Country Music is like a big selection box of chocolates. Some people like the chewy ones, some people like the soft centres, and there's always some people who go for the nutty ones.
This week we've got a surfer girl turned honky tonk singer from Florida, a lo-fi slacker country six-piece from North Carolina, and a soulful Americana singer with an 90's R&B twist, so there should to be something to suit everyone's tastes.
Here we go with another of Holler's monthly round ups of our latest loves; a who's who of the most exciting prospects to begin leaving their mark on the country and Americana landscape. This month, we've got everything from Maggie Antone to Colby T. Helms and Emily Zeck to Michael Marcagi for you.
Here's Holler's 10 New and Upcoming Country and Americana Artists You Need to Know for February.
It’s no secret Holler has fallen hard for Maggie Antone. Quietly announcing herself to the world back in 2021 with a video of her covering Tyler Childers’ Lady May’ from a college dorm room floor wearing sweats and a red hoodie, the song appeared on her Interpretations album a year later, along with covers of Beyoncé, John Prine, Dolly Parton and David Gray.
Looking back, it was probably her version of Blink 182’s ‘Adam’s Song’ that would have given us the biggest clue to what was to come from the singer-songwriter from Richmond, Virginia though. Taking apart the pop punk classic piece by piece and reassembling it as a creaky home recording that sounded more like Judy Garland’s weepy ‘Over the Rainbow’ outtake from Wizard of Oz, it feels like a template for the original singles she’s released since. Bold and breathy and filled with a kind of quiet rage, Maggie Antone’s version of ‘Adam’s Song’ is arguably the original emo cowgirl anthem.
A successful but reluctant student, Maggie’s inherent non-linear thinking and severe ADHD drove her to drop out of college to pursue music full time, and after signing her Big Love label to Thirty Tigers she began releasing her own peculiarly Gen Z indie country songs, beginning with 'If Only You Played Football As Well As You Played Girls' and ‘Suburban Outlaw.’
Specialising in gently strummed, eyeballing, no-fucks-given takedowns of small-town fuck bois and flakes, she writes Gen Z slacker girl revenge anthems with lyrics that land like zippy teen movie one-liners in a way that feels both cleverly youth conversant and completely classic at the same time.
“No, you ain't an outlaw, boy, you're just redneck suburban trash / Crown Royal on your visors and Reds on your dash / You think you're such a man, but you're a fucking sociopath,” she sings on ‘Suburban Outlaw’ in her raspy twang.
These are songs about the less flattering bits of falling in love with someone; the bad break ups, self-doubt and toxic relationships. Hell hath no fury like a country singer scorned after all, and Maggie Antone takes the recipes of a previous generation of women in country and spices them up for a savvy post-millennial country audience.
“Threw my fist through the windowpane just to feel something / Now there's blood on the floorboards / Something to leave you with,” she sings on her latest single ‘I Don’t Wanna Hear About It’ with Brendan Walter, written and produced by Antone and Carrie K (Noah Kahan, Jessie Murph, Suki Waterhouse).
It’s a song Antone describes as, “One of the saddest and most vulnerable songs I’ve ever written,” and it shows another side to the singer who the rest of the time is just a girl, standing in front of a boy, telling him to go fuck himself.
It just gives us all the more reason to love her.
‘I Don’t Wanna Hear About It’ by Maggie Antone and Brendan Walter is out now on Love Big marketed and distributed by Thirty Tigers.
Listen If You Like: Megan Moroney, Taylor Swift, Morgan Wade
Blending sultry 90s R&B with soulful americana, Britti is part of a rich musical tradition that stretches from Allen Toussaint to Mahalia Jackson and on to contemporaries like Hurray for the Riff Raff, making up that je ne sais quoi that is only found in New Orleans.
Her debut album, co-produced and co-written by Dan Auerbach - lead singer of The Black Keys, founder of Easy Eye Sound, and the GRAMMYaward winning producer behind Yola, Marcus King, Lana Del Rey, Valerie June, Dr. John and many more – Hello, I’m Britti is an immediate country soul classic.
With deep roots in her home city, she soaked up musical knowledge during her Louisiana upbringing from relatives who would gig with heroes like Toussaint and Dr. John, and after years of deferring her own musical dreams, Britti’s experiences with a life-altering breakup, a pandemic furlough, and a chance discovery by Auerbach led to her picking up the baton for herself.
