Members of Country Radio Broadcasters have cast their votes for the annual crop of the top five New Faces of Country Music, and the winners include Walker Hayes, who has one of the big cross-format smashes of the year with “Fancy Like,” and Gabby Barrett, who picked up the ACM Awards’ new female artist of the year trophy earlier this year.
Also named as part of the New Faces lineup in the voting were Parker McCollum, Jameson Rodgers and Lainey Wilson. All five artists have had at least No. 1 airplay topper at country radio.
The five winners will be invited to perform at the New Faces of Country dinner that traditionally closes Country Radio Seminar each year, scheduled for Feb. 25, 2022 at the Omni Nashville Hotel.
Eleven performers in all had been nominated for the honor. Fellow nominees who can try again next year include Priscilla Block, Blanco Brown, Callista Clark, Ryan Hurd, Niko Moon and Elvie Shane.
Some of the New Faces are newer than others. Hayes is no doubt relishing being seen as a newbie after a string of major-label releases that goes back to his debut EP in 2010. But being named as one of the CRB’s New Faces is a rite of passage that nearly everyone who becomes a country superstar goes through, so it certainly counts as a better-mid-career-than-never honor, and the Monument release “Fancy Like” is the first of Hayes’ songs to have propelled him into shoo-in status for this one.
McCollum is also some years into his career, having been releasing music in Texas since 2013, although he didn’t get his first major-label single until “Pretty Heart” came out on MCA Nashville in 2019 and, as his official debut at country radio, went to No. 1.
Wilson had released music independently since 2014 but had her major-label bow with BBR Music Group come out this year. “Things a Man Oughta Know” is the single that took her to No. 1.
Rodgers counts as a genuine freshman; his first single, “Some Girls,” was released by Columbia Nashville in 2019 and eventually hit No. 1, as did his second single, “Cold Beer Calling My Name,” a collaboration with Luke Combs.
Barrett has had one of the most recognizable faces in country, new or old, in the last three years. After she finished third on “American Idol” in 2018, both of her first two Warner Nashville singles, “I Hope” and “The Good Ones,” went to No. 1, and she’s racked up a long list of awards and nominations. This year, she was named best new country artist at the iHeartRadio Music Awards. At the Billboard Music Awards, she won three — top female country artist, top country song and top collaboration (for Charlie Puth joining her on a duet version of “I Hope”). At the American Music Awards, she won favorite country album and favorite country song. And the CMT Music Awards gave Barrett the honor for female video of the year.
Hayes does not have any major awards to his credit yet, but that may be about to change, as he’s just at the beginning of a fresh awards cycle after the mammoth success of “Fancy Like.” He’s currently up for a Grammy for best country song for the tune.
We take that back: Hayes did just win a significant award, already — from Variety just this weekend, as “Fancy Like” won the Sync of the Year award at our annual Hitmakers event, thanks to it having been adapted into a commercial for the Applebee’s chain mentioned in the lyrics. Read more about the song and how it became a TikTok hit and then mass-media phenomenon here.