There are new artists to watch, and then there are RISERS — the most exciting up-and-comers in country music. This week Taste of Country will begin a process to name the acts poised to explode in 2017.

What does it mean to be named a Taste of Country RISER? Never before have new country artists been given the kind of attention and support this yearlong program brings. We'll be showing you exclusive interviews and performances with each of these hot new acts, featuring them at major country music festivals, and showcasing them on the Taste of Country Nights radio show.

How do we pick the acts? (Put aside the fact that we've got an impeccable track record for spotting new talent: Sam Hunt topped our 2014 Artists to Watch list before he signed a record deal. Chris Lane came the next year. Maren Morris was featured long before she graced Saturday Night Live's stage.) We assembled an expert advisory committee — made up of radio programmers, talent bookers, managers, streaming service providers and digital media members — to guide our editorial team in selecting the members of RISERS' inaugural class. After much deliberation, we whittled down a list of several dozens of sought-after country newcomers to nine acts we believe deserve to have their music break through in a big way in 2017.

And we're leaving the last spot up to you.

Voting begins today (Jan. 16) for what we're calling the Hot Seat —an entirely fan-decided poll to elect a final artist into this year's RISERS. Fans can vote once every four hours between now and Jan. 23, 2017 at 11:59PM ET. And don't forget to share your vote on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #tocHotSeat.

The full list of RISERS will be revealed on March 1. We hope you're as excited as we are to get to know these incredible new performers — and to make some dreams come true in the process. Now get to voting!

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