The Next Women of Country Share the Stage, and Their Stories

By Casey Reed

On Fri., June 10, five vibrant, emerging country artists descended upon the CMA Theater to discuss their lives, songwriting craft, and inspirations.

With the help of Comcast, Country Music Television, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, CMT’s Next Women of Country panel was an eclectic, empowering peek behind the scenes for country music fans. Thanks to the innovative video technology of NewTek Tricaster, even more fans across the country were able to tune into a live stream of the event courtesy of CMT.

Leslie Fram, CMT’s Senior VP of Music Strategy and Talent and a champion of rising artists, hosted the panel. Her work with Next Women of Country has produced a string of successful concert tours, a partnership with Todd Cassetty’s Song Suffragettes, and boosted the careers of fan favorites like Brandy Clark, Ashley Monroe, and Kacey Musgraves.

“I know you’ve read about people putting in their 10 thousand hours, well these ladies certainly have. There’s no overnight success here. They’ve all worked extremely hard—and continue to work hard—at their craft,” said Fram.

Margo Price, a modern revivalist of the outlaw country style alongside Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, spoke about the perils women face climbing the ladder in the music industry.

“I thought it was going to happen really quickly,” she said. “They say it’s a five-year town, but I’ve been here for 13. Things were up and down for so long. There were a lot of glimpses of hope. A lot of managers along the way who told me they would help. They weren’t always honest—as the other women here know for sure.”

“I moved to Los Angeles for American Idol, basically,” she said. “My hometown has about three thousand people, but their mall has literally that many people. It was a really hard time for me and my identity. I hadn’t even gone to prom yet and I was going to the CMAs.”

Clare Dunn, in the words of Leslie Fram, “worked her tail off” to get where she is today.

“I grew up in a town of 30 people,” said Dunn. “Twenty-nine, I guess, now.”

While Clare was attending Belmont University, she drove an 18-wheeler to help transport harvests across the country. Whenever she couldn’t make the drives, her family would step in and take shifts for her. Thanks to that support, her single, “Tuxedo,” had the crowd chanting along to its chorus.

Brooke Eden’s mother has been supportive as well, but sometimes shows it in different ways.

“My mom really liked my ex-boyfriend,” said Eden, “and when he showed up on social media with his new girlfriend, she texted him. She texted him and said, ‘You broke two hearts.’ I called my mom and said ‘Mom, I haven’t even spoken to him! I can’t believe you would text him!’ So she said, ‘Well, that’s a problem! If you ain’t going to be a crazy ex-girlfriend, I’ll be a crazy ex-girlfriend’s crazy momma!”

“So we wrote this song called ‘Silence Speaks’ because my mom had always taught me to be a classy lady… and then she goes and texts my ex. Thanks, Mom.”

Tara Thompson used her family, possibly unwillingly, as inspiration while writing the songs that would become her latest release.

“It’s five songs and I co-wrote all of them,” said Thompson. “They’re all based on true stories. I just make fun of myself and my family, so I get in trouble at reunions.”

“My sister’s really mad at me right now, so I can’t say that this song is about my sister’s wedding, but it kind of is,” Thompson confessed. “This is what I had in my head when my sister told me she was getting married and I said ‘Oh, you’re pregnant!’— and she was.”

Each emerging artist featured in this year’s CMT Next Women of Country panel brought different experiences to their paths to country music, but thanks to the support of companies like CMT, Comcast, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, all of them have the potential to become the next  buzz-worthy newcomer with a hit single on the charts.

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