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Oklahoma's Zach Bryan, Kaitlin Butts, Corey Kent heat up country music charts

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Catch a rising star?

Tulsa World Magazine has selected three rising Oklahoma country artists you will want to keep an eye on as their music careers surge forward.

Let’s meet them.

Zach Bryan

“Here’s your sign” is the signature catchphrase of comedian Bill Engvall.

Here’s your sign singer-songwriter Zach Bryan was about to “blow up” in the music world: He sold out two Cain’s Ballroom shows in a blink, and he was still half a year away from his major-label record debut. He also sold out Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium in less than an hour based on word-of-mouth buzz and the strength of his material and live performances.

Zach Bryan

Zach Bryan, shown during an April performance at the Calf Fry in Stillwater, had his first Warner Records album released in May.

Bryan served in the U.S. Navy before capturing the ears and hearts of music fans. His much-anticipated “American Heartbreak” album was released May 20 via Warner Records, and he will be among headliners when he returns to the Born & Raised Music Festival Sept. 16 in Pryor, only a short drive away from his hometown of Oologah.

Bryan is proud of his small-town roots, and his music is fueled by a desire to stay true to himself, according to a Warner Records-provided bio.

Zach Bryan Calf Fry

Music fans react to Zach Bryan’s performance at the 2022 Calf Fry music festival in Stillwater.

“His success is found in his raspy voice, a mix of classic folk melody and outlaw country with a raw edge that cuts to the bone,” said the bio, which cited a breakthrough moment in his career.

“In the video for ‘Heading South,’ shot by phone outside of his Navy barracks in humid 95-degree heat, Bryan’s passion echoes off the strings of his trusted Guild. Drenched in sweat and belting words that he had written minutes earlier, the moment is authentic, brutal and real. Millions of fans have now seen that video without any sort of industry assist and millions more have connected to the tender, sincere songs found on both Bryan’s 2019 debut album 'DeAnn' — dedicated to his late mother — and his 2020 follow-up, ‘Elisabeth,’ an ode to those he loves.”

Bryan has accumulated more than 1 billion combined global streams, with 4 million monthly Spotify listeners.

To read more about him, go to zachbryan.com.

Kaitlin Butts

A Union High School alum, Butts released an album (“What Else Can She Do”) in April that earned her recognition from Rolling Stone and other sources of music news.

Kaitlin Butts

Kaitlin Butts is riding positive momentum in 2022. Mackenzie Ryan

On the same day the album was released, Rolling Stone said this about the title track: “Kaitlin Butts’ newly released ‘What Else Can She Do’ makes a strong case that she ought to be positioned somewhere between Miranda Lambert or Kacey Musgraves at country’s vanguard — an Oklahoma native with a big, malleable voice and the songwriting skills to match.”

Billboard said Butts’ new album “highlights her voice at its most powerful and chilling.”

Momentum began building before the album’s release when Butts was one of seven artists spotlighted in a US Cellular “Locally Grown, Locally Live” nationwide campaign.

Kaitlin Butts

“What Else Can She Do” is Kaitlin Butts’ second full-length studio album.

“What Else Can She Do” is Butts’ second full-length studio album and her first since 2015’s “Same Hell, Different Devil.”

The new album’s tracks tell the stories of women — those who are lost, struggling, angry and scared, but who remain resilient through it all.

“I don’t think that life is all that pretty sometimes, and it comes with pain and pushing through hard times, being stagnant, going through the motions, not knowing what to do or just being flat out angry with whatever life has put on your plate," Butts said in a news release about the album.

“I see myself in all of these women in these stories. I see these women in my friends and family all around me going through divorce, abuse, infidelity, financial instability, addiction, generational trauma, family issues and life-altering tough times, but somehow are still resilient and come out on the other side okay. I hope this album makes you feel seen and comforts you in times of darkness. Know you are never alone and it won’t always be this way.”

Butts said each song on the album is like a different movie in her head. She shared the visuals by way of a series of lyric videos that were released in May.

For more information and for upcoming tour dates, go to kaitlinbutts.com.

Corey Kent

You knew him as Corey Kent White when he was coached by Blake Shelton on “The Voice.”

Now you can call him Corey Kent, music artist with a No. 1 song.

Kent’s “Wild as Her” went to the top spot on Apple Music’s Country Streaming chart earlier this year. It’s from his album “‘21,” which was released in December 2021 and debuted at No. 4 on the U.S. Spotify chart.

Corey Kent

Corey Kent will be among performers at the 2022 Born & Raised Music Festival. 

Kent told social media followers in April that he had his best year of touring last year by self-booking, and he announced that he is partnering with Nate Towne and Hayley Riddle at William Morris Endeavor to take it to the next level. They are working in collaboration with his Triple 8 Management team.

Want to see for yourself what Corey Kent is all about? He’s performing Sept. 18 at the Born & Raised Music Festival in Pryor. He posted this on social media after the performance roster was announced: “Only thing cooler than playing a festival called Born & Raised Music Festival less than a hour away from where you were born and raised, is moving from the spotlight stage last year to one of the main stages this year.”

Corey Kent White

Corey Kent performs at Cain’s Ballroom in 2016.

To read more about him, go to coreykentofficial.com.


Tulsa World Magazine summer edition

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Scene Writer

I cover pop culture and work as a feature writer at the Tulsa World. A former Oklahoma sports writer of the year, I have written books about former OU coach Barry Switzer and former OSU coach Pat Jones. Phone: 918-581-8389

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