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2022 In Review: 6 Trends That Defined Country Music
(L-R): Zach Bryan, Shania Twain, Brandi Carlile, Billy Strings, Orville Peck

Photo: (L-R) Mickey Bernal/Getty Images, Neil Lupin/Redferns, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images, Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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2022 In Review: 6 Trends That Defined Country Music

From Dolly Parton to Zach Bryan, country music's veterans and new generation found room to grow within the genre in 2022.

GRAMMYs/Dec 22, 2022 - 06:49 pm

Country music isn't always heralded as a haven for artists who fall outside the genre's accepted mainstream. But 2022 saw country music claim a bigger piece of the cultural pie than it has in recent years.

Artists are discovering new paths to success, driven by the meme-ification of culture and music and templated by stars like Walker Hayes, whose GRAMMY-nominated song "Fancy Like" broke through in mid-2021 thanks to TikTok and ended 2022 among the top five of Billboard's Hot Country Songs. Breakout stars Zach Bryan and Bailey Zimmerman also rode online acceptance to mainstream success — the former built a career on his YouTube buzz, while the latter turned his TikTok virality into Platinum sales. 

The genre expanded in other non-traditional ways in 2022 as well. In particular, indie-rock and LGBTQIA+ artists are no longer hovering in the periphery, but making real impacts on country music listenership, thanks to worthy efforts by Waxahatchee and Adeem the Artist, among others.

As country music continues to expand its horizons into 2023, here are six trends that defined country music in 2022.

New Artists Dominated

If the emergence of new talent is a barometer of a genre's health, country music has nothing to worry about. Not since 2015 has a country artist landed on Billboard's top five Best New Artists, when Sam Hunt broke through big. But this year, country music landed two of the five spots on the year-end chart, thanks to newcomers Zach Bryan and Bailey Zimmerman.

Bryan emerged with an audacious statement, claiming country's biggest first-week sales with his major-label debut, the triple-album American Heartbreak. The album landed at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200 and topped country streaming tallies on both Spotify and Apple Music. 

Like Bryan, who first found success when his music went viral on social media, Bailey Zimmerman parlayed his online following into an impressive run with Platinum singles "Fall in Love" and "Rock and a Hard Place." Both are off of his first EP on Warner Music Nashville, Leave the Light On, which became the most-streamed all-genre debut of the year and the biggest streaming country debut of all time.

Lainey Wilson also had a banner year, proving that her No. 1 hit on country radio with "Things A Man Oughta Know" in 2021 was no fluke. In between winning new artist honors from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association this year, she landed her second No. 1 on country radio with the Cole Swindell collab "Never Say Never" in April. Most recently, Wilson became the latest country star to appear on the hit Paramount TV drama "Yellowstone"; she debuted on season five as the character Abby, performing her original songs "Smell Like Smoke" and "Watermelon Moonshine," and has become a recurring character.

After Jelly Roll made waves with his 2021 single "Dead Man Walking" and the 2022 Brantley Gilbert collaboration "Son of the Dirty South," the Nashville country rapper solidified himself as a newcomer to watch with "Son of a Sinner." The slow-burning single scored Jelly Roll his first top 10 hit on Billboard's Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts, and it broke the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. He also proved his hometown pride is strong: On. Dec 9, he headlined a sold-out show at Nashville's 20,000-cap Bridgestone Arena.

Bluegrass Saw A Resurgence

You'd be hard-pressed to find another artist who has broadened the bluegrass horizon in recent years more than Billy Strings; his progressive approach to the foundational country genre pulls in elements of rock and psychedelia. While he titled his 2019 Grammy-winning album Home, on his 2022 set Me/And/Dad, Strings came full-circle to play traditional bluegrass standards with his father, Terry, like they did when he was a kid. Strings (whose birth name is William Lee Apostol) even located the Martin acoustic guitar Terry played in those early days but pawned to support the family, fulfilling Billy's bucket-list bluegrass album in more ways than one.

Representing the more traditional approach to the genre, bluegrass icon Del McCoury issued his 17th album, Almost Proud, in February. A peer and collaborator of the genre's Mt. Rushmore (Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs), McCoury is keeping the flame lit in his ninth decade — and he hasn't lost a lick of his abilities. McCoury and his sons Ronnie and Robbie pick, roll and harmonize like it's a Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry. 

Up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the Po' Ramblin' Boys have tapped into a similar authenticity by playing bluegrass standards like their forebears. Although they formed around a regular gig at a moonshine distillery, their 2022 album God's Love Is So Divine walks the straight and narrow on 13 gospel bluegrass tunes. 

Old Crow Medicine Show have come a long way since O.G. bluegrass musician Doc Watson discovered them busking on the streets of Boone, North Carolina in 2000. While that growth is evident throughout 2022's Paint This Town, they incorporate bluegrass on tracks like "Painkiller," "DeFord Rides Again" and "Hillbilly Boy." The group also invited Americana mainstay Jim Lauderdale to co-write a couple of tunes, and Mississippi fife master Sharde Thomas to guest on "New Mississippi Flag."

