10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: January 2018

From a charismatic pop-country singer to the youngest major-label country artist since Tanya Tucker

Austin Jenckes
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Savannah Scruggs1/10

Austin Jenckes

Sounds Like: A gnarly, but vulnerable, country-blues singer with the introspective songwriting chops Nashville thankfully continues to reward

For Fans of: Chris Stapleton, Zac Brown, a more mainstream John Moreland

Why You Should Pay Attention: Austin Jenckes wouldn't blame you if you know him from Season 5 of The Voice in 2013his fiery version of "Simple Man" was all weathered soul and grizzly growl. But Jenckes has lived a lifetime since then. In the ensuing years, the Seattle native has both become a family man and built his reputation as a trusted songwriter: Lee Brice recently cut the Jenckes-penned "American Nights" for his 2017 self-titled LP. But honing his songwriting chops only solidified Jenckes' desire to strike out on his own. "I finally found a roadmap for what it is I'm trying to do," says the seasoned performer, who aims to release his debut album later this year and is being managed and mentored by the Cadillac Three's Neil Mason. Most notably, Jenckes has watched his sticky sweet single "Same Beer Different Day," released in August, climb the charts and amass more than a million streams on Spotify.

He Says: "I went through a lot of ups and downs. For a minute there after the hype from The Voice had died down I was like, 'I'm just going to write songs and get cuts.' This past year my wife and I had a baby, but leading up to that I was really like, 'I don't know if I want to be on the road.' But as soon as we had the baby, it hit me that I still love playing live music and that's my first love. It's a little bit of a conflict of interest. It changes your perspective a lot on what time is worth and what your priorities are."

Hear for Yourself: On the dusty, haunting "Same Beer Different Day," Jenckes does the near impossible task of taking cliché topics like small-town living and big-beer chugging and making them feel vital. D.H.