Over the course of several years, the 3 of us have stumbled upon some amazing artists. We have a lot of love for many of the “headliners”; however, our main mission at Texas Music Pickers is to spread the word of artists that are not quite “headliners” yet. While we don’t mind fighting crowds and lines to hear good music, there’s something magical about watching a talented artist “pay dues”. Watching them play in smoky bars, to less than 50 people sometimes, selling their own merch and hoping the gig pays enough for the overhead, is often our favorite part of their careers. The excitement of watching something big at the beginning stages is not only something we enjoy, but is now something we actively seek out. While we’ve come across hundreds (probably thousands) of artists since our inception, we’ve compiled a list of what we feel are the 14 best kept secrets on the Texas Music Scene. (Our favorite artists with less than 5,000 FB likes).
San Marcos, TX
The best word I can describe Haley Cole with is “Amazing!” She is pure and unadulterated talent! We’ve been fans of Haley since we first heard her 3 years ago in Huntsville, TX. We couldn’t believe she was only 18 and already had a commanding stage presence! Over the course of the last few years, we’ve watched her grow as a songwriter and really turn in to a complete artist. Boasting some of the best vocals we’ve ever heard and showing off growth as a writer in songs like “Jaded” and “Roses”, we’re really excited for what is in store on her new album. She’s a “secret” now, but won’t be for long! Mark our words, Haley Cole will be a superstar someday!
Adam Fears may be the most polished act on the list. He’s released well written and well produced tracks to radio and maybe on the verge of his first Top 10 hit with his new single “There’s a Girl Out There”. His album “Golden Gravel Road” is solid from start to finish and in our opinion, is an artist on the verge of exploding. He’s got the talent, he’s got the songs, now all he needs is time to let his music spread. Look out for him to be one of the biggest breakout artists in 2015!
The only artist on the list with a #1 single, Mario Flores has had a good of a run as anybody over the last 6 months. “Got a Bad Feeling” went to #1 earlier this year, and his current single “High on summertime” is right outside the Top 20. Another artist with an amazing album; “I Didn’t Pick This Life” was one of our favorite albums last year and we imagine there’s plenty more where that came from! Judging by the success he’s experienced on the chart, I guess we’re not the only one’s who think this guy headed places! He’s an act that is definitely worth checking out!
I first heard Dusty Smirl earlier this year with his single “Lubbock Lights”. After listening to it a couple times, I downloaded it. Later that night, as we we’re driving home from the bar (my wife was my DD), I had an urge to play it. As I wailed at the top of my lungs, I immediately knew this guy had “something”. Before we made it home, I had the rest of the EP, “Mine for the Mile” downloaded and was headed for the back porch with my iPod in tow. I’ve listened to that EP probably 100 times, and it is still one of my favorite records I’ve come across in the last 12 months. I’ve had a hard time describing what makes the EP so good, but I think it’s because of its simplistic beauty. There’s nothing fancy about it, nothing over the top, no gimmicks, just an artist and some damn good songs. It’s Smirl’s unassuming nature and catchy hooks that keep you coming back for more. Judging by the fact that 3 of the 5 songs have found their way inside the Top 50, I think it’s safe to say we’re not the only ones who have enjoyed it!
It blows my mind that the Corey Kane Band isn’t one of the biggest acts in Texas! After hearing his single “Falling” earlier this year, I knew I had to download his album “Rain Came Down”. Holy cow can this guy write a chorus! After playing the album time and time again, we were excited to see a new album in the works. Now that we’ve listened to the new EP,“That Man”, we feel fairly confident in saying “The Corey Kane Band is one of the most underrated bands in Texas right now!” He writes, he sings, and he plays and is great at all 3! If he keeps producing music the way he has been, there’s no way he isn’t at the top of the music scene in a few years.
New Braunfels, TX
There are some artists who are meant to be heard, and then there are those that are meant to be listened to; Drew Kennedy is certainly the latter. His music is graceful, his lyrics are poetic, and his voice is soothing. He is the ultimate craft beer in a sea of cheap and overly marketed brews. He’s not necessarily your go-to, especially on a rowdy Friday night, but you wouldn’t choose anything else on beautiful Saturday afternoon. He’s something you appreciate, rather than guzzle and and I bet that’s quite alright with Drew. He just released “Sad Songs Happily Played” which is exactly how we would describe his style. If you’re looking for legit artists in every sense of the word, you’ve found it.
