Remy Reilly is 14, and she’s making songs people like. A few tracks on the self-titled EP she’ll release Friday describe experiences she’s yet to have, she explains. Her dad sits next to her at Mudsmith after they’ve come to East Dallas from Frisco on a school night to talk about her music.
“I wrote these songs after seeing other people’s relationships and watching movies,” Reilly says. “As a songwriter I put myself in other people’s shoes. I’m telling stories.”
If you’ve heard her first single “26” on The Ticket or KXT, age probably didn’t cross your mind. Reilly has a style and sound that seems more mature than many artists twice as old. She’s always been singing, and started playing drums at 11. She says she wrote songs on piano first. Guitar came later. Her songwriting is thoughtful; Reilly explains that “26” is an anti-bullying song.
Producer Jason Burt, who helped record her EP, says Reilly completed her powerful vocals on “26” in just two takes. He compares her voice to artists like Norah Jones, Feist, and St. Vincent.
“She’s 14, dude,” Burt continues. “That’s insanity. Where is she going to be in a year or two? As a producer, it’s beyond sowing a seed. This is a plant. Usually when you’re thinking about artist development they have a lot to learn. But Remy’s a better songwriter than some of the 30-year-old artists I’ve worked with. Don’t tell someone she’s 14 and just play the track.”
Burt teamed up with Jordache Grant and Charlie Wiles to record Reilly at Modern Electric Sound Recorders. The uptown studio, where she’ll play a free all-ages EP release party Friday, looks like it came out of a photo on the back of a rock record from the ’70s. Acts like Spoon, Leon Bridges, Jonathan Tyler, and Quaker City Night Hawks have been through.
“I had heard a demo that she made, but I hadn’t seen her perform,” Burt says. “As a producer, you don’t know how people will perform in the studio. But hearing her sing on an expensive microphone for the first time was mind-blowing. She has mad range.”
Producers simplified the complex rhythms of Reilly’s piano-driven demos in favor of using her “next-level melodies” to pursue a pop format with a soul and blues vibe, Burt says.
“She’s going to be a fantastic musician who will do whatever she wants,” Burt says. “I see her being that musician onstage who plays every instrument and gives epic speeches on humanitarianism, life, and politics in between songs. Remy’s a badass kid.”
Dallas singer-songwriter Kirk Thurmond has also recorded at Modern Electric and performs on the bill at Reilly’s EP release party. He first heard Reilly when she opened for him at Deep Ellum Art Company a couple weeks ago. He compares Reilly to Nikka Costa, the singer and goddaughter of Frank Sinatra who became a child star in the early 1980s.
“She was raw and talented and huge for a second,” Thurmond says. “Remy has the ability to be what Nikka Costa could have been.”
Reilly remembers when school and her dog were her life.
“When I found music it did shorten the kid things that I do,” Reilly says. “Nothing went away but I am serious about this. It’s my career. But I’m having fun. I just love the adrenaline onstage.”