Taylor Swift officially left the country music world behind in Aug 2014 when she announced her first pop album "1989." But that hasn’t stopped the genre from clinging on to the singer even as recently as Sunday when Swift was awarded her 7th Songwriter/Artist of the Year Award at the 45th Nashville Songwriters Association’s annual gala dinner.
Both Swift and the country music industry remember all that the singer did for the genre. The 25-year-old’s songwriting skills left her with hit after hit and her tunes played on both country and pop radio stations, bringing thousands of new fans to country music.
"Taylor [is an artist] that broke through and crossed over into the mainstream," host and executive producer of "CMT After MidNite" and "CMT Radio Live" Cody Alan told FOX411 Country. "We have other artists [in country] that have done similar things…it all comes down to good music."
Who are those artists? Alan and head writer of Taste of Country Billy Dukes shared with FOX411 Country who the next Taylor Swift could be and if the "Blank Space" singer can be replaced.
1. Maddie & Tae
The duo took the country music world by storm with their refreshing first hit single "Girl in a Country Song" where they took on country music’s stereotyping of women. Maddie Marlow (left) and Tae Dye, both 20, appeal to a younger audience like Swift did, though they have a more traditional sound.
"I think their sound is so country that it’s a bit hard to see them crossing over and grabbing fans beyond country music fans," Dukes said. "They have a lot of those characteristics that Taylor has… but [their new single] ‘Shut up and Fish’ isn’t going to get played on [pop] radio, the video is not going to be on MTV."
2. Kelsea Ballerini
Newcomer Kelsea Ballerini already has Swift’s sign of approval. "Driving around with the @KelseaBallerini EP on repeat.. SO lovely:)," Swift shared on Twitter last March. The "Bad Blood" singer isn’t the only one who has taken note of Ballerini’s talent.
The 22-year-old’s debut single "Love Me Like You Mean It" went number one, making her one of only eleven solo female country artists to top the charts with a debut tune. It’s also been almost three years since a woman was number one on the Billboard country airplay chart. The singer has been compared to Swift by the media, not just for their shared long, blonde hair, but also for their ability to break records and write her own songs.
Dukes agreed saying, "The music is what’s going to drive her success. And her music can kind of transcend into that pop world on pop radio."
Alan added, "I think [Ballerini has] got incredible appeal, she’s obviously a lot like Taylor in that she’s this young, energetic voice with her own songs and her own heart that speaks to the Taylor fans. Her music speaks for itself and a great three-minute song is a great three-minute song. That’s what starts anything and everything for every artist including Taylor."
3. Kelly Clarkson
It might seem strange to suggest well-established pop star Kelly Clarkson be the one to fill Swift’s shoes, but the "Invincible" singer may be a good pick.
Clarkson has been ruling the world of pop music since she became the first winner of "American Idol." In the past couple of years, Clarkson has tested out her Texas roots by releasing duets with country stars and a few of her hits even made it onto country radio. The 33-year-old could expose her pop fans to the world of country music. However, her flip flopping between the genres may make some fans wary, Dukes warned.
"I wish Kelly Clarkson could commit to country music," Dukes said of the "American Idol" winner. "She straddles the fence and she still kind of won’t commit fully. She won’t be embraced by the country fans until she fully commits. We’re a very proud format and genre and we like to call people out when people are kind of indecisive, it works against them."
4. Sam Hunt
Sam Hunt has already made a name for himself as someone who is pushing the boundaries in country music. The football-player-turned-singer has been both criticized and praised for his pop, hip-hop and R&B influences on his debut album "Montevallo."
Like Swift, he receives attention by non-country award shows for his music. He is leading in the country genre for the top 2015 American Music Awards nominations. While his sound and style are nothing like the "Shake It Off" singer, Hunt is making noise in and out of the country music world.
"The next wave will likely not be like Taylor Swift," Alan explained. "I think we’re seeing that with Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett as well. Where you’ve got a sort of a fresh unique sound that’s coming out of Nashville now. I think that could very well. We’re witnessing right now who will replace Taylor and it could be something unexpected that we don’t know yet. That’s what makes it fun is that it’s not something that’s predictable."
5. Taylor Swift
Is the next Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift? Alan thinks she could be: "I honestly don’t think we’ve seen anything quite like Taylor before, she’s definitely unique and a standout and an international sensation and with longevity. Obviously she’s been able to maintain it for years and there’s no end in sight."
The CMT host said another Swift cannot simply be created, it’s "more about the natural wave of country music to create really unique sounds and artists."
Until Swift came around, country music didn’t feel the need for her, Alan explained. The next Swift will be something "that we don’t expect. Country music has come in waves of stars that break that you know plane of crossover, like Swift."
Dukes added that "it wouldn’t hurt" for there to be another Swift for country. "It certainly was good for the format when the biggest artist in the world called herself country."
He also suggested the possibility of Swift returning to the genre that built her. "She could produce a country album but we’ll see what kind of reaction she gets, if she’ll be embraced."