The initiative that Lainey Wilson is spearheading to help discover and boost rising country stars has officially revealed its list of five emerging artists, selected from a list of nearly 900 applicants.
Wilson announced in late 2022 that she would curate the inaugural Emerging Artists Program, along with a team of other established country artists to help guide up-and-coming singer-songwriters in their careers. Other mentors slated to work with the rising stars include Ashley McBryde, Dustin Lynch, Lauren Alaina and Kat & Alex. The five artists participating in the yearlong program include, according to a recent press release:
- Hailey Verhaalen from Oregon City, OR (Currently resides in Nashville, TN)
- Drew Hale from El Paso, TX (Currently resides in Kingsley, MI)
- Tae Lewis from Goldsboro, NC (Currently resides in Nashville, TN)
- Cosette Smith from Gilbert, AZ (Currently resides in Cypress, CA)
- Austin McNeill from Salisbury, NC (Currently resides in Charlotte, NC)
The five Emerging Artists are slated to arrive in Nashville in June to team up with their mentors and record music at a studio, meet with industry executives and open for Wilson at an exclusive Bell Bottom Barn Dance event on June 9, per the release. That falls during the highly-anticipated CMA Fest, kicking off the day before. The artists will also perform on “Ole Red on the Rise Presented by Tractor Supply,” an Opry Entertainment Group artist discovery series. There’s also a free kickoff event happening at Ole Red, and the artists will perform with Wilson at the Grand Ole Opry this fall.
Wilson said she hopes the program is the start of new relationships with the budding artists, spanning beyond the one-year program. The “Live Off” powerhouse previously told iHeartRadio that artists like McBryde, Miranda Lambert and others have often shown up with the unwavering support that she aims to give the artists in the program.
“If I can save them [rising artists] any time or energy or heartache or whatever, I wanna do that because this is hard. It ain't cut out for everybody, and that's the brutal truth,” Wilson said at that time. She added later that she wants to “be able to be a sounding board for these people. I want to be able to be a cheerleader. And after the program, too, these are relationships. I believe when you create relationships with people, it ain't just, ‘here today, gone tomorrow.’ …Call me anytime that you want to, because you've gotta have people like that in your corner, no matter what.
“I'm just glad to be involved and I'm glad to just hopefully make some dreams come true.”