Zach Bryan, Jelly Roll, Megan Moroney: Country music’s new breakout stars at the CMT Awards

Jelly Roll, Megan Moroney, Zach Bryan, Bailey Zimmerman and Chayce Beckham are among country music’s biggest breakout stars at the 2024 CMT Music Awards Sunday night.

With three nominations each, Jelly Roll and Moroney are in a five-way tie for the most CMT nods, along with Lainey Wilson, Cody Johnson and Kelsea Ballerini, who is hosting the fan-voted awards show for the fourth year in a row. 

Jelly Roll’s 2023 hit “Need a Favor” earned the singer three nominations for video of the year, male video of the year and CMT performance of the year. Moroney was nominated for female video of the year for her song “I’m Not Pretty,” collaborative video of the year for “Can’t Break Up Now” with Old Dominion and digital-first performance of the year for “I’m Not Pretty” from CMT Digital Campfire Sessions.

zach bryan jelly roll megan moroney

Zach Bryan, Jelly Roll and Megan Moroney are among the rising country artists competing for awards at the 2024 CMTs. (Getty)

Bryan and “American Idol” winner Beckham are among the 14 first-time nominees. Bryan is up for male video of the year for “Nine Ball” and breakthrough male video of the year for “Oklahoma Smokeshow.”


Beckham is also in the running for breakthrough male video of the year after receiving a nomination for his debut single “23.”

Zimmerman will compete for male video of the year after picking up a nod for his hit “Religiously” from his 2023 debut album of the same name.

The ceremony will air live from Austin, Texas’ Moody Center on Sunday at 8p.m. ET/PT on CBS and is available to stream live and on-demand on Paramount+. 

Ahead of the star-studded show, here’s a look at five artists who are leading country music into the future.

Jelly Roll

Jelly Roll smiles during a panel

Jelly Roll’s 2023 hit “Need a Favor” earned the singer three nominations for video of the year, male video of the year and CMT performance of the year. (Getty Images)

Jelly Roll, born Jason DeFord, is making his return to the CMT stage after emerging triumphant with three wins at the 2023 ceremony.

The 39-year-old singer’s “Son of a Sinner” swept each of its nominated categories last year, winning male video of the year, male breakthrough video of the year and digital-first performance of the year. 

On April 1, CMT announced that Jelly Roll, Ballerini, Johnson, Wilson, Ashley McBryde and HARDY were the six finalists for the awards show’s top prize, video of the year. Jelly Roll will also serve as a presenter at the CMTs alongside stars such as Gayle King, Melissa Etheridge and Carly Pearce.

Jelly Roll rose to fame with his song “Save Me,” which was released in 2020 during the pandemic and quickly went viral. A year later, he made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry and notched his first No. 1 song on country radio with “Son of a Sinner” in 2023.

In November, Jelly Roll picked up new artist of the year at the CMA Awards. He earned his first Grammy Award nominations for best new artist and best country duo/group performance with Lainey Wilson at the 2024 awards show.

jelly roll at the cmt awards

The singer won all three of his nominated categories last year. (Rick Kern/Getty Images)

Before his rise to the top of the country music scene, he overcame a troubled past that included addiction struggles and time in prison for aggravated robbery and possession with intent to sell. 

“I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it wasn’t for what I went through. I think it empowered me. I think it gave me my voice,” he told Fox News Digital during the 2023 CMAs. “It taught me a lot about overcoming. It taught me a lot about changing and the ability to change. 

He continued, “I was a horrible human for decades, and to just be able to turn that around and give a message in the music and help people… and just try to give back as much as I can in every way I can is very indicative of where I came from and how important it is to me to always reach back.”


Jelly Roll’s music was inspired by a blend of country and folk artists, like Johnny Cash, Bob Seger and James Taylor, as well as Three 6 Mafia and hip-hop duo UGK.

“I would say that initially I did it as a means of therapy,” he told “Popcast (Deluxe).” “I didn’t think you could make money from it at all. I didn’t think that was an option.” 


At the CMT Awards in March 2023, Jelly Roll told Fox News Digital about his work to bring music to jails in Tennessee through a program called Impact Youth Outreach.

“It’s become an annual charity for us,” he said. “What we’re going to do for at-risk youth in Nashville, I’ve got a five-year plan that’s going to blow people’s minds.”

Ahead of the 2024 CMT Awards, Jelly Roll told Fox News Digital that his success still surprises him. 

“Even now, I still have the moments,” he said.  “Even coming back to my second CMT, I expected to pull up and have a little bit of like, ‘I’m back.'”

“When I pulled up, I was like, ‘I am here again?’ I was like, ‘Who was in charge of this thing?” Jelly Roll continued with a laugh. “How do I keep slipping through the cracks around here?”


Megan Moroney

megan moroney

Megan Moroney is also heading into the night with three nominations. (Terry Wyatt/Getty Image)

One of the 2024 CMT Awards’ leading nominees, Moroney previously won for female breakthrough of the year for her debut single “Tennessee Orange” at the 2023 award show. 

The 26-year-old singer will give two performances during Sunday night’s ceremony. Moroney will perform her ballad “No Caller ID,” which was released in January. She will also join fellow nominee Old Dominion to perform “Can’t Break Up Now.”

Last year, Moroney also received a nomination for CMT digital-first performance of the year for “Tennessee Orange.”

During a March 2023 interview with Fox News Digital, Moroney reflected on which singer-songwriters had inspired her on her country music journey.

“Well, I think like from a songwriting aspect, I always love Kacey Musgraves… Miranda Lambert,” Moroney said, adding that the “If I Was a Cowboy” singer was one of her “musical influences.”

