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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Tenille Townes
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Matthew Berinato6/10

Tenille Townes

Sounds Like: Rootsy singer-songwriter wares with an infectious melodic gift; think Lori McKenna meets Laura Marling

For Fans of: McKenna, Natalie Hemby, Charlie Worsham

Why You Should Pay Attention: Growing up in Canada – Grand Prairie, Alberta, to be exact – Tenille Townes was always dreaming up ways to take what she leaned in the classroom or around the kitchen table and turn it into a song. Beginning singing lessons at age five, Townes was a sensitive, emotionally connected and ambitious kid who wrote poetry, picking little moments of heartbreak or injustice to feed her lyrics – and her philanthropy (Townes started a fundraiser in her hometown for a youth shelter at only 15 that has since raised over a million dollars). It was that work that found Townes on the road for 32 weeks after graduating high school, singing directly to students in hopes of inspiring leadership and listening to their stories (one in particular, of a teen killed in a car accident, made its way into the heartbreaking "Jersey on the Wall"), and eventually to Nashville, where she played at guitar pulls, signed a publishing deal and started working with Jay Joyce. Her new EP, Living Room Worktapes, is a stripped-down introduction to an artist with a whole lot to say.

She Says: "To me, music is about just showing up and being who you are. And for me, that's telling these kind of honest stories. Singing about things [like the topic of 'Jersey on the Wall'] gives people the emotional freedom to go there. I love the real stuff. I want to listen to the real stuff all day long."

Hear for Yourself: On tour this summer with Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town, Townes will take the auditorium stage with nothing but her guitar to play songs like "Where You Are," an unusually raw look at searching for love in a complicated world. M.M. 

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