Punk Went Country (And Country Went Punk)

Genre-bending is nothing new in Nashville, and even punk rockers have been acknowledging the raw power of country music since the early '80s — when bands like X, Social Distortion and The Gun Club began incorporating elements into their music, and even covering classics like Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Fast forward to 2022, and the trend has kicked into high gear.

Woody Guthrie, the iconic folk hero of dust-bowl-era America, left behind a large body of unrecorded songs — evidenced by the three volumes of lyrics that have been set to music and recorded as Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco. Boston pub punks Dropkick Murphys plucked 10 more uncut Guthrie gems for their 2022 set This Machine Still Kills Fascists, a play on the line Guthrie famously scrawled onto the body of his guitar. For their first country album, Dropkick Murphys recruited two of the genre's brightest lights: Nikki Lane, who guests on "Never Git Drunk No More," and Evan Felker of Turnpike Troubadours, who shares the mic on "The Last One."

Foo Fighter Chris Shiflett — who previously played with speedy punks No Use For A Name — got into the act, too. When he isn't cranking guitars alongside Dave Grohl and Pat Smear, he plays his own Bakersfield-inspired country rock, as heard on 2017's West Coast Town and 2019's Hard Lessons. This year, he issued the singles "Born & Raised" and "Long, Long Year," a pair of breezy, pedal steel-assisted cuts that find him leaning more than ever into his sunny SoCal disposition.

Shiflett previously shredded the guitar solo on "Goin' Nowhere," a collaboration with country hitmaker HARDY on his Hixtape Vol. 2, released in the last weeks of 2021. Now, HARDY's back and flipping the script with his own rock record, the mockingbird & THE CROW, set for release in January. Early singles "JACK," "TRUCK BED" and the title track, all released in 2022, show the influence of Nirvana and post-grunge songcraft alongside his distinctive, rhythmic lyrical delivery.

Legends Got Their Due

In 2022, country music proved that age is irrelevant when the music is this good. Newcomers Chapel Hart captured the national spotlight — and a rare Golden Buzzer — on "America's Got Talent" in July with a nod to icon Dolly Parton. The trio's electrifying performance of their original song "You Can Have Him Jolene," an answer to Parton's 1974 smash "Jolene," elevated them to star status, and they spent the latter half of 2022 playing to sold-out audiences across America. Darius Rucker even recruited them to back him on his song "Ol' Church Hymn."

Parton had her own high point this year, earning her first No. 1 on Billboard's Bluegrass Albums chart with her 48th studio album, Run, Rose, Run. She also released a new compilation album, Diamonds & Rhinestones: The Greatest Hits Collection, in November. 

After Shania Twain spent the last couple of years featuring on other artist's songs, the best-selling female country artist of all time returned to her throne in 2022. She announced her sixth studio album, Queen of Me (due Feb. 3, 2023), helmed by the dance-floor bop "Waking Up Dreaming." The announcement followed the Netflix documentary Not Just A Girl (and the companion album that featured more than a dozen unreleased songs) and preceded another huge announcement: a 76-date U.S. tour for 2023.

Twain's fellow genre-bending '90s icon, Sheryl Crow, also issued a documentary in 2022. The Showtime special, "Sheryl," was accompanied by a double-album compilation of the same name, which featured two discs of hits plus collaborations with Chris Stapleton, Stevie Nicks, Jason Isbell and more. Crow also featured on 2022 releases from TobyMac and Lucius. The latter track also featured Brandi Carlile, who has played a big role in Tanya Tucker's recent comeback story — as shown in yet another 2022 doc, "The Return of Tanya Tucker," which featured their song "Ready As I'll Never Be."

The CMA Awards paid tribute to icons Jerry Lee Lewis, who passed away in October, and Alan Jackson, who is in the midst of a farewell tour dubbed Last Call: One More For the Road. Firebrand singer Elle King channeled The Killer's wild moves as she performed his signature hit, "Great Balls of Fire," backed by The Black Keys. Meanwhile, Carrie Underwood led a star-studded Jackson tribute featuring Dierks Bentley, Jon Pardi and Lainey Wilson, who performed a melody of his hits including "Chattahoochee" and "Don't Rock the Jukebox."

The legacies continued both on stage and in studio. Brooks & Dunn's Ronnie Dunn, Reba McEntire and Bonnie Raitt all returned with new albums in 2022; meanwhile, Shenandoah, Billy Dean and Wade Hayes appeared on the Country Comeback Tour, and Wynonna led The Judds: The Final Tour in tribute to her mother, Naomi Judd, who passed away in April.

Indie Rockers Infiltrated Country Music

As '90s-style indie rock has a moment thanks to artists like Big Thief, Momma and Alvvays, Katie Crutchfield is leaning deeper into laid-back country vibes. The leader of Waxahatchee, whose blissful 2020 set Saint Cloud landed her on scores of year-end lists, doubled down in 2022.

