NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Cumulus Media, #1 for country and radio’s dominant source for country music, announced tonight the NASH Next 2016 Challenge artist development competition named singer Todd O’Neill from Hammond, LA, the grand prize winner. The final competition event took place at Mercy Lounge in Nashville with live performances from the Top 10 national finalists and a special performance from Trent Harmon, Season 15 Winner of FOX’s American Idol. The finals event showcased up-and-coming country talent discovered through this one-of-a-kind national grassroots talent search and artist development program for country music sponsored nationally by Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM.
Todd O’Neill will receive national radio airplay on Cumulus Media radio stations, a recording contract with Big Machine Label Group and will have an original song produced by Jay DeMarcus, one third of supergroup Rascal Flatts. As a surprise addition to the grand prize package, Country Inns & Suites presented Todd O’Neill with a cash prize of $5,000.
From roady to winning the NASH Next 2016 Challenge, Todd O’Neill often thinks of his father, a Vietnam Vet whom he lost at a young age, which forced him to learn how to take care of himself and discover a passion for music. Todd’s influences are music legends Merle Haggard and Otis Redding and newer artists Chris Stapleton and Marc Broussard and his personal sound is pure Louisiana soul.
“This entire NASH Next experience has been amazing and I’m excited for the next chapter,” said O’Neill. “I just feel so blessed and truly thankful to my fans for supporting me over the years.”
The winner of the NASH Next 2016 Challenge was selected by a celebrity panel of some of the biggest names in country music, including Scott Borchetta, founder, president and CEO of Big Machine Label Group, the world’s No. 1 independent record label and home to superstar artists including Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw; Kix Brooks, half of Grammy-winning duo Brooks & Dunn, country music’s most successful duo of all time, and host of Westwood One’s American Country Countdown; Jay DeMarcus of CMA Awards Vocal Group of the Year nominee Rascal Flatts, with 16 No. 1 singles, and Danielle Bradbery, Season 4 Winner of NBC’s The Voice. These panelists were joined by fan judge, Rick Smith.
Mike McVay, Senior Vice President, Content and Programming for Cumulus Media and Westwood One said: “Radio leads the way when it comes to music discovery. NASH Next 2016 Challenge genuinely discovers new artists, enables all of the contestants to be heard and allows the winners to take advantage of an amazing opportunity to be produced by a Grammy nominee. The listeners and the fans of the artists rated our 10 finalists. The judges made the final pick based on performance. The winners are all of us because we now get to enjoy the newly launched career of Todd O’Neill.”
“One of the things we always look for at Big Machine Label Group is individuality and Todd has that,” said Borchetta. “We are really looking forward to all that is to come from him.”
“We are proud to host NASH Next 2016 Challenge and would like to congratulate all of the finalists, including tonight’s winner Todd O’Neill,” said Dan Sweiger, Vice President, Brand Marketing, Country Inns & Suites. “At Country Inns & Suites we love music that’s fresh, genuine and from the heart and we are honored to help NASH Next highlight some of the best new talent out there.”
Cumulus’ NASH Next 2016 Challenge pays tribute to the great tradition of radio as a launch pad for our most beloved musical talent and celebrates country music, the most popular music genre in the United States with almost 100 million fans. While television boasts several talent competitions, no other contest — on any platform — has ever offered its winner the opportunity for coveted radio airplay, which is the most effective medium to cultivate an artist and propel a major music career. And with Cumulus’ country programming broadcasting on almost 85% of all country radio stations nationwide, that opportunity is huge and unprecedented.
To sample Todd O’Neil’s music, as well as hear songs and watch music videos from all of the Top 10 finalists, please visit: www.nashnext2016.com.
About the NASH Next 2016 Challenge
The four-month-long NASH Next 2016 Challenge national grassroots talent and artist development competition was announced in July by country legend Reba McEntire. 68 NASH/Cumulus stations in 60 markets, including Dallas, New York, Atlanta, Detroit and Nashville, conducted local searches for emerging artists, with additional national participation made possible through Cumulus’ digital properties and syndicated country shows. Cumulus listeners and local music industry professionals first judged the emerging artists. Local artists entered the competition via the NASH Next 2016 Challenge website (www.nashnext2016.com) and were judged on three challenges by local music industry professionals, as well as listeners in their communities. First asked to submit an original song, contestants then adapted a popular song with a new style. In September, NASH stations hosted local live events and virtual events featuring video performances of each contestant’s original song. The Top 10 national finalists were selected from the live video challenge and judged by top record executives and music industry professionals. The live finals event was held at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville on October 25, 2016, from 7-10pm, where the grand prize winner was selected by a celebrity panel of some of the biggest names in country music and a fan judge.