A mix of the kind of fuzzy American soul mined by Amy Winehouse and glossy 70’s country pop, if Duffy had grown up strolling between the cafes and clubs of the French Quarter instead of the valleys of South Wales she might have sounded something like Britti.
Hello, I'm Britti is out now on Easy Eye Sound.
Listen If You Like: Margo Price,Yola, Marcus King
At the bottom of the Southwest Virginia foothills half-a-mile from the nearest neighbour, 21-year-old Appalachian phenomenon Colby Helms resides in an “underground house” built by his late father.
Colby T. Helms first dreamed of making music at age 12, when a group of Blue Ridge Mountain old-time and bluegrass players performed at his father’s funeral in Boones Mill, Virginia. To make his dream a reality, he taught himself guitar, banjo and mandolin by watching local performers and YouTube videos.
On the day he turned 16, he bought his first car, a stick-shift Jeep Wrangler, and hit the road to play anywhere people would have him, becoming a veteran performer in the Blue Ridge Appalachian Mountains region by age 18.
Released at the top of 2024, Tales of Misfortune is an eight-track mini masterpiece; a semi-autobiographical concept album of songs that Helms wrote as a senior in high school, produced by Helms’ mentor and Boones Mill fiddle-legend Billy Hurt. It’s a collection of old timey coming-of-age country songs for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the modern world sung in the kind of voice that sounds like it’s being ripped out of his throat, and it feels as comforting and life-affirming as being all snuggled up under an 18 tog double duvet in a thunderstorm.
Tales of Misfortune is out now on Photo Finish records
Listen If You Like: Tyler Childers, Logan Halstead, Wyatt Flores
A self-described “surfer with a honky tonk heart,” Emily Zeck was born in the heart of Georgia and raised amidst the waves of Central Florida. Known as “ThatPineappleGirl” on social media platforms, she’s amassed over 2 million followers to date, and her most recent single ‘Trailer Park Tiki Bar’ is the latest in a string of near perfect classic country pop singles that began with ‘Spot in Heaven’ in 2022.
With songs about sipping $2 Mai Tais behind the Walmart and picking fights over who gets to choose the next song on the jukebox it doesn’t get much more country than this. Emily Zeck sounds like Dolly Parton would have done if she'd jumped up on Dennis Wilson’s surfboard, soaked up the sunshine and stayed for the rest of the summer.
‘Trailer Park Tiki Bar’ is out now on Tone Tree Music
Listen If You Like: Megan Moroney, Kacey Musgraves, Lauren Watkins
Karley Scott Collins has a way of singing the hell out of everything. She’s got the kind of soulful, smoky twang we could happily listen to singing the terms and conditions on a travel insurance website and she’s been wrapping her thick Florida drawl around a string of back-to-back big hitters since she released her debut single ‘Heavenly’ back in 2022.
A mix of Miranda Lambert’s high-spirited scrappy traditionalism and the saucy swagger of Carrie Underwood’s booming country pop, her recent singles ‘Heavy Metal’ and ‘Marlboro Reds’ are cut with that unique brand of wit and grit that Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton built their country music empires on.
Having toured with Larry Fleet throughout last fall, Collins will soon open for Willie Nelson on select dates in February and is set to make her European debut at C2C Festival in March.
‘Marlboro Reds’ is out now on Sony Music Entertainment.
Listen If You Like: Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson
Things are going pretty well for Dylan Marlowe. Originally from Statesboro, Georgia, he made his way to Nashville just before the start of the pandemic and after making his Grand Ole Opry debut on 9th July 2023, he spent the autumn opening for HARDY on the mockingbird and THE CROW Fall Tour along with Lainey Wilson. He even got to celebrate his first No. 1 as a songwriter when Jon Pardi’s ‘Last Night Lonely’ hit the top spot.
On his debut EP, Dirt Road When I Die, he was able to switch seamlessly between traditional country and sing-along stadium ready rock, even adding in a little twist of pop punk on ‘Empty Shotgun – Mr Mechanic’ and ‘You See Mine.’
He even found time to duet with Avery Anna on ‘I Will (When You Do)’ and feature on Kasey Tyndall’s ‘Place For Me,’ before hooking up with Dylan Scott for the blistering bro-anthem ‘Boys Back Home,’ and things don’t look like slowing down for Dylan Marlowe any time soon. He kicks off a sold out headline Dirt Road When I Die Tour in this month.
