In 2023, country music saw a few records set and broken, a few surprises, a few disappointments, and a lot of new accomplishments and achievements. With that in mind, we are taking a look at who we think will have a big year in 2024, and why.
1. Jelly Roll will win a Grammy Award.
Jelly Roll received his first two Grammy Awards nominations, shortly after he won the CMA Award for New Artist of the Year. The reformed singer is nominated in the all-genre Best New Artist category, plus for Best Country Duo/Group Performance, for his “Save Me” performance with Lainey Wilson.
Although Jelly Roll says he shouldn’t win, and that the trophies should go to Noah Kahan for New Artist, and Vince Gill and Paul Franklin for Best Country Duo/Group Performance, it seems likely that Jelly Roll will soon have a Grammy Award to add to his growing collection of trophies.
2. Dolly Parton will release a gospel album.
Shortly before Dolly Parton released her No. 1, critically acclaimed Rockstar album, the 77-year-old said she wanted to do a faith-based record, which she hinted might be her last full-length project.
“One of the things I want to do next and to leave for my legacy is that ultimate great gospel album, and done up in the same way that I’ve done this rock album,” Parton hinted on Apple Music’s What Would Dolly Do? Radio. “Really great productions, whether they be small or large, and to bring in some of the great people that have grown up in the gospel field or some of the people that are famous in the gospel field.
“To do that great uplifting album… gospel might not be the right word, although we will do gospel in it, but more uplifting, inspirational songs,” she continued. “I want to leave that behind. Well, who knows if it’ll be the last one, but I definitely want to have that one as one of the last things that I do. In fact, I may start on that one before I do anything else.”
3. Trisha Yearwood will release a new album — with songs that she wrote.
Trisha Yearwood has had a legendary career, built by her stunning vocals, along with her ability to deliver hit songs, albeit songs written by other artists. But now, the 59-year-old is ready to release music she wrote, after staying away from songwriting for years.
When Yearwood was a teenager, she was told by someone that she was a good singer, but should leave the songwriting to someone else — a message she unfortunately took to heart for far too long.
“I’ve let it be true, but not anymore,” Yearwood told CMT. “It’s still hard for me, but I’m doing it. I’m always nervous when I go, but I get a little less nervous every time. It’s just been really good. I’m so excited about it … We wrote a song about my mom. I just started booking appointments, and I’m just writing, and whatever comes of it – great. It’s bringing me joy, and I’m getting ready to go in the studio.”
4. Scotty McCreery will have a No. 1 album.
Scotty McCreery had a big 2023, which included No. 1 hits and his long-awaited — and well overdue — invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. The American Idol alum had five consecutive No. 1 hits, and has been a mainstay on the charts since his 2017 No. 1 hit, “Five More Minutes.” McCreery currently has a Top 25 hit with “Cab In A Solo,” the debut single from his forthcoming, very country new album — one that will likely land at the top of the charts when it is released.
“I thought ‘Cab In A Solo’ was going to be a great first taste for folks, if they’re looking forward to the album, what the album’s going to be like,” McCreery shared at a recent media event. “To be honest, there’s stuff on this record that’s countrier than ‘Cab In A Solo,’ I would say. We dove right in on this sound and the storytelling and songwriting, in a bunch of different directions. I feel like there’s a song on this record for everybody. It’s a good first taste I would say, to be indicative of what the album’s going to be.”
5. Michael Ray will become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Like McCreery, Michael Ray has played the Grand Ole Opry on a regular basis, ever since his debut in 2015. He’s been vocal about his love of, and appreciation for, the historic institution, and his commitment to the Opry, with or without an official membership.
“That’s always my biggest goal,” Ray told Everything Nash. “I would love to. I grew up watching awards shows and stuff, so that would always be an honor. But to me personally, if someone was to say one award that I could get, it would be to be a member of the Opry. ”
6. Alexandra Kay will become a major star.
Alexandra Kay has a star power that is impossible to deny. Even more impressive, Kay has done it all by herself, as an independent artist. Her freshman All I’ve Ever Known album debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Country chart, and at No. 4 on the all-genre iTunes album chart, and landed in the Top 5 at Billboard as well. She headlined an Australia Tour in 2023, and will head to the UK in 2024. She also isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and honest in her lyrics, which connects her to her fans on a deep and personal level.