Waxahatchee collaborated with Wynonna on the single "Other Side," recorded on the Judds singer's farm in Tennessee — an experience both artists ranked among their favorite recording sessions. Crutchfield also collaborated with Jess Williamson on a new project dubbed Plains, releasing the album I Walked With You A Ways in 2022 to critical acclaim. The 10 songs on Plains' debut rival the artists' soothing solo work and combine their strengths with Fleetwood Mac harmonies.

Madison Cunningham, who is best known for weaving mind-bending melodies and harmonies between her voice and guitar, guested on the second edition of Watkins Family Hour — which pairs siblings Sara and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek with a series of notable collaborators like Fiona Apple and Jackson Browne — contributing her signature spidery guitar playing to "Pitseleh."

Other notables on the indie side of country include Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit, who returned with Palomino, a strummy set of acoustic guitar-driven country pop and their first album in four years. Michaela Anne's gentle LP Oh To Be That Free chronicled a period of personal troubles with compassion, while Sierra Ferrell released the sparse, playful single "Hey Me, Hey Mama" and collaborated with Shakey Graves on "Ready Or Not." 

LGBTQIA+ Country Artists Were Celebrated

Acceptance for LGBTQIA+ artists in country music has grown steadily in recent years, thanks to efforts by allies like Kacey Musgraves and Dolly Parton, as well as artists who have publicly discussed their sexuality, including T.J. Osborne, Lil Nas X, Chely Wright, Amythyst Kiah and Shane McAnally. With such star power in their corner, gay and non-binary country artists are now getting a fairer shake.

Non-binary singer-songwriter Adeem the Artist released the acclaimed album White Trash Revelry. Over 11 songs, Adeem chronicles their experiences growing up different in small towns surrounded by smaller minds — from the stomp-along "Going to Hell" to the Heartland rocker "Heritage of Arrogance" and fingerpicked album closer "My America." 

Elsewhere, Orville Peck, the masked singer who performs a fever dream of '70s-inspired country music with a deep-throated croon, returned with his second album, Bronco. Peck traded the spare songscapes of his 2019 debut, Pony, for Bronco's more fully realized, cinematic arrangements, broadening his sound and the scope of his persona.

Brandi Carlile, whose pro-LGBTQIA+ activism is tied directly to her music — she founded the Looking Out Foundation early in her music career, and donates a portion of touring proceeds to groups like The Trevor Project — has seen her reputation grow steadily over nearly two decades of releasing music to ever-growing audiences. In 2022, she added to an already storied career by  performing with her personal hero, Joni Mitchell, at Newport Folk Festival. Carlile also headlined Tennessee's Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, marking the first time a woman has headlined the fest. 

However country music continues to expand and impact culture as a result, 2022's trends certainly set up a promising future for the genre.

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Press Play: Watch Tish Melton Preview Debut EP With A Stripped-Down Performance Of "Sober"
Tish Melton

Photo: Courtesy of Tish Melton

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Press Play: Watch Tish Melton Preview Debut EP With A Stripped-Down Performance Of "Sober"

Indie pop newcomer — and Brandi Carlile's mentee — Tish Melton premieres "Sober," an emotional track from her upcoming EP, 'When We're Older,' out March 1.

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2024 - 07:50 pm

Beneath the empty bottles, Tish Melton wants to know if her love is true; to her, drunken confessions of love mean nothing. It's what happens when the party's over and no one is watching — that's when she sees that person at their most authentic.

"You're standing close/ But you're so far away/ Your eyes are closed/ But you see me anyway," Melton sings on the bridge of her emotional track "Sober." "And I swear you told me you love me on the walk home/ If you meant it, I'll never know/ I think we should stay sober."

In this episode of Press Play, the indie pop newcomer premieres "Sober" with a raw and intimate acoustic performance.

"Sober" is an unreleased track from her upcoming first EP, When We're Older, which arrives on March 1. Melton previously released three singles in 2023, "Damage," "The Chase," and "Michelle."

As she prepares her debut project, Melton already has a major supporter in her corner: nine-time GRAMMY winner Brandi Carlile, who has been a mentor to Melton since recognizing her talent at her debut show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.

"Tish is so young and so brilliant," Carlile, who produced When We're Older, revealed in a press statement. "Like most lessons in life, I learned this one while I thought I was teaching it. We should guide youth in music, but there is no question that it should lead."

Watch the video above to hear Tish Melton's honest performance of "Sober," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Press Play.

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Remembering Toby Keith: 5 Essential Songs From The Patriotic Cowboy And Country Music Icon
Toby Keith performs at the 2021 iHeartCountry Festival in Austin, Texas.

Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

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Remembering Toby Keith: 5 Essential Songs From The Patriotic Cowboy And Country Music Icon

After a two-year battle with stomach cancer, country star Toby Keith passed away on Feb. 5 at the age of 62. Revisit his influence with five of his seminal tracks, including his debut hit "Should've Been a Cowboy."

