The big names need no introduction: Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, and Tim McGraw will draw the biggest crowds of Tortuga 2016. But it’s the little guys, the wildcard acts at the massive, annual country-music beach party, that will provide the surprise thrills. Though most are relative newcomers, several of the artists on this list, including Cam, Muddy Magnolias, and Ryan Hurd, have experience singing and/or writing for huge stars. Their names might not be familiar yet, but these eight acts sure as hell know how to put on a good show.
Complete Tortuga Music Festival Schedule
8. Randy Houser. 5:30 p.m. Friday, Tortuga Stage. The music video for Randy Houser’s “We Went” follows a pair of Bonnie and Clyde-like lovers as they steal from the less deserving and hand out cash to a church and later a struggling single mother. The film and the song combine the two worlds that Houser occupies, the sometimes-sensitive, always manly arena-rock country and the Jamey Johnson, Merle Haggard-led outlaw country. Having written for the likes of Trace Adkins, Houser didn’t see his own work top the charts until 2013, when he was in his mid-30s, with “How Country Feels.” This late-blooming honky-tonk crooner has enjoyed a series of number-ones, continuing his ascent with the recently released Fired Up.
7. Cam. 1:30 p.m. Friday, Tortuga Stage. After a star-making performance at this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards, Cam (born Camaron Marvel Ochs) won’t be flying under the radar much longer. She performed an acoustic version of her single “Burning House” and blew the crowd away. The 31-year-old California native and former Miley Cyrus songwriter satisfies the hunger for pop-country outside of the boys club that makes up the headliners. With a sound that’s a mix of Dolly Parton and Katy Perry and a genre-bending debut LP, Untamed, Cam is on the threshold of superstardom.