Breaking Big: 5 new artists to hear now
Get to know Kyle, Sigrid, Lillie Mae Rische, White Reaper, and Luke Combs.
Who’s topping the charts, going viral, and ruling our earbuds? Each month, EW’s introducing the freshest music talent you have to hear now. Below, get to know Kyle, Sigrid, Lillie Mae Rische, White Reaper, and Luke Combs.
Who: The California rapper behind the breakout hit “iSpy” sees himself as a part of a movement of feel-good hip-hop that includes artists like his friend and collaborator Chance the Rapper (“Next time I see him we’re going to make a banger for the youth,” Kyle tells EW); “Broccoli” star D.R.A.M. (whose hit serving of veggies “iSpy” sometimes draws comparisons to); and oddball MC Lil Yachty (who’s featured on “iSpy”). “The world is in a weird place right now, and with so many negative things [happening], you don’t want to turn on some negative music,” the 23-year-old born Kyle Harvey says. “A lot of us are just making positive music right now. That’s how hip-hop started: It was fun! We were dancing, we were wearing bright colors. We’re taking it back to that.”
Claim to Fame: Last month, “iSpy” cracked the Hot 100’s Top 10 — not bad for a song he never intended to put on his upcoming third album. It was just a little something to tide fans over, but his followers evidently had other plans. “I owe that song an apology,” Kyle says. “I called the song a throwaway in the song. That’s crazy!” Even crazier? The song was already racking up tens of millions of streams on Spotify before he signed a major-label deal with Atlantic Records. Says Kyle: “That song was like, ‘I don’t need nobody’s help! I’m just gon’ be a hit!’”
What’s Next: Expect his forthcoming album to offer more of the genre-bending approach he showcased on his 2015 LP Smyle, which touched on everything from dizzying house beats to groovy soul. “I try to make things as versatile as possible,” he says. “Usually you have to listen to one artist for a certain vibe, and another artist to catch the next vibe. I want to make an album that has all of that in there.” His to-do list for 2017 also has plenty of non-musical goals: “I definitely gotta do something for awesome for my mom. Oh, and I gotta beat the new Final Fantasy that just came out. I played it a little, but I have not gotten remotely close to scratching the surface.”
Key Track: “iSpy,” which now has more than a 150 million streams on Spotify. —Nolan Feeney
Who: With a voice that can move from sweet to snarling instantaneously, this Norwegian singer excels at writing explosive, piano-driven alt-pop anthems about friendships and relationships gone sour. Every track on her upcoming EP could be a single — a remarkable batting average for such a new artist. The 20-year-old credits her habit of writing every song acoustically at the piano before experimenting with the bells and whistles of the studio. “If you start with the production, I find it quite easy to think that we don’t need much of a melody,” she says. “But when you’re at the piano, it’s so naked. You need to have a good topline to keep the attention. That’s what I like about the piano: It’s so vulnerable, so you have to be 100 percent honest.”
Claim to Fame: Sigrid started taking piano lessons from her grandmother at age 7, but it wasn’t until her teen years that she wrote her first song, at the behest of a family member. “My brother forced me,” she says with a laugh. His band was playing a show in her hometown, and he allowed Sigrid to perform one song during their set as long as it was an original. When she submitted that song to the Norwegian equivalent of BBC Introducing — a program devoted to discovering new and unsigned talent — Sigrid quickly found herself getting played on national radio and fielding record-deal offers. Until that point, she had plans to go to law school, but Sigrid says her parents encouraged her to pursue music: “They told me, ‘You should try music because you’re going to regret it if you don’t.’”
What’s Next: Her upcoming EP, due in May, continues the sound of her debut single “Don’t Kill My Vibe” while showing off her artistic range: the stormy beat of “Plot Twist,” for instance, was inspired by Sigrid’s love of grime and trap music.
Key Track: “Don’t Kill My Vibe,” her empowering first single, was inspired by a disastrous studio session with some mean-spirited collaborators. “This song for me is mostly about how I didn’t have the nerve to speak up for myself,” Sigrid says. —N.F.
