CMT has been on the forefront of spotlighting up-and-coming female artists with their CMT Next Women of Country initiative—a campaign to bring awareness to inspiring female vocalists in country music. Tuesday morning (Nov. 7) the fifth annual CMT Next Women of Country event was held at Nashville’s City Winery where the newest class of 2018 was revealed.
The Class of 2018 includes Ashley McBryde, Kassi Ashton, Kalie Shorr, Abby Anderson, Bailey Bryan, The Sisterhood Band—comprised of Ruby Stewart and Alyssa Bonagura, Hannah Ellis, Jo Smith and Erin Enderlin.
The show kicked off with a rocking rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” by current Next Women of Country member Kalie Shorr with Kelleigh Bannen and Lindsay Ell.
Kalie Shorr with Keleigh Bannon and Lindsey Ell
Hosted by CMT’s Leslie Fram, VP of Strategy and Talent and Class of 2014’s Raelynn, the elegant event saw performances by past Next Women of Country class members including Carly Pearce, Danielle Bradbery, Jillian Jacqueline, Natalie Stovall, Runaway June and Post Monroe, which is now a duo since the departure of Shelby McLeod in October.
CMT started the campaign in 2013, which has included such artists as Maren Morris, Lauren Alaina, Kacey Musgraves and Kelsea Ballerini, who was also honored this year with the CMT Impact Award for her contributions to growing the female voice in the country music industry. The campaign also launched two female tours in 2015 and 2016 that included Jana Kramer, Kelsea Ballerini, Jennifer Nettles, Brandy Clark, Lindsay Ell and Tara Thompson.
One Country talked with some of the past members to ask if they had any advice for the incoming class.
“I chased radio for a long time. I chased what I thought, If I’m honest with myself I was not being 100% real becasue I was letting the industry effect me. When I stopped trying to please everybody, I’ve been here eight years, when I quit that’s when everything made sense to me. Every girl in here should just stay focused and really listen to yourself and figure out who you are and what you want to say and enjoy the journey. It is a journey, it’s not an overnight thing. Really take the time to build your brand.”
Kassi Ashtlon and Carly Pearce
“Keep on going. This is the first step. It’s a stepping stone. This is an amazing stepping stone. Every year you’re just going to keep getting better and keep writing and keep traveling. My first year I did so many shows that every show made me better. I called them a paid rehearsal because every show, every copy meeting, every writing session has gotten me where I am today.”
Leslie Fram and Raelynn
“There is one advice that I love spreading around because it actually happened to me. It sounds cliche to say ‘Be Yourself’ but diving deep into it a lot of industry people can steer you away from who you are and make you who everybody else wants you to be. That’s not cool at all. So you have to stay true to who you are and make sure you’re comfortable with that or else it’s not going to be you and your not going to present it the right way.”
Danielle Bradbery, Lindsey Ell and Natalie Stovall
Nicolle Galyon, Kelsea Ballerini and Leslie Fram – Photos by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT