10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: May 2016

From an unapologetic cowboy singer to a dazzling chanteuse-wordsmith

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Caitlyn Smith
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Caitlyn Smith

Sounds Like: The most versatile honky-tonk singer you've ever heard, a virtuoso vocalist capable of torch, twang and a whisper-to-a-scream range

For Fans of: Kathleen Edwards, Alison Krauss, Caitlin Rose

Why You Should Pay Attention: Minnesota native Smith has been one of Nashville's best-kept secrets for a couple of years now as co-writer of hits for everybody from Cassadee Pope to Meghan Trainor. But the secret will be out with her upcoming album (tentatively titled Starfire, due later this year), a deeply personal collection of songs that sound like she opened a vein. Of particular note: "This Town Is Killing Me," a pensive ode to Music City's darker side, and "Tacoma," which shows off Smith's sonic boom of a voice to devastating effect.

She Says: "Every time I perform that song, I almost go into a trance where I'm just transported into the story," Smith says of "Tacoma." "I can't not sing that one at 100 percent, it's all emotional. 'This Town Is Killing Me' is emotional, too, from a very real and honest place. This industry is not for the faint of heart. There are days I just face-plant on the couch and don't want to get up."

Hear for Yourself: The yearning "Tacoma," captured live here, is the best example of Smith's full-on howl. Dave Menconi

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