With the Country Music Awards (CMA’s) taking place on November 8, we got inspired to uplift some Country music artists with Asian American & Pacific Islander heritage. From the witty social media savvy of Alison Nichols and Samica to the genre-bending charm of acts like Gabe Lee and Maoli, here are just a few of the artists putting their unique stamp on the ever-evolving genre of country music.
Hailing from Adair, Oklahoma, Cody Hibbard “grew up running and working on the family farm with dreams that spread across the horizon”. He picked up the guitar in campgrounds working as a pipeliner, inspired by his fellow blue collar workers and running the back roads of the country. After releasing his first single “Half Whiskey Half Lonely” in 2019, Cody has since released two EP’s and toured extensively with his biggest tracks “Ice Cold Therapy”, “Armed and Dangerous”, and “The Truth”.
Filipino American country pop artist Travis Atreo got his start in Seattle indie-rock band New Heights before moving to LA and establishing himself as a producer. All the while, he continued creating, releasing hundreds of cover songs, EP’s, and albums before returning to his own music in the genre that was his “first love”, country. His first full-length album, My Country, was released in October 2023. He’s also the founder of Fanded, a crowdfunding platform that allows fans and superfans to invest in the projects of their favorite independent artists.
Cheekily self-describing as “half korean, half redneck, 100% american”, Alison Nichols’ witty charm and clever lyrics have led her to TikTok stardom. She’s got her finger on the pulse of what it means to be a social media aware artist and is a regular at the Song Suffragettes round at the Listening Room Cafe in Nashville.
Maui’s beloved “Country-Reggae” group Maoli is heralded as one of Polynesia's #1 commercial recording artists, and has been credited with over 21 #1 Regional Island Reggae Hits. Since their debut in 2007, the group has been steadily on the rise, and has developed their unique sound by fusing the elements of Country, R&B, Soul, Acoustic, Rock and roll, and Reggae.
A first-generation Indian American, Samica was raised in a musical house. Though surrounded by traditional South Asian music at home, she was heavily influenced by listening to Top 40 radio, and began writing songs at a very young age. Samica’s latest EP, Laurel Canyon, aims for an organic alternative pop-country sound, drawing inspiration from Amy Winehouse and artists from the 70’s like Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, and Stevie Nicks.
Equal parts classic songwriter and modern-day storyteller, Gabe Lee has built his own bridge between country, folk and rock. Lee began collecting stories as a bartender and honed his narrative skills through degrees in literature and journalism, eventually penning albums like Farmland, Honky-Tonk Hell, The Hometown Kid, and his most recent release Drink the River. Raised by Taiwanese parents in Nashville, TN, he’s played with fellow genre-bending artists like Jason Isbell and Los Lobos, and aims to unite through his music; as his bio states, “Lee isn't just writing songs about himself; he's writing songs about all of us. And maybe, in doing so, he can bring us a little closer together.”
AJ Lee & Blue Summit
AJ Lee & Blue Summit made their first appearance in Santa Cruz in 2015. Led by singer, songwriter, and mandolinist, AJ Lee, the bluegrass band has performed all over the world, but finds home in California’s Bay Area. In 2019, they released their debut album, Like I Used To. Their second full length project, I’ll Come Back, came out August 2021, with national touring in support of the record ongoing. Drawing from influences such as country, soul, swing, rock, and jam music, the band uses the lens of bluegrass as a vessel through which to express and explore the thread that binds and unifies all great music.
Made up of Daniel Kim Ethridge and siblings Brenna and Eli Wheeler, Troubadour Blue marries the motifs of modern bluegrass with the poeticism found in Nashville’s songwriting scene. Their focus is on creating songs that tip their hat to classic country writing while incorporating modern influences, and after becoming fixtures at the Bluebird Cafe, securing sync placements, and touring in support of the GRAMMY Winning band The SteelDrivers, they’re set to release their debut album in the Spring of 2024.