10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: May 2018

From the vocal knockout Tenille Townes to the Garth Brooks-endorsed Randall King

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Jess Williamson
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5/10

Jess Williamson

Sounds Like: Psychedelic indie folk from a true seeker of cosmic wisdom

For Fans of: Jessica Lea Mayfield, Jefferson Airplane, astrology books on tape

Why You Should Pay Attention: With Jess Williamson's third album, Cosmic Wink, a deep thinker takes a left turn away from sad, painfully intense solo folk to a more upbeat, full-band approach. After leaving Austin for L.A., Williamson was determined to stay open to the weird coincidences she and famed psychoanalyst Carl Jung call "cosmic winks," and decided she would no longer make music that requires her audiences to be totally immersed in the song. "You're touring solo and you're playing these sad, slow songs, and you're asking them to be completely silent and listen to everything you say, or it's gonna be uncomfortable," she explains. "When it works, it's magical, but it doesn't always work. It can be a bummer and sometimes you're just getting through it." Cosmic Wink came out earlier this month, and it finds her dissecting the intricacies of falling in love, the passing of time, death and what waits on the other side – but also embracing the simple joys of a killer pop melody.

She Says: "I think it's easy to get stuck in a narrative of who you are when you're in a place for a long time. Without knowing it, I had unconsciously become a little bit of a hater in Austin. There was just this pretension that existed there which I thought was normal. There was a lot of noses turned up, basically like, 'That is too mainstream.' But then I went to L.A., and there was a lot more openness to music that was pop influenced. It wasn't judged; it was celebrated as great writing or great performing. I fell in with a lot of people who were literally making pop music, and realized that A) there's nothing wrong with that and B) it's an art and alchemy of its own to reach and connect with people on a global scale."

Hear for Yourself: With jangling guitars, expansive synths and out-of-body vocals, "I See the White" was written as Williamson began noticing the fur around her dog Frankie's eyes turn grey, but its deeper inspiration orbits a human-to-human love so profound it made her second-guess her ideas of an afterlife. C.P.

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