out there and we need more variety in the lineups. Running the same old lineup just gets old and after a while no one wants to go anymore. To the tour managers and festivals I challenge you to mix it up for 2016, lets see some old mixed with the new.
I’d love to know your thoughts on mine or Corey’s top 10, how do ours fit in your artists to watch? Share your comments below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.