Top of the Country

NL’s own rising stars Chris Ryan and Jason Benoit are among the nine finalists of the national SiriusXM Top of the Country competition


Two Newfoundlanders are among the nine semi-finalists for the inaugural SiriusXM Top of the Country Competition. 

Nine country music artists were selected from across the country – three from the western, central and eastern regions – with a nation-wide fan vote to determine the final three. The three finalists open for a headliner during The CCMA’s Country Music Week, where the Top of the Country will be chosen to take home $25,000 and a SOCAN songwriting camp in Pender Island, B.C. Additionally, the three finalists will receive stage spots this summer at the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta, the Cavendish Beach Music Festival in Prince Edward Island or a SiriusXM sponsored major festival in Ontario.

 Top Nine

No stranger to local country music fans, Chris Ryan and Jason Benoit have been selected as two thirds of the eastern bracket of the top nine, and will battle it out with Shawn Austin, Kristin Carter, Leaving Thomas, Andrew Hyatt, Cory James Mitchell,  The Redhill Valleys and Ian Janes to see who makes it to the final three. 

“It’s an honour to be named to the top nine,” Ryan shared with The Herald. “If I go top three, that’s incredible, but the best thing about being in the company that I’m in is if I don’t make the top three then that means somebody that I know and respect as an artist and a person will be in there.”

“It’s amazing. Just to be recognized by such an incredible company as SiriusXM, CCMA,” adds Benoit. “It’s pretty awesome anytime you’re involved with something of that caliber.” 

The fact that two of the nine finalists are from Newfoundland and Labrador is an indictment on just how strong our country music pedigree is presently, a fact not lost on either Ryan or Benoit. 

‘Canada’s Nashville’

“I often tell people who ask me what Nashville is like. I say you know what? Newfoundland is Canada’s Nashville. There’s so much talent there,” Ryan says. 

“The fact that two out of nine people in this entire country came from one province, with such a small population compared to out central or out west is amazing. Everyone typically does think about the west when they think about country music. There’s a lot going on here.”

Though the fact that two Newfoundlanders will vie for the votes of their home province did cause a bit of humour with the pair. “Chris Ryan is a good dude,” Benoit says. “I’ve known him for awhile and it’s all fun. At the end of the day a little bit of friendly competition is always exciting.”

Both men acknowledge the opportunity before them to make a major leap towards country music super-stardom. And while both have made significant gains in their respective careers in recent years, you can’t put a price on the publicity and potential fan attention such a competition could bring. 

‘A Great Opportunity’

“It’s always a work in progress,” Benoit says. “I have been fortunate enough to release some songs that have charted well. It’s an ongoing process to always keep up with the fans that you have and to meet new fans. It’s a great way to reach out to new fans and put your music out to people who may not have heard it before. It’s a great opportunity, and especially working with other great artists across the country.” 

The semi-final voting runs from May 17 to June 6. Canadians are invited to vote once per day for their favourites. With a bit of local bias, The Herald wishes both Ryan and Benoit the best in the weeks ahead!

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