“[It’s] a peek inside the past decade, who I was and who I’ve become, what I thought I knew and what I’ve learned,” Kay said of All I’ve Ever Known when it was released.. “It is a story of the hardest year I’ve ever faced wrapped in honesty and vulnerability. It’s truly ‘All I’ve Ever Known’ … I can’t wait to hug you, to hear your stories and to start this new chapter together.”
If anyone seems poised to have a big, big 2024, it’s Kay.
7. Kelsea Ballerini will headline a really big tour.
Kelsea Ballerini famously sold out her headlining concert at Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center, in Knoxville, Tennessee in an hour. Although the show was in her own hometown, the quick sell-out proves just how meteoric her career is right now.
“You know when you’re a little kid and you’re going to your first arena show, and you’re like, ‘This place is outer space large?’ This is the atmosphere,” Ballerini said on Trailblazers Radio with Fancy Hagood on Apple Music Country. “This place is huge…It gasses me up in some ways to be able to go back. That kind of makes me feel like that. Then in other ways … I so badly wish that I could go tell a 13-year-old Kelsea who is really struggling, I would just go hug her and be like, ‘You’re going to have a moment in this town one day that you’re just going to … it’s all going to make sense.’”
8. Carly Pearce will cement her place as a traditional country music singer.
Carly Pearce has been making her mark as an artist who wants to continue the legacy of traditional country music. A vocal supporter of the Grand Ole Opry for years before she was officially inducted in 2021, if there is any artist who can carry on the legacy of artists like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and more, it’s Pearce.
She also dropped a very country new song, “Country Music Made Me Do It,” and headlined her own Country Music Made Me Do It Tour. In an era where artists keep trying to find the next trend to make them a success story, Pearce’s commitment to traditional country music is refreshing, and will likely pay off big for her in 2024.
9. Colin Stough will become a breakout star.
American Idol contestants typically enjoy their moment of fame on the show, and for a brief period of time after the show ends. But Colin Stough has that rare, and beautiful, combination of sincere appreciation, raw talent, and a deep desire to connect with his fans, all of which will help him have an unforgettable year. The Mississippi native released his debut EP, Promiseland, earlier this year, which includes the stunning song, “Sleep Tonight.”
He also isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his gratitude for being able to leave his job in HVAC and pursue a career in country music in Nashville.
“I have to give all glory to the good lord,” Stough said on Instagram. “A year ago today I was working a full time job and also doing things on the side. Now I’m living in Nashville doing music full time. I can’t be more blessed to have made some of the great friends I’ve made and have a great fan base. If it wasn’t for you guys we couldn’t keep playing the shows we are.
“Thank you to the people that are making these awesome times happen,” he added, “from the people to the label, songwriters, fans, the awesome band members, and people who just stream my music.”
He knows what he wants to sing, how he wants to sound, and most importantly, how vital it is to stay connected to his fans — all attributes that will soon make him a country music hitmaker.
10. Reba McEntire will release a live album.
Reba McEntire has had a pretty impressive 2023, which included not only her inaugural season as a coach on The Voice, but the release of both her Not That Fancy: Simple Lessons on Living, Loving, Eating, and Dusting Off Your Boots, which became a New York Times best-seller, and the Not That Fancy album.
We already know she is returning in 2024 as a coach on The Voice, and she certainly doesn’t need to keep working, but that has never stopped her before. The Country Music Hall of Fame member hasn’t said much about her music plans in 2024, but she did drop a hint last summer, celebrating the 34th anniversary of her Reba Live album, released in 1989.
“We had so much fun recording this performance at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA back in ’89,” she said at the time. “Who thinks it’s time for another live album?”
McEntire isn’t known for taking time off, so it seems like a strong possibility that a new album will come in 2024, and that it could be another live record.