The sisterhood of country music is growing with the announcement of CMT’s “Next Women of Country” class of 2023.
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On Tuesday night (Jan. 17) at City Winery Nashville, CMT celebrated the 10th anniversary of “Next Women of Country,” a program instituted in 2013 to elevate the voices of female artists in country music that are underrepresented on country radio. CMT also unveiled the 16 new female artists joining “Next Women of Country.”
Megan Moroney, Alana Springsteen, The Voice‘s Angie K, Pillbox Patti, Ashley Cooke, Kasey Tyndall, O.N.E The Duo, Carter Faith, Georgia Webster, Mackenzie Carpenter, MaRynn Taylor, Catie Offerman, Avery Anna, Kimberly Kelly, Roberta Lea and Julie Williams were inducted into what co-host Rissi Palmer called an “extremely inclusive and diverse class of women.”
That inclusivity was reflected in the many alumni who were present to welcome the new class, including Kelsea Ballerini, who personally introduced her former tour mate Webster. Ballerini handpicked Webster to open for her on the 2022 Heartfirst Tour after seeing a TikTok video of her song “X’s.” Ballerini sang a few bars onstage before also introducing her Black River Entertainment labelmate Taylor.
“I’ve learned in my last few years that success comes from three things: one is talent, one is work ethic, but the most important is kindness,” Ballerini shared. “I know these women personally and I can say that as a a sister to both of them, I know that they have all three of these things.”
Fellow Next Women of Country alumnus Maddie & Tae, who were inducted into the first class, also spoke to the theme of sisterhood, with Maddie Font noting that the program provides a “sense of belonging” and surrounds artists with “a lot of love and support.”
“There’s no other room that gets what you do and what you’re going through more than this room right here,” Tae Kerr professed. “So take advantage of that and lean on the women that you want to lean on because we’re here for you.”
The mother-daughter duo, O.N.E. The Duo, are a living example of women leaning on each other for support. This sentiment was expressed when mother Tekitha Supreme shared that the first time she heard daughter Prana call her “mommy” was the moment she felt truly at home. The pair’s “Call My Name” served as one of the most heartfelt performances of the night.
Sharing one’s story through song was also a prominent theme of the event, as expressed by 2015 inductee Brooke Eden, who publicly came out in 2021 and married Hilary Hoover in August 2022. Much of Eden’s new music is a result of her owning her truth, a piece of advice she shared with the new class.
“Country music is all about three chords and the truth and I think that for a long time, I was trying to tell other people’s truths,” she explained. “I finally came into my own as a person and I feel like I made my best music. I would definitely say take the time to know yourself and don’t try to sing what other people want you to sing because at the end of the day, you are the only person who gets to live your life. So just be you.”
Eden echoed the perspective of new inductee Pillbox Patti, a longtime songwriter who rose to fame as part of Ashley McBryde’s Lindeville album, where she appears as a guest vocalist on several songs. Patti admitted on stage that she often felt like she was “giving a part of herself” when writing songs for other artists and got to the point where she wanted to tell her own story, a dream she brought to life with her 2022 debut album, Florida.
During the showcase, she performed the heartbreaking “Valentine’s Day.” “I was not telling my truths and the stuff I went through and I took a hard look and I was like, ‘I want to know who I am and what I would make and what I would do,’” she explained of making own record. “Now I feel like the most ‘me.'”
Community was a prominent topic of discussion at the special event, where Palmer invited her tour mate Miko Marks to join her onstage. The two will be co-headlining a tour in 2023. Marks looked back on how she initially felt “intimidated” by Palmer when she realized there was another Black woman working in country music at a time when the representation of people of color in the genre was scarce. But she had a change of heart.
“I stopped seeing her as a competitor and started seeing her as an ally,” Marks said, with Palmer responding, “you’re my sister.” That sisterhood extends to Williams, a rising country star from Palmer’s native North Carolina who made the singer cry the first time she heard Williams’ song, “Southern Curls.”
“I’m so damn proud of you,” Palmer told Willams. As a member of the Black Opry Revue, Williams traveled across the U.S. in 2022 performing in 26 states where she learned that audiences are ready to hear Black voices and stories. Williams credits that change with communities that lift those voices up.
“It’s really communities that bring change,” Williams proclaimed. “As an artist to push through and make it, but also to actually move forward and elevate your career, you can only do that with amazing community. It’s so special to be a part of this class with y’all…a class with amazing, awesome talent. I have hope.”
Next Women of Country will air on February 11 at 8 a.m. ET, with an encore presentation on February 12 at 9 a.m. ET.
Photo by Catherine Powell/Getty Images for CMT