Elvie Shane recorded "My Boy" seven or eight times prior to finding the version that's becoming a hit at country radio. The song even went viral once, long before it started to form a silver lining around the cloud of the pandemic.

What's next, Shane admits, scares him. Or, at least, it scared him at one time. The ballad tells a stepfather's story of love and understanding in a way that's likely to bring tears to your eyes. It's specific and unique and presents a challenge when it's time to pivot to his next single. Talking to Taste of Country, Shane admits he didn't fully express his hesitation to his record label because he didn't want to stifle their enthusiasm for the song. Nine months after the release of "My Boy," he's glad he stayed quiet.

"All of my music," he starts, describing the mind-easing conclusion he came to, "comes from an honest place and is all based very strongly on true things that have happened in my life, whether it was how I grew up, where I grew up, love found, love lost."

Shane's new EP County Roads is the proof. Find a mix of influences from Steve Earle to AC/DC and the Allman Brothers Band. Essentially, he's learned to trust his stuff, or at least to trust the strong support network he's built around him, all of whom are telling him to lean heavily into "My Boy."

Calling from his home in Kentucky, Shane looked back over a year to how, just days before the COVID-19 shutdown, he squeaked out a meeting with Clarence Spalding, an all star manager in Nashville. Then he kind of settled in to prepare for what came next: Realizing his song "My Boy" was the perfect family song for a very challenging time in American life. A week before the song was slated to drop at radio, a video of a stepfather loving on his stepson went viral.

“It was just an image of love at its finest," the singer says. "And there was so much racial tension going on — I’m getting choked up thinking about it — it was just such a beautiful thing for that particular video to be the one that started this TikTok blow up.”

The song has become a soundtrack for similar relationships. Shane has seen hundreds of comments and been told countless stories about what the song means to country fans. A recent story about someone who used a version of "My Boy" as their father/daughter dance surprised him.

“For the all the negativity out there in the world on social media, the way that people have responded and used this song has proved that it can be used for a very good thing as well.”

Shane had been in Nashville for five years before he started to find tangible success. For two of those years, he was living without his family, seeing then as he could between shows and writing appointments. They all eventually moved to town, but the pandemic shutdown made the singer realize that family is more important than art, so they all hauled it back to Kentucky. It's a bold move for a new artist, but one that's more possible today than ever before.

"I’ve worked construction jobs in the past where I left on Sunday nights and drove five hours to Alabama to shovel gravel in a pipeline dish for four days a week," he says. "Why can’t I leave Kentucky for a few days to handle writes, meetings, whatever, instead of dragging my wife and son back and forth so I can have time with them while I’m trying to work?"

Shane, wife Mandi and their 14-year-old son are set to welcome a new addition in 2021: A baby girl will make a family of four. His Instagram page is a charming mix of personal and professional, curated for focus and accessibility. One could say the same about his County Roads EP.

Country Music's 10 Hottest Artists of 2021

The culmination of the annual Taste of Country Hot List is the 10 Hottest Country Artists list, a true measure of the songs, the tours and the intangibles, combined. Luke Combs was No. 1 in 2020, but he had trouble holding off a few artists for this year's list.

Just six of the 10 artists featured last year make the 2021 version — a collection that gets to consider touring plans and award achievements. We've had four new Entertainer of the Year of the Year winners in the past eight months, and three are featured below. One misses out for taking a year off the road and the radio, but we're confident she'll be back soon.

This list is an effort to combine and assess an artist's commercial success, fan appeal, touring demand and social media presence. Emphasis was placed on what's coming, not what has happened so far.

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