CMT’s Next Women of Country 2022 class, along with key alumni of NWOC’s 9 previous classes, pose with CMT Senior Vice President of Music Strategy, Leslie Fram, seated front and center at City Winery Nashville.
CMT’s Next Women of Country 2022 class, along with key alumni of NWOC’s 9 previous classes, pose with CMT Senior Vice President of Music Strategy, Leslie Fram, seated front and center at City Winery Nashville. [Catherine Powell, Getty Images for CMT]

CMT Next Women of Country inducts 2023 class: read backgrounds on all 16 artists

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WOUB) — CMT’s venerated Next Women of Country program celebrated its tenth anniversary this month; and the Paramount-owned Country Music Television network rang in the milestone by inducting their largest class yet.

Launched in 2013 by Senior Vice President of Music Strategy, Leslie Fram – who was just honored with CMA’s Media Achievement Award in November  – the program’s 95 alumni include some of the most prominent women in modern country music, such as Ashley McBryde (just inducted to the Grand Ole Opry), Maren Morris (headlined a show at Bridgestone Arena last month), Lainey Wilson (earned the most nominations at November’s CMA Awards), Kacey Musgraves (now co-stars with Reese Witherspoon on an Apple TV series), Margo Price, Carly Pearce, and many more.

The ceremony was presented by the co-hosts of “CMT Hot 20 Countdown,” Rissi Palmer and Cody Alan. During an intermission, Palmer had some friendly banter with NWOC 2022 alum Miko Marks — her longtime friend, whom she surprised with the news of Miko’s long-awaited Grand Ole Opry debut shortly before her 50th birthday. (Marks’ performance of “Lay Your Burdens Down” at her Grand Ole Opry debut inspired its inclusion to WOUB’s 2022 Music Highlights list by Ian Saint.) Their supportive friendship will be further celebrated by embarking on their upcoming co-headlining tour in the spring, shortly after Marks plays Ohio with Little Feat at Lorain’s Palace Theatre on April 14.

"CMT Hot 20 Countdown” co-host, Rissi Palmer, speaks to Next Women of Country 2022 inductees, Roberta Lea and Pillbox Patti, and NWOC 2015 alumnus Mickey Guyton. Palmer is a country music artist and host of “Color Me Country” on Apple Music.
“CMT Hot 20 Countdown” co-host, Rissi Palmer, speaks to Next Women of Country 2022 inductees, Roberta Lea and Pillbox Patti, and NWOC 2015 alumnus Mickey Guyton. Palmer is a country music artist and host of “Color Me Country” on Apple Music. [Catherine Powell, Getty Images for CMT]
Additional alumni of past Next Women of Country classes in attendance included Kelsea Ballerini, Brittney Spencer, Brooke Eden, Mickey Guyton, Maddie & Tae, Ingrid Andress, and Caitlyn Smith. To make a point about how greatly the value and popularity of Next Women Of Country have grown, 2015 inductee Guyton quipped about her envy of the decadent floral decorations, sit-down dinner, and open bar to celebrate this year’s inductees.

2015 also marked the inaugural tour for Next Women of Country, which was headlined by Ballerini – who now has millions of followers on social media, has been Wynonna Judd’s singing partner on several dates of The Judds’ Final Tour, and is set to host this year’s CMT Music Awards. When asked for what advice she’d give to young women forging their paths in country music, Ballerini offered “staying curious, always wanting to know more, learning how things work, learning how things evolve, learning how you want to make things evolve and push boundaries. I think it’s really important. I’m still learning!”

