Devin Dawson Shines a Light on 5 Emerging Artists Changing Nashville’s Sound


Northern California native Devin Dawson found his musical roots listening to the likes of John Mayer, Marvin Gaye, and Johnny Cash. Experimenting across almost every genre (even playing in a death metal band at one point), Dawson eventually moved to and found ease with his new country-rooted sound in Nashville, Tennessee. Modern but comfortingly familiar, his low voice sings honest truths of both tough and joyful experiences, in a way that touches fans with his candid take on life.

His debut single "All On Me" via Warner Music Nashville, and follow-up "Honest To God" (penned for the original motion picture The Shack alongside country and Christian superstars) were both released in February 2017. Since then, he has embarked on tour with Maren Morris and released more impressive singles "Secondhand Hurt," "I Don't Care Who Sees," and an acoustic version of "All On Me."

Dawson got the chance of a lifetime recently, opening for country legends and power couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's Soul2Soul Tour. Fall 2017 will see Dawson on tour with Michael Ray. Seeming to ride with the theme of his monochrome aesthetic, the singer-songwriter has just announced that his debut album Dark Horse is up for pre-order, set to release on Jan. 19, 2018. Along with this exciting news, Dawson also has dropped his newest single, the album's honest-to-god, introspective title track.

Entrenched in the Music City scene since 2012, Devin enlightened us with deep insight on his top 5 emerging artists who changing the Nashville sound.

Jillian Jacqueline

"Jillian Jacqueline is a force to be reckoned with. Her unique & confident ability to weave words through melodies is not only alluring but fulfilling. She writes, sings and steps as if the trodden Nashville 'Female Country-Artist Stigma' is nothing more than an urban legend. Her music is a hybrid of raw feelings and precisely delivered melodies that stem from a country influence, but stretch far beyond any boundary or label. She’s a shining example that in modern Nashville, it’s possible to take all of your influences - without regard - put them out in the universe and seed success through honesty. The only genre that could define Jillian Jacqueline is simply 'Great Music.'"

Judah & the Lion

"Judah & the Lion are, without a doubt, one of the most unparalleled rock groups (if you can even define them as such) to come out of Nashville in a long time. Being a Belmont University grad myself - I may be a little biased - but I’ll never forget watching them perform live for the first time at a Belmont showcase. They pumped so much energy and emotion into every chord, every anthem & every stomp, that no listener could hope to ever leave uninspired. They have grown to amazing heights since then and have started to mold a one-of-a-kind sound that they've deemed 'Folk-Hop-n-Roll'–a rootsy, groovy, heavy listening experience that leaves most wondering, 'Why didn’t I think of that?' They’re showing that through paving new paths & exploring new avenues, a Rock band… excuse me… a Folk Hop n Roll band can succeed in the home of Country music."


"R.LUM.R is the epitome of a trailblazer. He is a true R&B/Urban artist making his own way in the scope of the Nashville incubator. His music is probably one of the furthest things from Country music to come out of Nashville in a while; yet seems to have a charm that could win over anybody. With groove, tension and a wide array of melodies in his arsenal, R.LUM.R has set out to destroy any pre-conceived notions as to what a Nashville artist might be like, sound like or look like. He is very vocal about his locational uphill journey, but is the first to say, 'You can’t please everyone.' He has a drive that is unwavering, a sound that is proven, and a momentum that is surely contagious to any Nashville artist that isn’t pursuing a Country music dream."

Ashley McBryde

"Ashley McBryde is Country music through & through. She is far from the typical daisy-in-hair-wearing, honey-suckle-singing female artist some may think of when they think Country music. She is the embodiment of individualism & is hardly afraid to take on the label of outspoken. Her lyrics are sharp, her aim is true and her delivery is piercing. I’ll never forget when I heard the song 'Girl Goin’ Nowhere' for the first time. It pulled me in like a lifeline in the middle of a raging sea and made sure I was warm & that I was goin' to be okay. It’s not the type of love song you would expect because it’s about an undying and unwavering love for music. To zoom in even further, it’s about the relentless urge to pursue your dream, regardless of outside opinion or disbelief. In a world where Country music can often seem like an outlier in Nashville, she brings it back smack dab to the dead center of attention, and does it well."

Emily Weisband/Ben Burgess

"My last artist is actually two different artists (I’m a rule breaker, what can I say?) and I am proud to call both of them my really good friends. Unfortunately, neither has any links or has released any music, but both are in the process of unleashing so much fire on the world, I had to do my best to prepare y'all for the onslaught.

Emily is a Pop artist - the kind of Pop you search for. The kind of Pop that has everything you want.  Ambitious melodies that are executed with precision, lyrics that are heart wrenching and bring you to the edge of cringing - in the best way possible - and production that is fresh and serves the honesty in her songs well. Emily has already racked up a handful of accolades in the songwriting community, including winning a Grammy for her song performed by Hillary Scott & the Scott family, 'Thy Will Be Done.'  Keep an eye or two peeled for her debut song - it’s going to shake us all up.

Ben Burgess is Ben Burgess…that’s the only way to attempt to describe his style & his swag. He mixes singing & rapping in a way that makes you wonder which one is which. He intertwines Reggae & Pop with ease, but has had some of the biggest Country artists record his songs. He writes about his life in prophetic style. Ben makes you want to know anything and everything about him from just one listen. He’s the type of artist that makes you want to dive into every corner of his soul, just to try to figure out what’s going on in that crazy mind of his. Ben will make up words & deliver them with the kind of confidence that makes you feel like it’s been part of the English language forever. He brings a style to music that will cause Nashville to never be the same.

These two artists will redefine what it means to be an artist in Nashville–MARK MY WORDS."


Devin left Ones To Watch with some parting words about his Nashville music experience and his thoughts on where it's all headed:

The Nashville music scene is flourishing right now… in every sense of the word. It showcases that as a town grows and becomes more eclectic, so does what makes that town unique -and in this case, of course, it's music - and not only Country music. With the music scene as a whole becoming more integrated and “blurred” - if you will - each respective genre does as well. Pop is Dance and Ethnic and Rock and Soul and Country. Country is Pop and Rock and R&B and will continue to push its own boundaries: because THAT'S WHAT LISTENERS WANT. It’s ironic that as Country seems to be separating into “new & old," it also seems to be coming together into one of the most beautiful, centrifugal renaissances to happen in a long time, and that seems to be holding true across all genres. The fact is we’re all shaped by how we grew up and how we were raised. In our case, as songwriters & artists, we’re shaped by what we grew up LISTENING TO. We’re all just trying to put out what we’ve taken in - in our own way - and it’s more acceptable now than ever. I predict that as genres begin to come together, Nashville will gladly house more genres than ever before and help cultivate the ability to succeed in each genre.  After all, Nashville IS deemed MUSIC CITY (as in all shapes & sizes & colors). That being said, Country music will always be the heart & center of Nashville. Just like the way we were shaped by how we were raised, so was Nashville. Nashville will always be the home of Country music and the history behind that will never diminish.

I grew up in Northern California listening to Johnny Cash & Tim McGraw, CCR (John Fogerty) & Tom Petty, Marvin Gaye & Sam Cooke, John Mayer & John Legend. I’m trying to be whole heartedly & unapologetically myself, zoom in on topics that others might stray away from and make a statement that hopefully inspires others to do the same. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m just trying to be ME and I’m lucky to be in a town & a genre that allows me to do that.