Who: The Illinois-bred fiddler has played in family bands since childhood — she and her three siblings put out an album as Jypsi in 2008 — but it was her collaboration with madcap rocker Jack White that threw her onto the main stage.
Claim to Fame: Being the ace string player in White’s band is hardly a reputation to sneeze at and Rische speaks highly of spending the last several years trekking the globe with him. “[That] was a really unique experience and really the first time I’d been on my own in life,” she tells EW. “I learned a lot and I believe it set me up with a lot of material to work with.”
What’s Next: White is on hiatus from his own material, but he’s still hitting the studio: He produced Rische’s solo debut, Forever and Then Some, out April 14. “It made sense,” she says of the creative partnership. “I really loved playing with him and admire his singing, writing, musicianship, and the way he does things.” She brought her fervor, a gorgeous swath of Appalachian tones, and some VIP guests — Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Dead Weather), Ian Craft (The Howlin’ Brothers), Cory Younts (Old Crow Medicine Show), and more — to the rootsy set. “Music has always been a profession, since I was three, and it’s always fun. I’m looking forward to the next chapter and, hopefully, touring tons and tons!”
Key Track: “Over The Hill and Through the Woods,” a stomping lament for a restless heart. —Madison Vain
Who: Louisville quartet White Reaper now plays crunchy garage-rock tunes best heard with a beer in hand at a poorly lit dive, but they got their start in a more wholesome setting. “I met [keyboardist] Ryan [Hater] when I was in second grade; our parents brought us to the same church,” frontman Tony Esposito tells EW. “Ryan and I even played in the church band!” Esposito and Hater linked up with twins Nick and Sam Wilkerson as preteens and eventually began playing shows at Louisville’s now-defunct all-ages venue Skull Alley, which closed in late 2010.
Claim to Fame: Their 2015 debut, the snarkily titled White Reaper Does It Again, immediately cemented White Reaper as one of rock’s best — and scrappiest — rising bands. In winking acknowledgement of the praise, their second album, released earlier this month, is named The World’s Best American Band. Esposito cites a bevy of “classic rock radio” influences, including Van Halen, The Cars, and Blondie, as shaping the record.
What’s Next: Along with Jay Som and PWR BTTM, White Reaper is part of an epic slate of spring releases from indie label Polyvinyl. They’re touring North America all summer, making stops at both small clubs and festivals like Bonnaroo.
Key Track: “Little Silver Cross,” a vintage blast of ’80s pop-rock. —Eric Renner Brown
Who: The 27-year-old North Carolinian began making music as a student at Appalachian State University after a hallmate gifted him Eric Church’s 2009 album Carolina — and, like the Chief, he got started as a performer on the local bar and restaurant circuit. Combs self-released his debut EP, The Way She Rides, while still enrolled, but when it sold 10,000 copies in its first week, he tells EW he realized he had “reached the pinnacle of what kind of success I could have in North Carolina.”
Claim to Fame: Combs eventually signed to Columbia Nashville, who let him keep the album he’d already written and cut and catapulted him to his first major hit: If you’ve listened to country radio, you’ve heard Combs, who scored his first hit on the format early this year with his moody rocker “Hurricane.” The song currently sits at No. 11 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
What’s Next: The singer is currently opening Brantley Gilbert’s massive tour and he’ll perform at major festivals like Bonnaroo. Plus, his debut LP, The One’s For You, comes out June 2. He chose the album’s name as an homage to his tobacco country roots and the title track’s opening line admits, “There’s a couple people that I owe a beer to/and three or four that I owe more than a few. Combs hopes the people who’ve supported him along the way know it’s his thank you. “I want people to know that, yeah, I’m the guy on the front of the CD, but so many people got me to this point,” he says. “My parents have been mega-supportive of me since I dropped out of college with 21 credits left — I mean, what parents would support that? And my friends have always come to my shows and bought tickets because they knew, when I was starting out, that’s how I made money.”
Key Track: “Hurricane,” an open-hearted rocker that embraces the chaos of falling head over heels. —M.V.
For more emerging artists, revisit EW’s March slate of Breaking Bigs.