GRAMMYs/Feb 7, 2024 - 04:39 pm

We may have known about Toby Keith's stomach cancer diagnosis for nearly two years, but that didn't keep the news of his Feb. 5 death from hitting hard. The oftentimes outspoken country music star enjoyed a three-decade career as one of the genre's beloved hitmakers, courtesy of unabashed hits like "Who's Your Daddy?," "Made In America" and "I Wanna Talk About Me."

Occasionally his in-your-face persona clashed with folks, particularly when it came to his political views in recent years. But for the most part, it was Keith's blue-collar upbringing and work ethic that shined through and resonated with his legion of listeners. 

It wasn't until his thirties that the future Songwriters Hall of Famer landed his first record deal in 1993, following years grinding away as a rodeo hand, in oil fields and as a semi-professional football player to make ends meet. The Oklahoma-born crooner would go on to record 20 No.1 hits, sell over 40 million records across 26 albums, and gross nearly $400 million touring — cementing himself as one of country music's most successful artists in the process.

As we look back on Keith's life and legacy, here are five essential cuts from the seven-time GRAMMY nominee, whose memory will live on in the hearts of country music artists and fans alike.

"Should've Been A Cowboy" (1993)

Few artists strike gold with their maiden release, but Keith did just that when his song "Should've Been A Cowboy" launched in February 1993. The upbeat track received widespread acclaim, eventually reaching No. 1 on the Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart a few months later.

"Should've Been A Cowboy" takes on a distinctly traditional tone as Keith romanticizes cowboy culture by referencing classic westerns like Gunsmoke with nods to Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty in addition to six-shooters, cattle drives and Texas Rangers abound. The tune also reinforces the notion that cowboys just have more fun, whether its "stealin' the young girls' hearts, just like Gene [Autry] and Roy [Rogers]" or "runnin' wild through the hills chasin' Jesse James." 

By the looks of Keith's career, he certainly had his fair share of fun, and it may not have come if it weren't for "Should've Been A Cowboy."

"How Do You Like Me Now?!" (1999)

After a successful '90s run (which included two more No. 1s in "Who's That Man" and "Me Too"), Keith kicked off the 2000s with his fourth No. 1 hit, "How Do You Like Me Now?!" In signature Toby Keith fashion, he confronts his haters by asking the titular, rhetorical question, posed to his high school's valedictorian — who was also his crush. "I couldn't make you love me but I always dreamed about livin' in your radio," he sings on the brazen chorus.

The song is a stern reminder to never let anyone keep you from chasing your dreams; it's also a lesson of standing strong on your convictions. Its message also proved fitting for Keith's career: After Mercury Records Nashville rejected the song (and its namesake album) in the late '90s, Keith got out of his deal with them in favor of signing with DreamWorks Records, with whom he released the project a year later. Not only did the single go on to spend five weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart, but it became the singer's first major crossover hit.

"Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" (2002)

Keith was never afraid to share his opinion in public or in song, especially when it came to displaying his patriotism and appreciation for those who protect the United States. While the Okie approached this from a softer side on 2003's "American Soldier," his most renowned musings on the subject without a doubt came a year earlier with "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)."

On the angsty ballad — which was written in the wake of his father's March 2001 death and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — Keith channels a universal feeling of American hurt and pride. "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" inspired an equal outpouring of support and outrage that, for better or worse depending on where you stand, helped cement the song into the annals of country music lore.

"I Love This Bar" (2003)

We've all got our favorite watering hole full of its own quirks and characters, from winners to losers, chain-smokers and boozers. Keith taps into that feel-good, hometown hang feeling with "I Love This Bar," a lighthearted tale from 2003's Shock'n Y'all that makes dingy dive bars feel like the prime party destination.

The midtempo track — Keith's 12th No. 1 — further plays into country music drinking tropes as Keith proclaims, "I like my girlfriend, I like to take her out to dinner, I like a movie now and then" before making a hard pivot, adding "but I love this bar." 

All joking aside, the song, and all of the unique individuals described within it, have a harmony to them inside those hallowed walls. It's a kinship that seems more and more difficult to find in today's world, and a sentiment best captured at the song's conclusion: "come as you are."

"As Good As I Once Was" (2005)

Your best days may be behind you, but that doesn't mean you can't still live your best life and thrive in the present — even if you don't get over hangovers as quickly as you used to.

That youthful wisdom is distilled into every lyric of "As Good As I Once Was," a reminiscent story in which a then-44-year-old Keith recounts his prime as a lover, drinker and fighter humbly. That being said, his pride is still quick to take charge with convictions like "I still throw a few back, talk a little smack, when I'm feelin' bullet proof."

