10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: February 2018

From the blue-collar twang of Pat Reedy to the easygoing country-pop of Brown & Gray

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Brown & Gray
Nikki Mata8/10

Brown & Gray

Sounds Like: Propulsive, pop-leaning country from both sides of the Atlantic

For Fans of: Thomas Rhett and Maren Morris' "Craving You"; Luke Bryan and Karen Fairchild's "Home Alone Tonight"; culture clash

Why You Should Pay Attention: A chart-topping songwriter from the U.K., Sam Gray kicked off his career penning hits for European DJs and pop singers. After emerging from a co-writing session in England with a country song called "Top Down," he reached out to Kaci Brown — a native Texan who started her own songwriting career at 11 years old, when she signed with a publishing company run by Roy Orbison's wife — to add her vocals to the track. "Top Down" turned into a duet between the two singers, paving the way for a sound rooted in country storytelling, pop hooks and progressive production. With more than 1.2 million Spotify streams in the U.S. and a Top 10 position on the U.K. iTunes Country Single chart, the song is already a cross-Atlantic hit, paving the way for the band's full length album ­– produced by their mentor and frequent co-writer, Brad Crisler – later this year.

They Say: "We both come from strong songwriting backgrounds," says Gray, who'll join Brown this spring for the duo's Stagecoach Festival debut. "Kaci grew up in Texas and Nashville, with pop and country in her heart. I grew up with those sounds, too, as well as a lot of soul. We're mixing different genres, but at the center of it, we just love to write great songs. We want to push the boundaries with our production. It just sounds like us. It's country, it's pop and it's all everything you'll find in the middle."

Hear for Yourself: Driven forward by a percussive pulse, "Top Down" is a tribute to raising the roof ­– literally – and hitting the highway. R.C.

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