Moroney also had kind words for Carrie Underwood, who she said has a “very creative mind.”

“I think that she probably is behind a lot of that stuff, which I think is important as an artist,” Moroney said about the work that goes into designing a music video and a performance, noting that the CMT awards are “centered around videos.”

megan moroney at cmt awards

Moroney won for female breakthrough of the year for her debut single “Tennessee Orange” at the 2023 award show. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for CMT)

“I’m assuming she has a lot to do with how everything looks, and it feels very her. So, I think that comes across as authentic,” she added.

“I am very involved in all the video and visuals,” Moroney added of her own music.

She noted that her father, who taught her to play the guitar when she was a kid, was another influence, adding that he helped her learn to pay attention to music and lyrics.

“He never pushed it on me, but he loved music so much that it was kind of like, ‘Hey, wouldn’t hate if you picked up a guitar,'” she said.

While speaking with Fox News Digital, Moroney also weighed in on fan speculation that “Tennessee Orange” might be about Morgan Wallen, who is a blue-eyed Tennessean like the man she sings about in the song. The two previously sparked romance rumors.

“I have officially decided that the song is about whoever you’d like to think the song’s about. That is my final answer,” Moroney said.

“Tennessee Orange” also scored Moroney a nomination for song of the year at the 2023 Country Music Association Awards, where she was also nominated for new artist of the year. 

The songstress also received a nod for new female artist of the year at the 2023 Academy of Country Music Awards. 

Zach Bryan

zach bryan performing

First-time nominee Zach Bryan received two nods at the 2024 CMTs. (Christopher Polk/Billboard via Getty Images)

Zach Bryan served in the U.S. Navy for eight years before being honorably discharged in 2021 so he could pursue a career in country music. 

The 28-year-old singer made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry in April 2021 and later landed a record deal with Warner Bros. Music.

In 2022, Bryan made his breakthrough with the release of his third studio album “American Heartbreak,” which featured the hit single “Something in the Orange.”

Bryan earned his first Grammy Award nod after “Something In The Orange” was nominated for best solo country performance at the 2023 Grammys.


In May 2023, Bryan won new male artist of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards. He released his self-titled fourth studio album in August 2023. That September, the album became Bryan’s first release to top the Billboard 200 charts. 

The album featured his collaboration with Kacey Musgraves, “I Remember Everything,” which debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Bryan was later named Billboard’s top new artist of 2023.


At the 66th annual Grammy Awards in February, the Oklahoma native and Musgraves won the Grammy Award for best country duo/group performance for “I Remember Everything.” The duet was also nominated for best country song and Bryan’s album was nominated for country music album of the year.

Bailey Zimmerman

bailey zimmerman smiling on stage

Nominee Bailey Zimmerman will also perform at the show. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ACM)

In addition to competing for male video of the year, Bailey Zimmerman will also perform at the 2024 CMT Awards. 

At the 2023 CMTs, the 23-year-old singer was nominated for male breakthrough video of the year for “Fall in Love” and male video of the year for “Rock and a Hard Place.”

Zimmerman previously worked laying pipes for a gas company in West Virginia before finding fame with his music on TikTok. The Illinois native went viral in January 2021 after debuting his song “Never Back Down” on the social media platform.

In February 2022, Zimmerman released his debut single “Fall in Love,” which became his first number one song on the Country Airplay charts. He followed up with his second single “Rock and a Hard Place,” which also landed on the top spot on the Country Airplay charts, where it spent six weeks at number one before breaking into the Billboard Top 10.

Zimmerman made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry in November 2022. In May 2023, he released his debut album “Religiously,” which included the singles “Fall in Love” and “Rock and a Hard Place.”  Upon its release,”Religiously” broke the record for the most streamed debut country album of all-time.

In addition to his CMT nominations, Zimmerman also received a nod for new male artist of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards.


Chayce Beckham

chayce beckham performing

Former “American Idol” winner Chayce Beckham received his first CMT nomination this year. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Chayce Beckham, who is up for his first CMT Award, was crowned the season 19 winner of “American Idol” in May 2021.

While competing on the reality series, Beckham, 27, performed his autobiographical hit “23,” which went on to top iTunes’ country chart. Credited as the solo writer of “23,” Beckham became the first contestant on “American Idol” to win with an original song.

The win earned Beckham a contract with 19 Recordings/BMG, the same label behind former “Idol” winners turned stars Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. After the show, “American Idol” judge Luke Bryan became a mentor to Beckham, who is set to join the 47-year-old hitmaker on his upcoming “Mind of a Country Boy” Tour.

Earlier this week, “23” became Beckham’s first number one song on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. The song is the first single from his new album “Bad for Me,” which was released on Friday. During a press conference, Beckham and Bryan shared their reaction to the song’s success.


“What else could you ask for, you know? That song’s changed my life in a million different ways,” Beckham told ABC Audio. “It’s my first gold plaque. My first platinum plaque. I got to sing it at the Grand Ole Opry and got presented with that plaque, with my family and everybody who I love right there with me in attendance.”

“What else could anybody really ask for?” he added.

“The fact that he wrote ’23’ by himself, I think not since Taylor Swift in 2012 has [an] artist [written] a song by themselves that was the number-one song,” Bryan noted.

He continued, “There’s Chayce Beckham the artist and the singer. But then I’ve [gotten] to know him on so many other levels.”

“I think he’s just really taking this all in and really loving it. And his approach, his mental approach to this, is the way it ought to be.”


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