3 Rising Virginia Musicians

“It’s hard not to be inspired by Virginia,” says blues rock musician Michael Huntley, who goes by the stage name Huntley, winner of season 24 of The Voice. Huntley lives in Fredericksburg, though his success on The Voice in fall 2023 has propelled him to Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, and beyond. Out of all these places, Virginia stands out to the singer-songwriter. “There’s just something when you see that sky wrapping around the Blue Ridge Mountains that makes me want to play music.”

The musical inspiration of the state isn’t unique to Huntley; its history brimming with legendary artists who got their start on Virginia’s stages—from Ella Fitzgerald to the Dave Matthews Band,  Pat Benetar, and Cowboy Junkies. The foothills of the mountains and urban epicenters around Arlington and Richmond are breeding grounds for the soulful grooves and earnest melodies of future American classics. 

“Americana runs deep in Virginia, even if you don’t know that it’s an influence, 100 percent,” Huntley says. “It runs deep through your blood.”

A new era of Virginia-born music is on the rise, producing reality competition TV sensations like Huntley, as well as newcomers to the country, rock, and pop genres. NoVa band Massie presents a fresh take on rock, infused with edgy beats, pop influence, and a fun, feminine attitude. Country singer-songwriter Carrie Brockwell from Chesterfield is just 18 years old, already with an American Idol appearance and an array of EPs. Dive into the rhythms, backstories, and Virginia sonics behind the state’s must-know burgeoning artists of the moment.

Huntley

The humble homecoming hero.

With his signature whipping, waist-length blond braids, leather jacket, cowboy boots, and country-esque swagger that mimics the musical greats he’s always looked up to, Huntley is an enigma. He won The Voice with Niall Horan as his coach and made a name and look that precedes him, but stays true to his roots. The singer has a humility that makes him down-to-earth, approachable, and a lovable stage presence. 

He never expected to win the show, he says, “I mean, I’m 33 years old. I got the call making spaghetti dinner for my kids.” When he was leaving the competition, trophy in hand, knowing his life was about to change, he felt the real prize was the bonds and memories he made with other artists. Then, came the work ahead of him: “Winning really meant, ‘Are you ready?’”

Since his win, Huntley has performed in venues across the country and participated in writing sessions in Nashville. Though he can’t say much, he reports that “a lot of big things” are coming up for him. He carves out time for Virginia in his busy schedule, performing a homecoming concert in the surprisingly intimate venue of Billikens Smokehouse in Fredericksburg and making an appearance in Winchester’s Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in May.

Scan this code on your Spotify app to hear a new tune from Huntley.

Carrie Brockwell

Young talent. Big dreams.

“I’ve been singing ever since I can remember,” says Carrie Brockwell, a country singer-songwriter and recent graduate of Appomattox Regional Governor’s School in Petersburg. She’s chased her passion for singing with EP releases, TV appearances, and sold-out performances across Virginia all while balancing high school. “I can’t see myself doing anything else,” Brockwell says. 

She auditioned for American Idol as a high school sophomore, earning yeses from Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. Though Brockwell didn’t advance beyond the Golden Ticket to Hollywood, she returned with the know-how and confidence to kickstart a serious singing career. “Idol taught me so much about how to handle myself,” she says. Back at school, she skipped dances and football games to focus on writing and playing shows, but she says, “I don’t feel like I’m missing out, because I know that it’s pushing me forward.”

After graduating in the spring, Brockwell is now headed for Nashville, where Belmont University, exclusive writing rooms, and her dream venue, the Grand Ole Opry, await. “It’s like, ‘Dang, these dreams that I’ve had forever are actually coming true.’” In the meantime, she’s releasing songs regularly, including a ballad from May titled “Meant to Be,” telling the story of how “standing there with my guitar and a pen in my hand is where I feel like I’m meant to be,” Brockwell says.  

Scan this code on your Spotify app to hear a new tune from Carrie Brockwell.

Massie

Pop punk gets playful. 

The music of Massie, the spunky band trio from Reston, is something fresh. It’s “snarky-girlish,” according to drummer Samantha Collings, and it’s “pop-driven, melody-driven, and very playful, but there’s definitely elements of punk,” lead singer and guitarist Emily Yaremchuk says. 

The bubbly, tongue-in-cheek tunes are the product of what Collings calls her and Yaremchuk’s “same brain syndrome,” where Yaremchuk’s lyrics and melodies mesh with Collings’ carefully crafted harmonies. This songwriting partnership and friendship are foundational to the band, along with the friendship of third member and bassist Will Salzmann. The three are driven by their love for each other and for performing. “All three of us are ravenous to play music. Maybe to a fault,” Yaremchuk says. 

Massie released their second single on May 31, “Lost Mary,” accompanied by a music video. “With every song we record, we’re getting closer and closer to the identity that we see for ourselves,” Collings says. And as they add releases to their repertoire, they stay busy with shows throughout the DMV. As Massie’s progress amps up, the reasons for pursuing music remain consistent. 

“No matter what the show is or where we are, how we’re feeling, as soon as we start playing, that thrill will literally never go away,” Yaremchuk says. “Getting to play our songs and having even a single person come and enjoy it, that’s the core of what I want.”

Scan this code on your Spotify app to hear a new tune from Massie.

This article originally appeared in the August 2024 issue. 

Hope Cartwright
Hope Cartwright is associate editor of Virginia Living.
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