The North Texas music scene has always been known for its strength and versatility. From country-music legends like T Bone Burnett, Ray Price and Townes Van Zandt to bluesmen like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Ornette Coleman, the region has a history of shaping modern music. And the tradition hasn’t faded throughout the years. Folks like Maren Morris, Kirk Franklin, St. Vincent and Erykah Badu are constantly pushing the boundaries of genre and music making. Even our defunct bands — like Pantera, Dixie Chicks and Tripping Daisy — are still beloved around the world.
With all that in mind, it only makes sense that a new generation of artists is already making its mark in the region. And, no, I’m talking about established but still-rising musicians like the Texas Gentlemen, Bobby Sessions or Amanda Shires. I’m talking about the artists you’ve yet to hear about. Musicians who can’t even enter a bar without their parents, because they’re not old enough to buy a drink. Folks like AmericanaFest standout Frankie Leonie and the children of rock royalty — Oscar DeLaughter, for example, or Ruby Lewis of the band Ting Tang Tina.
Here’s our list of 20 artists under the age of 20 that you’ll want to see before buying tickets will cost you half a month’s rent.
Intimate, dreamy, sometimes haunting: Those are the words that come to mind when listening to 18-year-old Amari Amore’s most recent EP, Complications. The four-track effort showcases Amore’s guitar and vocals, hypnotizing listeners with spacious production and thoughtful lyrics about self-discovery. Like several artists on this list, Amore is a graduate of Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. And it shows. She’s currently studying Music Performance at UNT. (Did somebody just say “Norah Jones“?)
Dallas musician Sophia Annello started playing music at age 7. By 13, she was writing her own songs and booking shows. Now she’s 18, and more than a million people have viewed her music videos on Facebook and YouTube; the title track of her 2018 release Runaway has even been featured in TV ads. Annello recently graduated from Frisco High School. She has ambitions to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, and she hopes to record and release her first full-length album before heading off to college. You can listen to her latest single, “Seventeen,” in the player below.
Sometimes life is about who you know — and Tippy Balady, 18, knows a lot of the right people. She’s partnered with standout photographers Cal Quinn and Aly Faye to develop an eye-catching visual aesthetic for her musical persona. On top of that, Balady often collaborates with rising producer and musician Jason Burt (of Medicine Man Revival) at Dallas’ hit-making studio Modern Electric Sound Recorders. And she’s a graduate of Booker T. Washington. But aside from knowing and working with the right folks, Balady’s got big-time talent. She plays piano and ukulele, she’s got a fun and jazzy voice, and her lyrics are absolutely captivating.
Jack Barksdale is special. The 12-year-old songwriter from Weatherford plays guitar, mandolin and four other instruments. He’s also got a web series called Guitar Slingers, in which he jams with guitarists who are touring in the area; they discuss music, playing techniques and what it takes to be a great musician. And if all that weren’t impressive enough, the preteen has already released a full-length live album that he recorded at Fort Worth’s Niles City Sound. That’s the same recording studio where Leon Bridges recorded his two Grammy-nominated albums.
Abby Cole is a total newcomer to the North Texas music scene: The SMU freshman released her very first song this May. It’s an atmospheric pop track called “Ghost Town” about a young woman who deals with unwanted attention from men. Cole wrote, recorded and arranged the tune using GarageBand, and she’s already followed it up with a five-song EP called Is It Not Strange? Time will tell what comes of this endeavor, but hopefully, we’ll continue to get to hear more sweet, synth-heavy songs like these.
One of the most respected universities for jazz studies in the country, the University of North Texas is home to many budding jazz musicians. It comes as no surprise that this “20 Under 20” list includes a second-year student at UNT, 19-year-old vocalist Lindsay Day. Pulling inspiration from artists like Nancy Wilson and Carmen McRae, she performs with a firm grasp of jazz traditions. But don’t stop with Day: Be sure to also check out UNT’s One O’Clock Lab Band, the university’s premier jazz ensemble, which has received seven Grammy nominations over the years.
The son of singer and bandleader Tim DeLaughter (The Polyphonic Spree), Oscar DeLaughter has followed his pops into the world of music. Like his father, Oscar has an affinity for symphonic pop. No, he’s not singing with a huge choir or anything like that, but he’s definitely bringing lots of cool sounds into his music. The first track released off his self-titled EP is called “Grand Prize” — and, boy, is it grand, with horns, tons of percussion and an overall sound that recalls Bruno Mars. But Oscar DeLaughter is a real genre-hopper: He’s got an R&B track, a trap song and even a piano ballad.
SADFACETHUGGIN (Mjay Denman)
Dallas rapper SADFACETHUGGIN made a name for himself releasing emo-rap songs on SoundCloud. (Think Lil Uzi Vert or Juice WRLD.) It all started pretty organically, with releases dropping every couple of weeks and the then-17-year-old’s songs each garnering tens of thousands of listens. Then, last year, BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe played a single called “F*** Luv” off an EP titled SadFace, and boom. Within two months, SadFace had been streamed more than 3 million times. This year, he released his full-length album, World of Sadface. He’s been named Central Track‘s Best New Act, and many are predicting he’ll be the city’s next big success story.
At 17, Ryan Glenn is a blast from the past. From his ’50s-era haircut to his Buddy Holly-like vocal intonations, he’s definitely a throwback. At a time when so much music is pumped out into the world and algorithms are tailoring playlists based on listening habits, it’s great to know that there’s such thing as a new “oldie but goodie.” That’s probably why fans at area saloons, honky tonks and parlors line up to hear Glenn lead his band.