It was also a successful night for the Black Opry, who had many members of their own inducted to this year’s Next Women Of Country class. They include Julie Williams, O.N.E. The Duo, and Roberta Lea. During her in-depth interview with WOUB, Roberta Lea detailed how Rissi Palmer’s “Color Me Country” program on Apple Music inspired Black Opry founder Holly G. to establish their artist collective; and how the combination of support from the Black Opry, “Color Me Country,” and CMT’s Fram green-lighting the airing of her “Ghetto Country Streets” music gave Roberta the confidence to launch her goal-shattering Kickstarter campaign to record her debut LP. Likewise, Williams and Palmer reminisced about first meeting while Williams was still a university student, how Williams’ “Southern Curls” (that honors the beauty of African hair) made such an impression on her, the explosive growth of the Black Opry Revue Tour, and the powerful culmination of Palmer inducting Williams to the Next Women Of Country institution.

R-L: Black Opry founder Holly G., Black Opry co-director Tanner Davenport, and WOUB’s Ian Saint. This year’s CMT Next Women of Country class included several Black Opry Revue alumni.
R-L: Black Opry founder Holly G., Black Opry co-director Tanner Davenport, and WOUB’s Ian Saint. This year’s CMT Next Women of Country class included several Black Opry Revue alumni. [Ian Saint]
Here is a breakdown and background on all 16 members of CMT’s Next Women of Country 2023 class and an accompanying Spotify playlist featuring top tracks from all of them:

  • Angie K – “Country Is As Country Does”

Known for her country anthems that blend English with Spanish, in a nod to her Latin ancestry, Angie Keilhauer reminisced about the storied journey from working on cars, to playing in bars, to representing Team Blake on “The Voice,” and beyond. She fondly revealed that Blake Shelton is “exactly what you think: he’s incredibly tall [and] he smells just like whiskey.”

This Georgia pastor’s daughter learned to sing in church; and her father encouraged her to hone her craft in songwriting (telling her “you have to write songs to make money in this industry”). Mackenzie plays music with her two brothers, whom she resides with in Nashville. Riding the momentum of opening for several prestigious country artists, including Miranda Lambert, Carpenter is recording her debut album for the Big Machine Label Group.

Norfolk, VA’s Roberta Lea was the first Black Opry Revue alum to be presented in this year’s NWOC ceremony; and the mother of two revealed that her “neo-country-pop” songwriting was influenced by artists well beyond the country genre – ranging from Babyface, to Tina Turner, to movie anthem songwriter Diane Warren, and more. Lea is in the midst of recording her debut LP, that will follow her “Just a Taste” EP that features “Ghetto Country Streets” – her first music video to premiere on CMT, and one of 25 songs showcased in the Music Highlights in 2022 list by WOUB’s Ian Saint. Two days after her CMT Next Women of Country induction, Lea performed with the Black Opry Revue at Bloomington, Indiana’s century-old Buskirk-Chumley Theatre; when she announced the news to the audience, they received it with rapturous applause. Lea returns to Ohio, for back-to-back shows in Cincinnati and Columbus, on February 16 and 17.

The alliteration-nicknamed North Florida native, Nicolette Hayford, has already been nominated for Single of the Year and Song of the Year at the CMA Awards – for co-writing Ashley McBryde’s “One Night Standards” – and released her own debut EP, “Florida,” on Monument Records last year. Marcus Dowling, country music correspondent of Nashville newspaper “The Tennessean,” described it as “some mix of Billie Eilish blended with Bobbie Gentry and Lana del Ray.”

Not many artists on popular music labels can claim the accordion as their first instrument; but, just like parodist extraordinaire “Weird Al” Yankovic, polka is where Catie Offerman got her start. After several years of playing polka festivals as a home-schooled child, Offerman transitioned to the fiddle as her primary instrument. Graduating from Berklee College of Music, on a scholarship that commenced at age 16, Offerman eventually signed a publishing deal with Universal. Her underway tour includes a return to Ohio, at the Brady Music Center in Cincinnati, on February 4.

