Sounds Like: A singer-songwriter twist on Natasha Bedingfield or Ellie Goulding with a Southern accent – from Down Under, not the Delta
For Fans of: Ed Sheeran; Caitlyn Smith; when Maren Morris parks her Eighties Mercedes and takes things nice and slow
Why You Should Pay Attention: Though she may have gotten her start as the opening act for Bobby Bones and the Raging Idiots – a gig she auditioned for over Skype – Australian-born Nikita Karmen's songs are far from comic fodder. Growing up in Sydney, Australia, Karmen wasn't raised with country music, but that all changed around the time she caught Carrie Underwood covering a Rascal Flatts song on American Idol. From there, she became obsessed with the genre: the stories, in particular, which appealed to the budding poet she'd been since her early teens. Karmen moved to Nashville after a month in the city hitting writers' rounds religiously, showcasing her clean, breathy vocals and witty turns-of-phrase like those on "First," from her self-titled EP. "She's wearing that trendy Tom Petty T-shirt," she sings on the track about spotting your ex with another. "I'll stop being petty about your American girl." It's a sweet burn in a sonic sweet spot.
She Says: "I feel like a lot of the time people start out wanting to be an artist, and decide they prefer to be a songwriter. For me, it was the opposite. I thought I wanted to be a songwriter, but then I said, 'I really love [performing] as well.' But I definitely think I wouldn't want to be an artist unless I was writing and performing my own songs. And sometimes I feel like I'm a narcissist when I go into a writing session, because I want to write about things I am feeling."
Hear for Yourself: Built on spare acoustic plucks and Karmen's unique take on gauzy country-pop, "First" targets the sort of jealousy that lingers in the age of Instagram – and how sinfully good it can feel to be a little petty sometimes. M.M.