Nash Griggs is half of the indie-rock/power-pop Dallas duo Omicron J Trauma. The band is a KXT favorite, despite only having a dozen or so songs, and has been featured on the station’s live music video series. The duo released two EPs this year, and both feature an infectious blend of hooky melodies, driving rhythms and big power chords. Omicron J Trauma’s sound is reminiscent of ’70s pop-rock bands like Cheap Trick and Big Star.
From the halls of Booker T. Washington to the studios of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Dallas-born multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and three-octave range contralto Damoyee Janai has been perfecting her art since the age of 2, starting with piano, music theory and composition. With her 18th birthday this month, she’s earned a 10-mile list of accolades, graced the stage at JazzFest and the Governor’s Ball in New York this summer, and just released her third album, The Whole Truth.
Frankie Leonie’s breakout single “Johnny Cash” landed her a spot on KXT’s playlist back in the fall of 2018, and she was named the Dallas Observer‘s Best Country Act of 2018. Previous support spots with Lukas Nelson and Margo Price are just a couple items on her growing resume, but it was Paul Cauthen’s Big Velvet Revue at AmericanaFest in Nashville last month where the Austin Chronicle took note, citing her “warm heartbreaker of a voice and smooth, rolling country melodies,” and named her as one of the paper’s favorite breakout acts from this year. Comparisons to Stevie Nicks and Emmylou Harris will surely fall by the wayside as Leonie forges ahead with her own voice and vision.
With acts like Texas Gentlemen, Paul Cauthen and Charley Crockett, Dallas has no shortage of musicians performing songs who are part country, part blues and part western swing. But the rich keep getting richer, and now we’ve got another outstanding talent on our hands. Charlie J. Memphis’ swamp-rock sound combines blues and country, but it also has a bit of Creole flavor, too. Which makes sense. The 18-year-old honed his craft at the School of Rock in Naperville, Illinois, which means he was able to sample all sorts of music during his education. Thankfully, that means we’ll be blessed with tons of toe-tapping, foot-stomping rhythms for years to come. Note: Memphis also performs with several other bands within the region. So if you can’t see him playing solo, keep an eye open for the long-haired virtuoso. He’ll be the dude shredding on stage.
The woozy-sounding R&B songs produced by Grand Prairie’s Kaash Paige are reminiscent of artists like SZA, Kehlani and Sabrina Claudio. And that’s probably why Dallas music fans have flocked to her SoundCloud page to stream her singles thousands of times. “Love Songs” — Kaash’s most popular single, with more than 600,000 streams — is a two-and-a-half-minute song about dealing with vulnerability, heartbreak and a cheating partner. It’s very good. And the video, produced by Matthew Nicholson, is cinematic, well shot and full of nostalgic-looking scenes. See it here. According to Twitter, Kaash spent time working on new music in Los Angeles this summer. Hopefully, that means we’ll get a host of fresh tracks in the coming months.
One of the most buzzed-about young artists in North Texas is 15-year-old Remy Reilly, a skilled vocalist, pianist and guitarist (an instrument she picked up recently and is quickly mastering) who also excels at songwriting. In fact, that’s one of her biggest strengths as a musician. All five songs from her debut EP received radio airplay from various stations in North Texas — that in and of itself is an accomplishment that few musicians can claim.
DJ K-Sprinkles (Kaitlyn Reyes)
Kaitlyn Reyes, better known as DJ K Sprinkles, first started her journey with turntablism at 11. Now 14, K Sprinkles performs regularly on the daily morning news show Daybreak. She also spins at live events like the Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup Championship, the Taste of Dallas and the Reunion Lawn Party. DJ K Sprinkles even has a show that plays on several stations across the country; find out more about her syndicated mixes by searching for #SprinklesMix. Finally, the future’s looking bright for this budding DJ, because she’s just started taking classes at Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
Award-winning musician Peyton Stilling devoted most of her creative energy to poetry before deciding to focus on music. Luckily, she eventually added “musician” and “songwriter” to her repertoire of creative endeavors. Stilling has a depth and tone to her voice that’s rare for a vocalist still in her teens. Her devotion to poetry at a young age has proven beneficial: She’s also a gifted lyricist, often pulling from her own experiences to create a song. The small handful of original songs Stilling has released hints at a bright future as a songwriter.
It’s often inevitable that children of rock royalty end up either wanting to play music themselves or run as fast and as far away from it as possible. Ruby Lewis, daughter of Toadies frontman Vaden Todd Lewis, joined forces with her bandmates Dillon Wilkins, Claire Marcho and Aiden Bumgardner in 2017, when all were between 13 and 15. The Fort Worth band quickly scored a deal with local label Dreamy Life Records and started getting offers to play shows. The band’s debut, Love Is Trippy, is an impressive opening salvo.
Originally from West Texas, 19-year-old Dori Valentine honed her songwriting skills in the McKinney music scene before heading out to Nashville and eventually landing in Chicago. Now, the multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer is crafting introspective pop and R&B-influenced songs that she hopes will be part of a full-length record out in 2020. Valentine’s performing a string of shows in Texas with the jazzy soul singer Raveena.
Brown Royal (Devon Washington)
Brown Royal has won national beat-making competitions, and he’s produced tracks for major-label artists like Snow Tha Product and Bobby Sessions. Still, the 19-year-old is constantly in the lab working to make a name for himself. A protege of fellow Dallas producer Sikwitit, Brown Royal strives to evolve and to craft music that keeps up with hip-hop’s ever-changing sound. Even when he’s not working one-on-one with a specific MC, he’s always dropping tracks on SoundCloud in hopes of generating a portfolio as large as his skill set.