Lasting six weeks at No. 1, "As Good As I Once Was" was the biggest of the 15 chart-toppers Keith tallied in the 2000s. And though he scored one more in the following decade (along with several other hits, including the playful drinking song "Red Solo Cup"), "As Good As I Once Was" will live on as one of Keith's quintessential messages of fun-loving confidence: "I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once, as I ever was."

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Big First Wins At The 2024 GRAMMYs: Karol G, Lainey Wilson, Victoria Monét & More
Lainey Wilson at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Big First Wins At The 2024 GRAMMYs: Karol G, Lainey Wilson, Victoria Monét & More

The 2024 GRAMMYs were momentous in a myriad of ways, including major firsts. Here's a rundown of big first wins by Paramore, Zach Bryan, Tyla and others.

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2024 - 01:07 am

That's a wrap for Music's Biggest Night! The 2024 GRAMMYs were extraordinarily stuffed with incredible moments, from performances to historic wins to unforgettable surprises.

Several of the most memorable moments came from first-time winners. In fact, there were 126 at the 66th GRAMMY Awards, spanning a wide array of talent across genres. From Colombian songstress Karol G to indie rock supergroup boygenius and country singer Brandy Clark, take a look at some of the biggest acts that took home their very first golden gramophones.

Miley Cyrus Celebrated Her First Wins With A Pumped-Up Performance

Miley Cyrus may have taken home the coveted Record Of The Year for "Flowers," but a different Category may have been the biggest achievement. Just before her performance on the GRAMMY stage, Cyrus won her first-ever golden gramophone for Best Pop Solo Performance.

"This award is amazing, but I really hope it doesn't change anything, because my life was beautiful yesterday," Cyrus said while accepting her first award.

"Flowers" is featured on Cyrus' 2023 album Endless Summer Vacation. "Flowers" was also nominated for GRAMMYs for Song Of The Year.

Karol G's First GRAMMYs Resulted In Her First GRAMMY

Karol G has had a meteoric rise over the past several years, and that continued unabated at Music's Biggest Night.

At the 2024 GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony, Karol G won the GRAMMY for Best Música Urbana Album, for her 2023 LP Mañana Será Bonito. (She'd previously been nominated at the 2022 GRAMMYs, for the same category, for KG0516.

"Hello everybody, my name is Karol G. I am from Medellín, Colombia. This is my first time at the GRAMMYs, and this is my first time holding my own GRAMMY," she said, utterly concisely.

Victoria Monét Completed A Lifelong Goal…

Victoria Monét won big at the GRAMMYs, including taking home the award for Best New Artist. The singer also took home golden gramophones for Best R&B Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for Jaguar II.

Monét has been nominated for 10 GRAMMYs over her career as both a solo act and songwriter. When accepting the GRAMMY Award for Best New Artist, Monét compared herself to a plant growing from soil. 

"My roots have been growing underneath ground, unseen, for so long, and I feel like today I'm sprouting, finally above ground," she said.

…And So Did Coco Jones

Monét’s fellow R&B nominee — and one-time collaborator — Coco Jones also turned a nearly 15-year journey into GRAMMY success, winning Best R&B Performance for her song "ICU."

Tyla, Me'shell NdegeOcello & Kylie Minogue Won In First-Time Categories

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, there were three new Categories — which meant three inaugural winners. South African singer/songwriter Tyla took home her first GRAMMY with her win for Best African Music Performance for her smash hit "Water," while Me'shell NdegeOcello and Kylie Minogue notched their second wins each, in the new Best Alternative Jazz Album and Best Pop Dance Recording Categories, respectively.

After 16 Years, Paramore Got GRAMMY Gold 

Myspace-era alt wizards Paramore enjoyed a stunning resurgence with their 2023 album This Is Why. They'd been nominated in past ceremonies — their first nominations coming in 2008 — but at the 2024 GRAMMYs, they nabbed the trophy for the prestigious Best Rock Album Category. And with their first win, they made GRAMMY history: Paramore is the first female-fronted rock band to win Best Rock Album.

Lainey Wilson Continued A Massive Year With A GRAMMY

Much like Tyla, country star Lainey Wilson nailed it on the first try — as far as the Recording Academy goes. She was nominated twice at the 2024 GRAMMYs, and took home a golden gramophone for Best Country Album, for Bell Bottom Country.

Clearly, the phenomenon of a first-time GRAMMY nominee taking it home transcends genres and continents.

Second Time Was A Charm For Zach Bryan

Country great Zach Bryan's been nominated before — at the 2023 GRAMMYs, for Best Country Solo Performance, for "Something in the Orange."

This time, he brought home the golden gramophone for Best Country Duo/Group Performance, for "I Remember Everything." Bryan was also nominated for Best Country Album (Zach Bryan) and Best Country Song, also for "I Remember Everything."

First-Time Nominees Boygenius Won Three Times

Women dominated the 2024 GRAMMYs, which certainly applies to boygenius — who consist of three women, and cleaned up at the ceremony. And, they too were first-time nominees

Boygenius took home three GRAMMYs revolving around 2023's the record, including Best Alternative Music Album, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance — both for the stirring, gender-flipped "Not Strong Enough."