As CMT prepares to eulogize The Final Tour for The Judds – the mother-daughter Country Music Hall of Famers, who hail from WOUB’s coverage area (in Ashland, KY) – they have inducted another mother-daughter duo to their Next Women Of Country ranks. Mother Tekitha enjoyed many years of success as a vocalist with rap icons, Wu-Tang Clan; and daughter Prana Supreme was born in 2000, to her and Wu-Tang member RZA. Their hip hop roots and sweet, crooning harmonies make for a strikingly unique presence in Americana; and their gorgeous, “Alice In Wonderland”-inspired music video for “Stuck in the Middle” premiered over the summer.

Michigan’s MaRynn Taylor revealed that she had only lived in Nashville for 3 months, when she attended the 2019 CMA Music Festival “just as a fan, as I love country music.” It was a fateful fan attendance; when she was handed a flyer for a “60 second spotlight,” where you’re given the opportunity to sing whatever you’d like for a minute, she decided to step up to the stage. Turns out, that opportunity was sponsored by Black River Entertainment; who quickly offered her a record deal, as she was turning 18. Black River is the same label for Kelsea Ballerini, who was on stage during Taylor’s NWOC induction; and Taylor came full circle, when she returned to CMA Fest – on the heels of her debut EP, “Something I Would Do” – in 2022.

Although she’s named Georgia, Webster hails from Massachusetts; and while the musical soundtrack of her upbringing in Hampden was abundant with country, she also enjoyed the likes of John Mayer and the Grateful Dead. Webster’s fortuitous proximity to Berklee College of Music led to attending many of their songwriter camps; but the sudden onslaught of COVID-19, halfway through her high school timeline, ground her appearances to a halt. Determined to keep creating in quarantine, she uploaded a bathroom recording of “Tell Your Mom” to TikTok in July of 2020 – and it quickly went massively viral. Just a few weeks after her Next Women of Country induction, Webster will be opening for Kelsea Ballerini on tour; the trek starts in the UK, then the American leg will entail two Ohio shows in March. For all tour dates, visit

Kristen Kelly was a member of CMT’s inaugural Next Women of Country class; and now, for NWOC’s 10th anniversary, sister Kimberly is joining her ranks. Today, Kimberly boldly proclaims into the microphone that she hails from Texas; but she also reflected on how, for many years, she stood at the back of the stage while singing harmony for her sister – and this vantage point taught her many key lessons to embrace for her emergence to the front. Late last year, Kimberly made her Grand Ole Opry debut; and this time, sister Kimberly sang harmony.

When Rissi Palmer went to introduce Kasey Tyndall, she paused to make sure that she understand her narrative correctly. “You won Keith Urban?!?” Tyndall answered affirmatively. When Urban commenced his tour in 2014, he was riding the crest of a smash cross-over hit with Miranda Lambert, “We Were Us” – but he needed a female vocalist to sing Lambert’s part. Tyndall answered the call of a radio contest to fill Lambert’s shoes at his Raleigh, NC concert; and the unbelievable experience changed her life. Before long, she moved to Nashville and joined the then-nascent, all-female Song Suffragettes songwriters round. When she signed a global publishing deal in the fall of 2021, her first registration was “Middle Man”: a collaboration with none other than Lainey Wilson.

Released at the end of 2022, Ashley Cooke’s latest single “it’s been a year” is aptly-named. The young songstress inked a record deal with Big Loud, notched her country radio debut with an impassioned Brett Young duet (“Never Til Now”), and made her national television debut (performing on “The Bachelorette”) in quick succession. She managed to make her debuts at both the Grand Ole Opry and “Mother Church” Ryman Auditorium, amidst tours with Jordan Davis, Cole Swindell, and Young. Shortly after her induction to CMT’s Next Women of Country, Ashley will tour Canada and the UK, before her USA itinerary includes several stops throughout Ohio. That’s quite a feat for somebody who attended Nashville’s Belmont University for non-musical studies; and Cooke’s trajectory is encouraging for musicians who initially pursued a different path.

