Getting picked to play the New Faces of Country Music show comes with a certain amount of pressure. After all, nearly every future superstar has played that stage since the show’s inception in 1970, including George Strait, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and Luke Bryan.
This year’s crop of performers—Thomas Rhett, Brett Eldredge, Cassadee Pope, Tyler Farr and Charlie Worsham—could be forgiven for being nervous. Fortunately, however, if there were nerves, they didn’t show as each performer offered up a confident, four or five song set at the Feb. 21 show, the annual closer of the three-day Country Radio Seminar in Nashville.
The confidence may have come from the fact that these “new faces” have already established some serious credentials, which is likely why they were each hand picked to play this year’s show by staffers at country radio stations nationwide. Four of the five have already enjoyed a No. 1 hit at radio and the fifth—Cassadee—not only has a top 10 single under her slim belt, she’s also a winner on NBC’s “The Voice.”
Each artist was introduced with a video created just for the show, and all of the performers except Cassadee chose to go the humorous route with their clips. Brett’s video found him inserted into various viral videos, including Sweet Brown, the Prancercise lady and Kid President. He was also added to news footage of the Pope, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford and Seattle Seahawks loudmouth Richard Sherman.
Tyler’s introductory clip centered on his efforts to “be memorable” and showed him in numerous costumes, including a “Phantom of the Opera” get-up. He also got some bad advice from fellow stars Lee Brice—who advised him to wear his ball cap backwards—and John Rich, who suggested adding more “bling” to his wardrobe. Jason Aldean finally appeared with better advice: “Just be yourself . . . and stop drinking so much during the day.”
As the son of famous songwriter and former artist Rhett Akins, Thomas put together a funny video that started with his father being recognized everywhere and Thomas taking a back seat to his fame, then flipped to the present day where Thomas is the one generating the most attention.
After taking the stage first, Thomas confessed that “the hardest thing I’ve done in the last 30 minutes was to get these [tight] jeans on. I’ve got to shake my money maker.”
When he played first No. 1 hit, “It Goes Like This,” Thomas said topping the charts with that song was “the coolest thing in the world.” His four song set also included “All-American Middle Class White Boy,” current single “Get Me Some Of That,” and first single “Something To Do With My Hands,” which he mashed up with a bit of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”
Brett’s set comprised “Beat Of The Music,” “Mean To Me,” “Don’t Ya” and a vocally powerful version of “One Mississippi” where he was accompanied by just a keyboard player and earned himself a standing ovation.
Cassadee spoke abut being in the audience at New Faces last year and hoping she could be on the stage one day, never expecting would be so soon. Her set included “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart,” “Eleven” (which she called “probably the most personal song I’ve ever written”), “You Hear A Song” and first hit “Wasting All These Tears.”
During his set, Tyler jumped into the audience twice, shouted at the crowd to “wake the hell up” and played a cover of AWOLNATION’s “Sail.” Tyler’s set also included “Camo Is The New Black,” “Ain’t Even Drinkin,’” “Whiskey In My Water” and “Redneck Crazy.”
Charlie predicted a long career for himself, telling the industry crowd, “We’re going to have a great two to three decades ahead of us. We’re going to have a lot of fun together.” His set included “Want Me Too,” “Trouble Is,” “Mississippi In July,” “Could It Be” and set-closer “Rubberband.”