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10 Best Country Songs of 2015 So Far: Artists’ Picks

We talked to Kelsea Ballerini, Thomas Rhett, Chris Young and more about their favorite tunes of the past six months

We’re just a little more than halfway through 2015, and country music has already been filled to the brim with controversy (“Tomatogate,” for one) and banner moments (like New York’s first-ever country music festival, FarmBorough). But perhaps most importantly, it’s had a slew of top-notch singles. We asked Kelsea Ballerini, Thomas Rhett, Jerrod Niemann, Chris Young and several more artists what their favorites of the year are so far, and their answers ranged from from crushing on “Girl Crush” to admiring Chris Stapleton’s super soulful “Traveller.” (Their compiled playlist is above, with commentary below.)

Jerrod Niemann: “I really like ‘Real Life’ by Jake Owen. It has a lot of unique textures for our format that I think a lot of people would like to apply, but maybe they don’t know how. There are some sonic elements, textures and sounds that [Jake] nailed. Some people who take life too seriously may not enjoy it as much as they should, but whatever happened to a song that feels good? And it says a lot of stuff that reminds me of home, that’s for sure. You either want to hear a song that’s in your life right now or one that fantasizes about where you want to be.”

The Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston:Keith Urban, ‘John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16’ — that’s really well-written. It’s funny, when I heard it on the radio the first time, I started getting all these texts because people thought I had written it. And I was like, ‘No, man, I wish I did!'”

Frankie Ballard: “I love everything that Kacey Musgraves does – that ‘Biscuits‘ tune, I love it. ‘Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy!’ She’s original. She’s exactly who she is; it’s nice to know exactly what you’re getting.”

Chris Jansen: “‘Wrecking Ball.’ Eric’s the real deal. I hadn’t even heard it until my wife called me and was like, ‘Oh my God, have you heard the new Eric Church song?’ She was just going crazy in my phone.”

Canaan Smith: “I really love ‘Wrecking Ball’ (Eric Church). I love how he’s doing what he wants, and telling good stories and not really thinking inside the box about, ‘Is this a hit or not?’ He’s just thinking about how he can communicate emotions to another person in a song.”

Will Hoge: “‘Send It on Down’ by Lee Ann Womack. She is still one of the finest singers on the planet. I think that song is a really good reflection of country’s past, but still pushing forward a little bit.”

Lauren Alaina: “‘Take Your Time,’ by Sam Hunt. It’s an unbelievably written song, both sonically and lyrically. I love how different it is. I’m so inspired every time I hear it. Sam Hunt is the real deal, and that song is the bomb.”

Dustin Lynch:Eric Paslay’s ‘She Don’t Love You.’ Dude can write, he can make you feel something, and that song kind of gave the same feeling of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me.’ We’ve all been there before.”

Scotty McCreery: “‘She Don’t Love You’ by Eric Paslay. This is such a well-written song. We’ve done a few shows with Eric, and this song gets a standing ovation every time.”

Thomas Rhett: “‘Traveller‘ (Chris Stapleton) is my jam. I’m just the biggest, most crazy Chris Stapleton fan that ever existed, and anything he puts out just blows my mind.”

Chris Young: “Probably (Little Big Town’s) ‘Girl Crush.’ It’s so big, such a great song. I love them, I’ve been really lucky to run into them a lot and play shows with them. . . and some acoustic shows, too, which got crazy.”

Kelsea Ballerini: “‘Girl Crush.’ I’m obsessed with them; I’m obsessed with that song. I think its one of the most well written songs that has been on the radio in a long time.”

Thompson Square’s Shawna Thompson: “Easy for me, it’s ‘Girl Crush.’ It’s an amazing song and brilliantly written.”

Thompson Square’s Keifer Thompson: “Same. Though the controversy seemed a bit blown out of proportion. Whether it was true or not, it’s just a great song.”

Additional reporting by Joseph Hudak and Andrew Leahey.

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