When Alana Springsteen stepped into The Circle for her Grand Ole Opry debut on her October 18th birthday, it was a “full circle” moment in more ways than one. Springsteen shared with the audience that she was 10 years old when she visited the Opry for the first time; and at this inaugural visit, she was greatly moved by watching Luke Bryan perform “Rain Is A Good Thing.” Her delight was understandably palpable, then, when a mysterious FaceTime call resulted in Luke Bryan himself surprising her with the news of her long-yearned Opry debut on her 22nd birthday. Springsteen’s debut album, “Twenty Something,” will be released on March 24 – the very same day that she performs in Ohio, at the Bluestone in Columbus.

It was an emotional onstage reunion for Julie Williams and the ceremony’s co-host, Rissi Palmer. Rissi had bestowed Williams the honor of “Color Me Country” Class of 2021; and now, she was introducing Williams for her CMT Next Women of Country 2023 class induction. Williams shared that she’s releasing a new single, “Wrong Mr. Right,” on the day before the ceremony’s CMT broadcast; but for her Next Women Of Country induction performance, she decided to pay homage to the camaraderie of women in country who inspired her on this journey. “The Women Who Made Me” pays tender homage to Julie’s mother, the women of country who serenaded the soundtrack of their lives – specifically referencing “Ready to Run” and “Born To Fly” by The Chicks and Sara Evans, respectively… and the Next Women Of Country alumni who quelled her worries that a southern Black woman could succeed in the country genre – name-checking Mickey Guyton and Brittney Spencer as a couple of paving alumni in attendance for her own induction.

In the week preceding her CMT Next Women of Country induction, Megan Moroney released the official music video for “Tennessee Orange”; and two weeks later, it’s already amassed well over a million views on YouTube alone. The waltz-tempo shuffle is a declaration of love so bold, it dares to taps into one of southern America’s greatest drivers of fierce rivalry: college football fandom. Moroney hails from Georgia; so the admission that her new beau has inspired her to wear “Tennesse Orange,” in his honor, is groundbreaking. The song was part of her debut EP, “Pistol Made of Roses,” that she released independently in July. Two months later, at the onset of football season, Spotify contacted her with a fleeting opportunity to be featured on their Fresh Finds playlist; and “Tennessee Orange” exploded so quickly, she inked a deal with Sony Music Nashville just weeks afterward. Megan and her college football rivalry anthem will play to a big crowd in The Ohio State University’s city (Columbus), when she opens for Brooks & Dunn at the Nationwide Arena on June 16.

Speaking of Spotify’s Fresh Finds, North Carolina’s Carter Faith was the very first country artist to be featured on the streamer’s playlist for plugging independent artists. Despite the challenge of recording her debut EP while still a student at Belmont University, Faith’s “Let There Be Love” successfully elevated her profile further; and when she made her Ryman Auditorium debut last summer, by closing the Whiskey Jam’s sold-out 10th anniversary show, Whiskey Jam curator Ward Guenther heralded her as the “future for the next 10 years of Nashville.” Next Women of Country class of 2019 alum, Ingrid Andress, will take Faith out on tour this year; when the hosts asked these tourmates about Andress being a mentor for Faith, Andress raved about Faith’s gumption and joked “I’ll probably learn more about you.”

“I sang in a bathtub. I was a junior in high school when COVID hit, and I would get really bored, so that’s what I would do with my time. And I posted a cover on TikTok… and then, here we are!” So began the onstage greeting from Arizona’s Avery Anna. Her teenage time-passing TikTok bathtub cover of “Say Something,” the 2013 hit by A Great Big World, inadvertently sizzled over 10 million views – which quickly culminated in a management and production deal. She began releasing original songs, including “Narcissist,” which was covered by her idol Kelly Clarkson on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” 18-year-old Avery graduated high school in May, announced her major label deal with Warner Music Nashville in June, and made her Grand Ole Opry debut in September.


CMT filmed the Next Women of Country 2022 class induction ceremony for broadcast on the “CMT Hot 20 Countdown.” It will air on CMT from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. EST on Saturday, February 11; with an encore airing from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. EST on Sunday.