The five nominees for the 2012 CMA New Artist of the Year award reached their current levels of fame in very different ways. Thompson Square might be the only true “new artist,” meaning an act that was previously unheard of before releasing a smash debut album. The others are no less deserving, however. This is an interesting category that will be fun to watch on Nov. 1. Who do you think will win the New Artist of the Year award at the 2012 CMAs?

Lee Brice has been around for over five years, but the songs from his new album ‘Hard 2 Love’ are just now making him a household name. Hunter Hayes was a musical prodigy everyone expected to be as successful as he’s become, and he hasn’t disappointed. Love and Theft are enjoying a second go-round, and just released their best album to date. And Brantley Gilbert just might be the most exciting live show in country music.

Who will win? Below is a case for all five nominees, as well as our prediction. Vote for who you’re pulling for in the readers poll below, and be sure to offer an opinion as to why before moving on to vote for the next category.

Lee Brice: The echoes of ‘Love Like Crazy’ will help Brice in this category. While he’s released two Top 5 singles — including the chart-topping ‘A Woman Like You’ — in 2011-2012, his entire body of work will at least subconsciously be taken into account. He’s got a longer resume than anyone in this category. That could work for or against him.

Brantley Gilbert: Gilbert is red-hot, with back-to-back No. 1 singles that went gold. He’s had the most radio success of the group, and fans give up their sanity to see him play live. If the Georgia-born singer was better in front of a camera or microphone, this award would be a n0-brainer, but there are some voters who may be quietly unaware of him still.

Hunter Hayes: Like Gilbert, Hayes is a superstar in waiting. He is a charmer on camera, and his song ‘Wanted’ is arguably deserving of country hardware of its own. The young singer is selling singles like bottles of water in the desert, and after just one year, has landed a plum spot opening for Carrie Underwood. He makes a strong argument for engraving his name on the trophy.

Love and Theft: While Love and Theft released a wonderful sophomore album in 2012, the songs haven’t yet saturated the radio. Fans — and voters — know ‘Angel Eyes,’ but may not know the deliciousness that is ‘Runnin’ Out of Air.’ ‘Angel Eyes’ was a No. 1 hit however, and it went gold for 500,000 singles sold.

Thompson Square: This duo was nominated for the award in 2011, but they were squished between stars like Luke Bryan and Chris Young. That made it tough for them to gain momentum, but they may have been more deserving then with the success of ‘Are You Gonna Kiss More or Not’ still fresh on voters’ minds. In 2012, they’ve released only one single, the Top 20 ‘Glass.’

Our Prediction: The 2012 CMA Awards will mark the arrival of Hunter Hayes. He is the type of star voters — industry voters, not fan voters, remember — look for to begin a new generation of country music. Bad boy Brantley Gilbert is equally as deserving, but it has historically taken artists on independent labels a little longer to gain traction.

More From My Country 95.5