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

Kassi Ashton
Alysse Gafkjen1/10

Kassi Ashton

Sounds Like: The human embodiment of that Adele/Dolly Parton duet everyone is clamoring for

For Fans of: Caitlyn Smith, Maren Morris, Chris Stapleton at his most gravelly

Why You Should Pay Attention: Kassi Ashton is born of duality – raised by divorced parents in California, Missouri, she split her time between a mother that drove her to beauty pageants, ballet and jazz class, and a father that had her riding bikes, building furniture and hunting. When it came time to develop her own musical identity, it never occurred to her that you couldn't be two things at once. And for Ashton, who moved to Nashville after high school to attend Belmont University, those two things were country and soul. With a voice that can belt and break with the bluesy propulsion of Adele, emote like Beyoncé and capture the heartbreak of Patsy Cline, she's breaking the mold of what it means to work within the Nashville system. Probably because she's not – she'll release her debut as part of a joint venture between Universal Nashville (home of Stapleton and George Strait) and Interscope (home of Eminem and Lady Gaga), a testament to how diverse her appeal will be.

She Says: "At the time I was in college, clean pop-country was kind of a thing. I said, 'No, I can't do that. I don't sound like that.' Then sophomore year I saw a video of Chris Stapleton singing in the back room of a radio station, and I took it to my teacher. I said, 'Look, he has so much soul. The only reason he's a country singer is because he has a cowboy hat on.' We started taking country songs and putting a soul twist on there or taking soul songs and putting on a country twist. Give me Amy Winehouse melodies with a Tammy Wynette twist and a Drake beat, and I'll listen to that shit all day long."

Hear for Yourself: A song about being the black sheep in a field of white lambs that was her hometown, Ashton's co-written debut "California, Missouri" mixes a dusty country palette with a soul-stirring vocal delivery. M.M.