Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Megan Moroney Leads 2024 CRS New Faces of Country Music Show

By Michael Mar 3, 2024

With radio programmers spread across the country, it’s not often that artists have a chance to interact with the programmers and personnel who have aided them in their respective journeys to earning their first country radio hits — at the same time, all in one room. But each year, they do get that chance when radio programmers — along with plenty of label personnel — gather in Nashville for the Country Radio Seminar.

On Friday (March 1), following three days of radio and streaming-focused panels and label luncheons, the conference concluded by highlighting five highly-promising new artists.

This year’s class featured Records Nashville’s George Birge, Riser House’s Dillon Carmichael, Sony Music Nashville/RCA’s Corey Kent, Sony Music Nashville/Columbia’s Megan Moroney and Valory Music’s Conner Smith.

The night’s performances were tightly focused, with artists largely running through their familiar breakthrough hits, while also offering glimpses into what lies ahead musically.

First up was Kent. In an introductory video that played on the main screens prior to his performance, Kent began by thanking country radio for “helping us to deliver the biggest axe blow we’ve ever had,” in making his single “Wild as Her” a top 5 Country Airplay hit. “There will be many more to come,” he promised. Taking the New Faces stage, Kent introduced his set with the brooding “Gold.”

“If you know anything about me, you know this. I believe tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and what you do today matters. What we do tonight is take a few risks … you either getting busy living or you’re getting busy dying.”

He then offered his most recent radio single, “Something’s Gonna Kill Me,” a churning, freewheeling song which made great use of his rock-woven, rugged voice. From there, he offered his breakthrough hit “Wild as Her.” He largely stayed close to center stage throughout his set. Not that he needed to roam the stage — his voice, full-bodied and shot through with rock influences, permeated the room.

“Thank y’all so much, country radio!” he told the packed ballroom of radio executives, before offering a preview of a new song, titled “This Heart,” which Kent noted will soon impact country radio.

Next up was Birge, who reached No. 2 on the Country Airplay heart earlier this year with “Mind on You.” Microphone in hand, he stalked the stage as he offered the hard-rock influenced “Hard on the Bottle.” He later gave the audience an early look at new song “Damn Right I Do,” and concluded with “Cowboy Songs.”

“I’ve dreamed about this day for a long, long time and damn it did not disappoint,” he said. “I couldn’t come here and not play the song that you changed my life with,” he added before taking up a guitar to perform “Mind on You.”

“Thank you for believing in me,” he told the audience. “I don’t take for granted for one second that I get to be up here on this stage and it’s because of you guys.”

Before Nashville native Smith took the stage, screens on both sides of the stage showed home videos of Smith as a young child, around five or six years old, performing covers of hits from Kenny Chesney and Montgomery Gentry, followed by footage of Smith earning a standing ovation during his Grand Ole Opry debut in 2022.

Smith, clad in a white shirt and black leather jacket, began his high-octane set with “Smoky Mountains,” the title track from his January-released full-length album.

He noted that he’s attended the New Faces of Country Music Show a few times. “I would always watch and just pray that I would get a chance to be on this stage,” he said, thanking the crowd. “It means so much more than you know.” He then rolled into another song from the album, “Heatin’ Up.”

He also offered up with the tender, fiddle-laced duet “Roulette on the Heart” (though his duet partner on the song, Hailey Whitters, wasn’t in attendance). Still, Smith’s solo rendition connected with the audience just fine, thanks to his warm, smoothing vocals.

Smith also thanked country radio for changing his life by making the revved-up “Creek Will Rise” a hit. “It’s like Luke Bryan says — rain is a good thing,” Smith said before launching into the careening, rock-fueled, slightly bluesy track. ”Long live country radio!” he said, exiting the stage.

Kentucky native Carmichael, who is currently out on tour opening shows for Cody Johnson, launched his set with “Raised Up Wrong.”

“What an opportunity this is. Thank you for giving us a chance,” he said, before launching into his breakthrough hit “Son of A.” “In order to even qualify to be voted for to be a new face, one of those qualifications is you have to have at least a top 25 at country radio, so I want to thank my team for continuing to push this song we are about to play … and for country radio all of you who kept playing it … it means so much.”

He concluded with another uptempo track, one perfect for getting crowds to lift up their cups and enjoy some levity, with his current top 40 Country Airplay hit, “Drinkin’ Problems.”

The evening included a special moment to remember the life and career of the late country star Toby Keith, who died last month at age 62 following a battle with stomach cancer.

“He lived life fully, right to the end,” CRS Board of Directors president Kurt Johnson said, noting that Keith had planned to perform during Country Radio Seminar this year. CRB/CRS executive director RJ Curtis noted that 30 years ago that night, Keith made his New Faces Show debut in 1994. Then screens on either side of the main stage showed clips from Keith’s CRS New Faces of Country Music Show debut, including a performance of “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” and a short interview clip of Keith from his New Faces debut.

The lone woman on this year’s New Faces bill, Moroney closed out the lineup that evening. She is also one of the most-celebrated newcomers, thanks to her breakthrough hit, “Tennessee Orange,” and her debut album, Lucky.

“Anybody feel lucky?” she asked as she took the stage, clad in one of her signature sparkly, brightly-colored dresses to perform the title track to her album Lucky, as images of horseshoes, four-leaf clovers and boots crisscrossed the screen behind her.

Moroney’s star power was undeniable from the first song. From there she sailed through southernism-tinged kiss-off “I’m Not Pretty” and new release “No Caller ID” (which debuted at No. 13 on the Hot Country Songs chart earlier this year), led by her warm-hued voice, which cracked in all the right places, letting the emotional nuances of each song seep through.

“I have a lot of new music coming out this year that I’m excited for you to hear,” she teased, later adding, “Thank you for your support of me and my songs. I love writing songs. I love to do this and I get to do this because of you,” she said. In a departure from earlier performers on the bill, Moroney’s set offered its share of ballads, including the introspective song from Lucky “Girl in the Mirror.” Moroney closed with a faithful live rendering of her hit “Tennessee Orange.”

Since its inception in 1970, the New Faces of Country Music Show has put some of country music’s brightest new talents in the spotlight, with the members of the Class of 2024 joining the list of past New Faces performers including Tim McGraw, George Strait, Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Luke Combs, Miranda Lambert and Jelly Roll.

By Michael

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