When it came time to choose CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2022, CMT’s senior vp of music & talent Leslie Fram selected one of the broadest, most diverse classes since the franchise’s launch in 2013.
In addition to such major-label mainstream country upstarts as Callista Clark, Lily Rose and Morgan Wade, this year’s group includes Grammy-nominated Americana artist Amythyst Kiah and Miko Marks, who released her first album since 2007 last year.
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Rounding out the class are Camille Parker, Jenna Paulette, Madeline Edwards, Julia Cole and Laci Kaye Booth.
“This year’s class is unique in its representation of determined, badass women with strong identities and distinct points of view,” Fram tells Billboard. “Each is arriving into the franchise at varying stages of their careers, yet they’re all making impactful music that deserves to be recognized and amplified. These artists bring a wealth of diversity in thought and sound that ultimately enriches the NWOC program and the country genre as a whole.”
The expansiveness reflects the breadth of today’s country genre, Fram says. “Each of these women identify as country, perhaps some more so than others, but really, that’s the collective beauty of country music today,” she says. “The tent is big enough for everyone. If there’s enough room in the tent for George Strait and Kane Brown, there should be plenty of room for Amythyst Kiah and Callista Clark, and all NWOC members.”
The program has proven to be a successful incubator for artists who have gone on to become superstars. Among the 85 acts who have taken part in past Next Women of Country classes are Maren Morris, Gabby Barrett, Kelsea Ballerini, Kacey Musgraves, Lauren Alaina, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde and Mickey Guyton. Last year’s class included Brittney Spencer, Priscilla Block, Sacha and Ashland Craft.
The new class will be introduced on a three-hour CMT’s Hot 20 Countdown airing Jan. 22 and 23 at 9 a.m. E.T., which will also feature Morris. She tells host Cody Alan that the program is “really unlike anything else that exists in the world.”
Class members will receive support for their music and videos across CMT, CMT Music, PlutoTV’s ‘CMT Equal Play’ channel, CMT Hot 20 Countdown, CMT.com and @CMT social channels. Additionally, there are cross-promotional opportunities with other MTV Entertainment Group brands for live events, the ViacomCBS Times Square NYC billboard and more.
Class members are also given access to social impact and artist advocacy opportunities that help them support charitable causes and social issues through Nashville-based social impact firm, The Change Agent-cy.
From its inception, NWOC has provided an opportunity for women in the male-dominated world of country music as a way to level the playing field. In recent years, the program has also become more racially diverse.
“Looking back at the NWOC inductees we have named since the beginning, you can see CMT has always selected a kaleidoscope of talent for this franchise,” Fram says. “From more mainstream artists like Kelsea Ballerini, to those on the fringes of country like Margo Price, indie-leaning artists like Maggie Rose, those on the AAA side like Lucie Silvas, and prolific singer-songwriters who have had their nose to the grindstone for years like Brandy Clark and Ashley McBryde, CMT has and continues to support these artists because of their great, compelling music, ensuring these amazing female voices are not being erased from our format.”