For Tegan Marie, Music Comes From the Heart
Tegan Marie will use the phrase "dream come true" more than once when you're talking to her. At 14, she's the youngest artist signed to Warner Music Nashville.
We caught up with her at her management company, Sweety High, where she was listening to just-finished versions of her new songs as they thumped over the speakers, and she couldn't sit still, playing air guitar, drums and piano right along with the tracks.
She has an undeniable love for music, and it started at a young age — three years old, actually. She recalls early childhood days at summer family cookouts when Dad would bring out the karaoke machine. The first time Tegan Marie heard Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," she was hooked.
"That was the only thing I would play on the guitar for a year," she tells Taste of Country, iterating how Cash inspired her love for country music. "That's literally how it started."
As a Michigan native, the young singer has also been heavily influenced by Motown — Smokey Robinson is her favorite "Motown legend." She actually got to perform with Robinson when he was honored with the Gershwin Prize in 2016, and this inspired to grow into an even more captivating artist. "
It was a dream come true because I grew up on it," she says. "Johnny Cash, Smokey Robinson — that's all I would listen to when I was like three years old."
Tegan Marie also loves John Mellencamp (she's added "Pink Houses" to her set), Journey, Steve Perry and 38 Special. She says it's the music that draws her in.
"One thing that I've noticed about her is that the guitar and the guitar licks and the riffs have become wildly important to her," Sweety High co-founder (and Marie's co-manager) Veronica Zelle points out. "She's really driven by that beat."
Though the polished, pop-country tracks Tegan Marie is cutting are a stark contrast melody-wise from the songs she grew up on, like the artists who came before her, Marie is writing from the heart. Her debut single on Warner Music, "Keep It Lit," is an upbeat track with a positive message supported by modern country radio's slick production. She wrote the song based on a phrase she uses in her daily life that's a popular in her generation.
"In the song you'll hear me say, 'out to wide open land' and that's just about having a big heart and then sharing all the love that's within you with other people," she says. "That's how I know it's me, because it came from the heart."
This newcomer has been working on a loyal fanbase since she joined the female empowerment media company Sweety High at the age of seven, amassing thousands of views with notable covers of Florida Georgia Line's "H.O.L.Y.," Kelsea Ballerini's "Love Me Like You Mean It" and Carrie Underwood's "Church Bells." She's able to translate that talent fans see online into her live shows.
"That's one of my favorite things, doing shows and seeing the smiles on people's faces," Marie says. "It's just a dream."
She hopes to keep those smiles on the faces of fans with new songs covering a range of topics that relate to country life and girl power. She's already gained valuable knowledge about female empowerment from mentors Ballerini, Cam and RaeLynn, who've taught her to stay true to herself.
"I've always been surrounded with girl power and then having those kind of people just letting me know that it's ok to be me ... it's just really helpful" Marie says. "They're just so amazing and I can't believe how sweet they are."
Armed with her own powerful voice and songs she's passionate about — plus her positivity movement with "Keep It Lit" — it won't be long before Marie is making the same kind of impact on her young fans.
"Keep It Lit" is available now.
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