Drew Kennedy: http://www.drewkennedymusic.com/
These guys are the most gifted musicians on the list. With Tres Womack at the helm, and cast of super talented band members, these guys are fun, energetic, and exactly what you would want to see at a live performance. Providing beautiful harmonies, and mixture of rock, country, and Americana, you’re never disappointed in what you’ll see at a Chubby Knuckle Choir show! This band is a combination of craftsmanship and talent! Don’t miss out on an opportunity to go see these guys.
I get messages all the time from people asking me to check out their new album and to give them feedback, so when Zac emailed me his new album, I put it in a folder with the hundred other albums on the “listen to” list. Even though I had put it at the end of the list, something told me to go ahead and listen to. As the opening track “Middle of the Night” came on, I was stunned by the originality and soulful vocals. As I progressed through the tracks, my surprise turned into interest, and then into excitement. This guy was incredible! Writing his album’s review was one if the hardest articles I’ve ever had to write. It was so hard to describe his style and put in to words the kind of gift he had. I’ve never quite heard anybody take so many great musical influences, put his own spin on it, and then make a masterpiece quite like he did…but it is certainly that…a masterpiece. His original style, and unbelievable voice, put him on the list with guys like Ray LaMontagne and Shaky Graves….yeah he’s that good!
I also had the pleasure of getting my hands on Mark Jones and XX Paces’ debut album “Breaking Even” before its release. My expectations for the songwriting are never that high for a first album, but I was immediately impressed as went through the tracks. Jones has killer vocals and songs like “This Time” and “Home Tonight” showcase his ability to lyrical impart emotions on the listener. The debut single “Fast and Free” reached # 58 and we expect their next single, “Breaking Even” to chart inside the Top 50! Fun, fast-paced, and exciting this is a live show you don’t want to miss!
Bubba Westly is a guy that has been growing on us a lot in the last couple of months. Coming off an amazing sweep of the East Texas Music Awards (4 Awards), he is starting to gain the recognition he deserves. He’s got some powerful vocals, and is skilled as a writer. His current single “Roses” is one of our favorite songs on the radio waves right now and we expect big things to come from him in the next few years.
Ft. Worth, TX
When an artists’ debut single lands inside the Top 10, you take notice. Well, to be honest, we noticed “I Love You Anyway”, well before it was anywhere close to the Top 10. When we came across it earlier this year, we couldn’t believe it was not only the first single he had released, but also the first song he’d ever written! This guy has one of the best voices we’ve ever heard and we’re excited he’s back in the studio! Currently, Zach has another single “Comin Back Around” climbing the charts and is already knocking on the Top 50! Be on the lookout for Zach Coffey!
I got handed Kenna Danielle’s album before I’d ever met or seen her. I put it in my F-150’s CD player on a drive to Austin. As the tracks “Homeless” and “Red, White, & Blue” played, I was impressed by the writing and couldn’t wait inquire more about who she was once I reached my destination. Once I found out she was 15, I literally sat frozen in my driver’s seat for a solid 30 seconds. This girl with lyrics like “If home is where the heart is, you left me homeless” couldn’t even drive yet! Wow! I’ve since met Kenna and we couldn’t be more excited for what this young artist has in store for the future!
Even though we get sent songs all the time, I still have an insatiable desire to go out find new music. My #1 stop is always Lone Star Music, so I can see what new albums are coming out. I saw Dan Adams – “Live Oaks & Lights” on the list, so I checked it out. I know that listening to the 30 second samples on iTunes isn’t the best way to vet an album, but in this case it was all I needed to proceed with the purchase. The album was incredible! Even after 6 months of listening to the album, tracks like “Straight Whiskey & Bent Strings”, “A Little More Yesterday” and “Sounds of a Heart Breaking” are still tracks that are frequently played on my iPod! Adams just released the title track “Live Oaks & Lights” to radio and we’re expecting to see it on the charts any week now!
We received an email from a fan of The Warhorses telling us that they were a band we HAD to check them out! So we did….and we’re sure glad we did! We got our hands on their EP “Regardless a few months ago, and have been jamming it ever since. Debut single “Leave Me Alone” is up to #92 this week on the Texas Regional Radio Report and we’re looking forward to see how high it climbs. Be sure to also check out our favorite track on the EP, “Heart Like Mine”….hell be sure to check out the whole thing!
Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I’am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.