Peso Pluma Went From First-Time Nominee To First-Time Winner

Música Mexicana, stand up! Upstart Peso Pluma took home the GRAMMY for Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano), for his tremendous album GÉNESIS.

As the status of Mexico on the global stage continues to swell, take Pluma's win as a sign to keep your ear to the ground.

Brandy Clark Left A Winner

Roots-heavy singer Brandy Clark's been nominated for 17 GRAMMYs over the years, but never gave up.

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, she won for Best Americana Performance for "Dear Insecurity" — and she played a corker of a version at the Premiere Ceremony with the string duo SistaStrings.

Fred again.. Proved To Be Dance Music’s Latest Hero

2022 saw Fred again.. rise as one of dance music's most promising new stars with the release of his compilation album, USB, and his third studio album, Actual Life 3 — and both helped him win his first pair of GRAMMYs in 2024. USB's "Rumble" (a collaboration with Skrillex and Four Tet) scored Best Dance/Electronic Recording, and Actual Life 3 took home Best Dance/Electronic Music Album.

Taylor Swift & Kacey Musgraves Celebrated Historic Firsts

While winning a GRAMMY was nothing new to 2024 winners Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves, they both had feats that marked big firsts in GRAMMY history. Swift became the first artist to be awarded Album Of The Year four times with her win for Midnights, while Musgraves' win for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for her Zach Bryan collaboration "I Remember Everything" made her the first artist to win in all four Country Field Categories.

Keep checking GRAMMY.com for stories about the 2024 GRAMMYs — and the Recording Academy thanks you for tuning into Music's Biggest Night! If you missed it, stream it on Paramount+ for maximum musical glory.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Winners & Nominees List

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Lainey Wilson On How Her Stardom Is A Testament To "Believin' And Receivin'"
Lainey Wilson

Photo: Erick Frost

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Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Lainey Wilson On How Her Stardom Is A Testament To "Believin' And Receivin'"

Lainey Wilson continues her massive ascent with two 2024 GRAMMY nominations, Best Country Album and Best Country Duo/Group Performance alongside Jelly Roll. The singer details the "wild" ride that helped her become country music's latest female superstar.

GRAMMYs/Jan 30, 2024 - 04:10 pm

Two days before the 2024 GRAMMY nominations were announced, Lainey Wilson's rise as one of country music's biggest stars was solidified in a major way: the Country Music Association Award for Entertainer of the Year.

"That was probably one of the very first moments where I was like, Wow, my life really is changing," Wilson tells GRAMMY.com. "But I think all the years of nothing happening has prepared me for moments like that. It's a slow and steady wins the race kind of feeling."

Wilson's win was as shocking to her as it may have been to those watching — considering her competition was titans Luke Combs, Chris Stapleton, Carrie Underwood, and Morgan Wallen — but it certainly wasn't undeserved. In 2023, Wilson played nearly 190 shows (including direct support on Combs' stadium tour), headlined her own sold-out tour, and became the first woman to reach No. 1 on country charts four times in a calendar year. 

Her rapidly growing success also resulted in two GRAMMY nominations at the 66th GRAMMY Awards: Best Country Album for her fourth studio album, Bell Bottom Country, and Best Country Duo/Group Performance for "Save Me," her moving duet with Best New Artist nominee Jelly Roll.

But as Wilson suggested, these accolades didn't come without years of hard work. After moving to Nashville, Tennessee from her tiny hometown of Baskin, Louisiana in 2011, she didn't sign a record deal until 2018, and her first hit didn't come until 2021. Even so, that first hit — a poignant ballad titled "Things A Man Oughta Know" — was also her first No. 1.

Since then, Wilson's true-to-her-roots persona and bell-bottomed image has nearly taken over country music. Her vintage-inspired voice and raw storytelling strikes a chord with traditionalists and modern country fans alike, and she's already dabbling in the acting world ("Yellowstone" fans may know her as Abby) and serving as the face of major brands like Coors Light and Wrangler.

To say her grinding has paid off is an understatement. But according to Wilson's Instagram post reflecting on her massive 2023 — and her already stacked touring schedule for 2024 — "we are just getting started."

As Wilson closed out her busy 2023 with another milestone, a mini Las Vegas residency, the country star sat down with GRAMMY.com to reflect on the wild ride she's enduring — and why she had no doubt her childhood dream would come true.

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In your Entertainer of the Year speech at the CMAs, you said "It finally feels like country music is starting to love me back." That was pretty powerful.

Thank you. When you're from a town of 200 people in Northeast Louisiana, you're surrounded by country music. It's the soundtrack of your life. And so I had no choice but to eat, sleep and breathe country music, and I've dedicated my life to it. 