Dylan Marlowe's latest single 'You Did It Too' is out now on Sony Music Entertainment.
Listen If You Like: HARDY, Morgan Wallen, Bailey Zimmerman
Michael Marcagi is the kind of country singer you’d want to bring home to your mother. Eloquent and a charming, you could imagine the singer from Cincinnati, Ohio, sitting on your porch in the early evening light, gently strumming songs like ‘Scared to Start’ and ‘Savannah,’ looking into her eyes and melting the little lady’s heart.
That isn’t to say his songs don’t have an edge, it’s just that they come from a more mindful place.
Honest, introspective and vulnerable, he takes his musical cues from 2010s’ folk-pop revivalists like The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons, but lyrically it feels like it’s Springsteen and Mellencamp who loom largest in his songs, writing about small town America in a way that feels like a refreshing antidote to the paranoia, hostility and estrangement of songs like Jason Aldean’s ‘Try That in a Small Town.’
The American Romance EP by Michael Marcagi is out now on Warner Records.
Listen If You Like: Noah Kahan, Zach Bryan, Mumford and Sons
Anyone who enjoyed the ramshackle slacker-pop country charms of Florry from our November instalment of 10 Country and Americana Artists You Need to Know will be happy to hear there seems to be a seemingly endless supply of similarly charming lo-fi country gems being put out by Dear Life Records.
Genevieve by Fust is one of those gems. A six-piece alt-country band formed by North Carolina songwriter Aaron Dowdy, Fust’s gently understated bedroom pop comes with big sloppy singalong choruses and a twist of 70s cosmic country, while Dowdy’s lyrics set them up as the natural heirs to Red House Painters or Silver Jews signature blend of strange and sad songs about small town America.
Their studio debut from last year, Genevieve was a “collection of pathetic love stories” brought to life by the specifics of the characters and the imagery of the “small lives” that Dowdy depicts, featuring cameos from Indigo De Souza and Xandy Chelmis and MJ Lenderman of Wednesday among a rolling cast of local musicians.
Genevieve by Fust is out now on Dear Life Records, along with Songs of the Rail, a 28-song collection of demos recorded and previously self-released from 2017-2018.
Listen If You Like: Bill Callahan, Red House Painters, Silver Jews
“All we can do is go around telling the truth,” Carson McCullers wrote in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. It’s something Maya Lane has been doing with her songs ever since she first appeared with her wonderfully winsome debut ‘Still the Same’ back in 2022.
Two years on and her unique brand of heart-on-her-sleeve country folk has aged like a fine wine. The missing link between Joni Mitchell and Haim, Maya Lane writes perfectly formed barefoot pop songs that feel like comforting companions to everyday living.
Born and raised in London, she grew up on 70s Laurel Canyon folk and contemporaries like Kacey Musgraves and Adam Melchor, before Taylor Swift’s Red tour inspired her to play local open mic nights and festivals and share folk-pop covers of her favourite songs via social media. With songs like ‘Just a Girl,’ ‘24F’ and latest single ‘Bump into Me,’ Lane’s effortless storytelling style feels like taking a slow summery bus ride around the city as she points out all the places she’s fallen in love or had her heart broken.
We could sit on this bus all day.
‘Bump into Me’ is out now on 7 Sister Records.
Listen If You Like: First Aid Kit, Holly Humberstone, Taylor Swift
Fans of Gar Hole Records’ oddball unamericana are being spoiled this Spring. Along with Creekbed Carter Hogan’s forthcoming self-titled album there’s also Desiree Cannon’s follow up to Beach Sleeper from 2018.
Recorded direct to tape on a remote hilltop in Big Sur during 2020 and 2021, Desiree Cannon’s sophomore album, Radio Heat, was produced by Sam Doores of The Deslondes and features various other players from the band as well as members of Sitka Sun and The Lostines.
Based in Northern California, Cannon’s lonesome songs about love are like an imaginary soundtrack to a dream sequence in a coming-of-age film directed by David Lynch. Whether it’s the dreamy waltz of ‘Fault Line,’ the summery slacker pop of ‘Chimes’ or the softly sighing pedal steel that soaks the album’s title track, Radio Heat is an album for lovers of that peculiar kind of sadness only found in country music.
Radio Heat is released on 23rd February on The Long Road Society and Gar Hole Records.
Listen If You Like: Lucinda Williams, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris