Carolyn Kruse

Carolyn Kruse

Carolyn Kruse

Have you felt the tide turning? It’s happening. There’s a wave of newer country artists who are unapollogetically embracing their inner rock star. I call it the Luke Combs effect. Let’s face it, Combs has transformed this genre into be more accepting of an edgier sound. From his first release, “Hurricane,” Luke has proven there’s a place for a rock influence in country music. Luke has also proven there’s a place for “regular guys” in the format; no cookie-cutter models required. Artists like Combs are helping to bring in younger listeners. They are also bringing in more male listeners, in a format that has been largely been supported by female listeners. Turning the tide…Here are 10 country artists riding the rock wave.

In the past few years, the rock influence in country music has been hard to miss. It’s evident in the music, the shows, even the fashion. Stars like Morgan Wallen, Bailey Zimmerman and Hardy (in addition to Combs) have led the way. They bring a cool factor to the genre. But they also usher in a fun factor, with energy driven by beats, guitars and a rock show atmosphere. Now we just need more women to join in the wave. There are a couple listed below. Take a look at those turning the tide. Here are 10 country artists riding the rock wave.

  • 1. Zach Bryan

    With Zach Bryan’s music, it’s more of a rock ‘n roll attitude than a sound. He is an icon in the eyes of college students, 20 somethings and those genuine music lovers. His music is more Americana, singer/songwriter-esque than rock. But his passion is pure rock. And he’s helping to turn the tide of country with his emotional storytelling through music and his intensity. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this unique, trendsetting artist.

  • 2. Hardy

    Hardy’s music is likely playing right now. If he isn’t singing one of his songs, it’s likely another artist is. He has written so many hits for other country singers, from Carrie Underwood (her new song “Hate My Heart”), to Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country,” and dozens of others. Hardy’s latest album marries his two musical loves, country and rock. It’s called The Mockingbird and the Crow. Half of the album is country, half is rock. You’ll find his collab with Lainey Wilson on it, “Wait in the Truck,” as well as the rocking title track.

  • 3. Bailey Zimmerman

    Bailey Zimmerman burst on to the country music stage last year, and the next thing you know, he’s on tour with Morgan Wallen. It’s a good fit, as Bailey’s sound seems to be influenced by Morgan. He’s only 23 years old and already has 2 #1 hits.

  • 4. Jackson Dean

    Remember the first time you heard Jackson Dean’s “Don’t Come Lookin?” You rocked it out in your car, didn’t you? How could you not?  He’s like a caffeinated Stapleton. He’s Southern Rock, soulful country and thoughtful songwriter, all in one. Dean hit a homerun with his first release, going all the way to #1.

  • 5. Jelly Roll

    When Jason DeFord erupted into the country music world, he had everyone asking…”who is Jelly Roll.” That’s his professional name. He doesn’t look like a country singer, in the traditional sense. No cowboy hat, no jeans, no boots.  He first made a name for himself as a rapper. But Jelly has always embraced all the genres he grew up with, from rap to rock and country. His country music debut single, “Son of a Sinner” went #1 this year.


  • 6. Corey Kent

    You may remember Corey from The Voice, as Corey White. He finished top 8 on team Blake. His style then was much more country. When he put out his first single on a major record label, he picked a song that was co-written by Morgan Wallen. Apparently, Corey always wanted to rock his country. The result is his first top 10 hit, in “Wild As Her.”

  • 7. Morgan Wade

    Morgan Wade drips rock ‘n roll. She’s the totally cool country chick with rock sensibilities. She looks like a rock star and writes like a country artist. I’m hoping her next release blows up. We need more Morgan Wades in the genre.

  • 8. Shane Profitt

    You can’t miss the country in Shane’s voice, that accent won’t quit. And his writing tells the story of a hard-working, blue collar life. But it’s the edge in his music that makes this brand new artist rock. “How It Oughta Be” is currently sitting in the top 16.

  • 9. Chayce Beckham

    You saw Chayce rock out and embrace some country during his time on American Idol. Two years ago he won Idol, and has since released some songs that bring the genres together. “23” became a #1 digital country hit!

  • 10. Elle King

    Elle was already submerged in the rock and pop world when she brought her edge to country music. She’s a genre-neurtral artist with a love for country. And I’m 100% here for it. Need. More. Elle.  She had the biggest country hit of 2022, with the help of Miranda Lambert.

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