I wrote my first song at 9 years old, I started playing guitar at 11, and that's when I started working on this. I didn't just start working on this when I moved to Nashville in 2011. I've dedicated my life to it. And it really is cool to just feel like that little 9-year-old girl who was writing her first song, that she wasn't completely crazy. 

You told GRAMMY.com in 2022, "I don't know if I'll ever feel like I've fully arrived." Did this past year change that?

I've arrived. It's amazing how different you can view things a year later. I know I've arrived, and I'm stepping into it. 

I feel like this past year, it's just been a lot of big steps and having to level up. Every single person on my team has had to just rise to the occasion. Whether it's my band, my merch guy, whether it's my management, the songwriters, everybody's just had to be like, Okay, we're entering a new phase of this journey. I've arrived.

I know you're so humble, but how could you not feel like you've arrived after this kind of a year, right? But it's awesome to not just see the accolades say that, but for you to actually feel it.

I really do. No imposter syndrome — of course, you know, I'm human, and that'll happen every now and then. But I do feel like I'm right where I'm supposed to be. And I'm soaking it up. 

These moments are going by so quick — it's important for me to realize what's happening, and accept all these gifts that the Lord has given me with a gracious heart. I'm a firm believer in believin' and receivin', and that's exactly what's happening.

Do you feel like you've been able to really take in all of the amazing things that have been happening to you?

I mean, I'd be lying to you if I told you that I have soaked up every single bit of it, because it's been a million incredible things happening. But whenever I have a moment, I try to just step away and really pay attention to what's happening. And I just take myself even back a year ago and I'm like, My gosh! 

When you just take a step back and you really think about everything that's happened, it's hard to wrap your head around. Sometimes you don't have much time to celebrate, because you gotta get to the next thing, but I think you gotta take that time. You got to. And I've got a lot of people in the industry reminding me that I gotta do that. 

Keith Urban, he's a good example — I ran into him the other day, and he's like, "You need to be celebrating these moments, but remember, no whining on the yacht." And I said, "I like that, no whining on the yacht!" We're not whining about being tired. I mean, these are the moments that we've dreamed about and prayed for. So we're stepping into it.

In all of these crazy moments that have been happening, do you ever flash back to the little girl who was eating, sleeping and breathing country music — and even the Lainey who was struggling to make a name for herself just seven years ago?

I flashback to that girl all the time, because truth is, I still feel like I am that girl. Of course. I'm not having to struggle as much, but it's still hard, and it's still grueling out here. I'm not living in a camper trailer and having to change out my propane tanks and things like that, but I'm still living on wheels. 

When I moved to Nashville, I've made a decision to not see my family on their birthdays and Christmases, and this and that and the other. And it's still the same way — which, here, real soon, that's gonna be able to shift, and I'm gonna be able to get back to the things that I've had to sacrifice for so long. 

It's weird because I'm still that same old girl. Of course I've grown, and I've changed, and developed. But yeah, I think back to her all the time. And I've always got to go back to some of those qualities that she has in order to keep moving forward.

What are some of those qualities that you think have mostly contributed to where you're at?

Work ethic. My mom and daddy are two of the most hardworking people that I've ever met, and they don't give up easy. And they raised me and my sister like two little boys. They had us out on the farm, doin' whatever, puttin' us to work — they were like, "No time for naps, get up, do your thing." That's why I have a hard time napping now. [Laughs.]

You don't really have the lifestyle to nap, so that's good.

Come January, your girl's takin' a big nap.

Yeah, you were saying that it sounds like things are going to slow down a little bit. But that's, like, a slowdown before it picks back up again, right?

Yeah, but we are going to be playing almost 100 less shows, so that right there makes me feel like I can breathe. Because, I mean, the truth is, we've been touring this heavy for years, but even last year, it was more of an opening slot — you know, I was playing 30 minutes or 45 minutes. This year, it's mainly 75-minute, 90-minute shows, and that can add up. 

I gotta take care of myself, I gotta take care of my health, so I can be 190 percent, because it kills me when I can't be. I want to walk off that stage, and I want to feel like, We came and we did what we were supposed to do. I'm excited for a little bit more rest so I can feel that way every time I walk off stage.

A 2023 Billboard piece noted that you only slept in your own bed 15 nights in 2022. How many nights would you guess you spent in your own bed in 2023?

At least double that, probably a little bit more than that. Because last year that we were touring, we were filming "Yellowstone."  

I love sitting on my front porch, drinking my coffee, sleeping in my own bed. But I'll tell you what, even just a few days at home, I'm ready to get back out on the road. 

I mean, you weren't raised to sit at home too long anyway, right?

Nope, not at all!

Well, and now, all of it has paid off in the form of two GRAMMY nominations. Have you referred to yourself as a GRAMMY-nominated artist yet? Like, has that really set in?

It's wild. Because, you know, I mean, the CMA Awards happened the same week as the GRAMMY nominations, so it was like so many things at once. A few people have, like, referred to me as that, kind of like, behind me I'm hearing it. It's crazy. I just feel so honored. 

I'm very happy with the state of country music right now. I feel like it is getting more popular by the day. It's pretty much pop culture at this point, the Western way of life.

I think that timing is everything, and what I do was not cool 13 years ago whenever I moved to Nashville. But time is a part of my story, and here we are, years later. I feel like the world wants to feel at home, they want to feel grounded. And I think that's what country music does. And I'm so proud to be in the forefront of that.

Even out here in Vegas, people are dressed like cowboys that aren't, and I'm like, the more the merrier! If that makes you feel good, if that makes you feel like a badass or makes you feel at home, then come on with it! I know how this lifestyle and this genre of music makes me feel, so come on!

Have you seen more bell bottoms now too? 

They're everywhere. Bell bottoms are back! 

Somebody told me the other day, "You single-handedly brought back the ugliest pants in the world." And I said, "Hey, we're just over here solving a world problem."

Do you ever have a day where you wake up, and you're just like, "I don't want to wear bell bottoms today"?

I mean, if I'm going out, I'm gonna be wearing my bell bottoms. But at my house, you gon' find me with my hair on top of my head in my sweatpants. The truth is, though, when I put on these bell bottoms, I really do feel like I can take whatever it is on.

I remember getting my first pair of bell bottoms at 9 years old. That was the year that I wrote my first song, got my horse, went to Nashville for the first time, and I remember how those bell bottoms made me feel. They made me feel sassy, that I had a little extra pep in my step. So I can go from sweatpants to putting on my bell bottoms and then I'm ready! They're magic.

Have you had a chance to properly celebrate the nomination with Jelly Roll?

No, but, he's actually here in Vegas. And he's gonna be doing one of these shows with me. For me and him just being on stage together and singing this song together is going to be a way to celebrate. 

I love him. I'm just such a fan of him on and off the stage. So proud for him. This could not be happening for a better human.

I'm thankful for people like him, especially in this industry, for a lot of different reasons. But also, just to show people that, look, we all come from so many different walks of life. We all have our different stories. We all look different, sound different. We're just different. And that's what keeps life moving. And I'm just proud to be his friend more than anything.

Another person you've become close with is Ashley McBryde, who gave you some advice to "reach over the wall" for rising artists the way she did with you years ago. Especially where you're at in your career now, do you feel like you've been able to do that yet?

Yeah, I feel like I'm getting to that place. I think that means taking them out on the road with you. For the Country's Cool Again Tour, I'm bringing a guy named Zach Top. He's awesome. I mean, he is country music — he has a traditional sound. I think that there's so many open lines for that, and I'm excited for him.

And then I'm bringing out Ian Munsick and Jackson Dean, and they've been friends of mine for a long time. And [another] friend of mine, Meg Mcree. She's an incredible songwriter and storyteller. Bringing folks out on the road with you, that's a way to kind of help them over that wall, but also, even mentioning their names in interviews when people say like, "Who are you excited about?" Because I think word of mouth goes a long way.

The traditional sound is definitely part of the fabric of what country music is today, going back to what you were saying about the genre being so huge right now.

There's so many different sounds going on, which is awesome. When you turn on the radio at this point, you know who everybody is, and everybody looks different and sounds different. 

I think this is how it was in the '90s. And I don't think country music has been talked about in that kind of light since the '90s. I think that they'll talk about our generation of country music like that.

Is there a song you've released, whether it's a single or an album cut, that feels the most representative of how you want to be remembered as an artist?

"Wildflowers and Wild Horses," which is our current single right now. It's really cool to be able to stand on stage every night and sing about being from five generations of farmers. 

I've always talked about how similar farming is to the music industry — I mean, you get up every day and bust your tail, and have good years and bad years, and holding on to that piece of me and holding onto that piece of where I'm from is really important to me. Because we are moving at such a fast pace that I can definitely see where you can get off track, but I'm too hard-headed for that. So I think that song is a good representation of where I am right now.

Is there another song that is representative of the kind of artist you set out to be, before big things started happening?

I think it was probably my first hit, "Things A Man Oughta Know," because it's about the way that you treat people. It's not about whether you can change a flat tire or start a fire, it's just about being a good person. That song really did kind of set the foundation for me. It was just a little piece of who I am and my story, and that's what I want people to know. I want people to just love each other and lift each other up.

If you could go back to 2017, when everything was kind of on the verge of happening, before you had your record deal and such, and tell yourself where your life was going to go in the next six years, how would you explain that?

"Girl, you gon' be tired!" [Laughs.] "But you're gonna be exactly where you're supposed to be." And truth is, even in 2017 — I mean, I sound like a little bit of a psychopath, but I knew it would be this at some point. I had that faith, and I had that weird sense of peace about it. 

This is the only thing I know how to do. This is the only thing that I'm gonna do, whether I was doing it on this level or another level. It's just a blessing that I get to get up every single day and do what I love to do and get to make a living doin' it. And get to make people feel something from my job. That's pretty cool.

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