Opry NextStage Celebrates a “Vibrant and Diverse Future” in Country Music
Ninety-seven years into its history and the Grand Ole Opry — through its groundbreaking NextStage program — is three years away from ensuring the future of country music continues to expand the idea. that the genre is accessible enough to be enjoyed by all.
“The Opry tries to bring country music credibility to bold artists with unique backgrounds and life experiences whose originality shines through the spotlight,” said Jordan Pettit, Director of Artist Relations. and programming strategy for Opry Entertainment Group.
“We’re trying to speak to a wider range of audiences about [country music’s] a vibrant and diverse future across the Opry Entertainment Suite brands.”
These brands count WSM 650 AM, the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium among a dozen national entries.
So far, three artists: BRELAND, Elvie Shane and Morgan Wade, have been nominated for the 2022 iteration of Opry NextStage. They join an already impressive team of 11 former NextStage artists who are now on the verge of dynamic success.
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NextStage has had a solid grasp of current emerging artists in country music since the program’s inception in 2019. The inaugural year spotlighted Riley Green, Tegan Marie, Tenille Townes and Travis Denning. After taking a year off for COVID-19, 2021 saw Parker McCollum, Yola, Niko Moon, Hailey Whitters, Lainey Wilson, Jameson Rodgers and Priscilla Block named to the program. Notably, Green and McCollum (2020 and 2022 ACM Best New Male Artist) as well as Townes and Wilson (2020 and 2022 Best New Female Artist) shone on the country music award show stages.
One of the early features of the program was artists – and the Opry itself – largely building their social media presence through constant development of live, online content. For example, Pettit notes that 2021’s “Opry NextStage: Live In Concert” only featured artists in the program and sold out 80% of the Opry’s 4,400-seat house. Additionally, the event had 400,000 live streamers via Twitch.
“The Opry doesn’t just put your name on a flyer — they actually do the job of promoting you as an artist, and that’s important,” says Morgan Wade. Wade is currently gaining greater fame as his Sony Music Nashville signed artist story now sees his debut album “Reckless” receive a further boost.
Like Elvie Shane, Wade is an honest, earnest, tattooed freethinker whose art reflects traditional country values, but perhaps with a renewed focus on expanding past preconceived notions about how people look and sound. successful artists in the genre.
Opry NexStage’s co-authorship of their work has already proven hugely influential.
“Even over the past few months, I’ve heard from more ‘mainstream’ country fans who think it’s cool to see someone who isn’t a ‘cookie-cutter’ country artist. [achieving success]. When you have Opry’s support, there’s more love than hate, and it helps people believe that the country’s changes will continue and be embraced by future generations.”
Like Wade, Shane – best known for the 2021 breakout ballad “My Boy” – is excited about what being lined up with the Grand Ole Opry means for his career. It highlights artists like Johnny Cash and Steve Earle, having stories told with the place as important to him.
“Playing the Opry is like medicine for the soul. Stepping into that circle is a great way to stay charged and prepared for live events,” he says.
Regarding BRELAND’s recent country radio peak, Pettit notes that the artist best known for songs such as “My Truck” and “Cross Country” is an “energetic performer” who “received a rousing standing ovation whenever he was featured on the venue stage.
For BRELAND, the impact of potentially joining Charley Pride and Darius Rucker as the only African-American members of Opry is a “career goal” that he believes would “expand” his genre and broaden his artistic and professional goals” Cross country”. .
Ultimately, Pettit thinks Opry NextStage succeeds because it’s an ideal blend of the values that will always best define country music.
“The Opry, first and foremost, is a community of artists, so we want to see them perform on the Opry, connecting with past generations of Opry favorites like Bill Anderson, Jeannie Seely and Connie Smith. day, we even hope that they will also become members of Opry.”