Music Makers

Three up-and-coming artists with different styles release new music

BY Amanda Lisk

L-R: Danny “Louis” Thomas II |  Eric Armitage. Molly Tetterton | Mia Cervantes. Christian Brinkley | Olivia Lee.
L-R: Danny “Louis” Thomas II | Eric Armitage. Molly Tetterton | Mia Cervantes. Christian Brinkley | Olivia Lee.

Some of the biggest names in music have passed through the Wilmington area throughout the years. In the 1920s and ’30s, the big bands of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman played at Wrightsville Beach’s iconic Lumina Ballroom. In 1948, the Azalea Festival was born, bringing in such legends as Frank Sinatra, Al Green, Ray Charles, Hall & Oates and Nelly, to name a few.

Today, Wilmington and the beaches collectively have more than 40 venues offering live music, ranging from the Live Oak Bank Pavilion at Riverfront Park to more intimate stages such as Goat & Compass, the Palm Room and Jimmy’s  Wrightsville Beach. It’s at these smaller, authentic settings where up-and-coming musicians can be spotted performing fresh, new compositions.

Recently, three young musicians who got their starts performing locally released new music. Christian Brinkley is debuting his first acoustic pop album, Something in Between. Danny “Louis” Thomas II, a rap artist, has a new album entitled Indigo Child, and Molly Tetterton released two new country singles, “MaryJane” and “Dead to Me”.

Danny “Louis” Thomas II

Style: Rap • Album: Indigo Child

Danny “Louis” Thomas II grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina, surrounded by music.

“There would be constant music in the house. When I would get up in the morning, there would be music playing. R&B, hip-hop, soul. Before going to church there would be gospel music playing,” says Thomas.

When he was in middle school, a teacher encouraged him to write poetry. One day, while hanging out with an older cousin, the two started putting poetry and music together.

Photo by Tory Silinski

“I think we had gotten in trouble with my parents, and we weren’t allowed to leave the house,” Thomas says. “We were sitting around saying, ‘Well, what are we going to do?’ He put on a beat and he said, ‘You write poetry, why don’t you try to write something?’ I think that was the very first time I really wrote a rap.”

Pulling inspiration from such artists as Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco and Outkast, by high school Thomas had developed his own style and began essentially producing his own music.

“I would write all these songs, record them at my house, burn them onto CDs and bring them to school. I had four friends, I would give them CDs and say, ‘Go sell them throughout the day.’ I was pretty enterprising about it,” laughs Thomas.

Thomas moved to the Port City to attend the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he studied creative writing and began rapping with seven-piece jazz band Temple5. His first gig was at the Satellite Bar downtown in 2013.

Today, he co-owns record label Milk Crate Records with producer Sam Brown and just released his second album, Indigo Child, written to mimic a screenplay with each song leading to the climax of the story.

“You’ll know when the conflict is happening. It’s an allegory of anyone going on a journey of self-discovery,” he says.

This year, Thomas will be performing locally at Jimmy’s  Wrightsville Beach and Waterline Brewing Company and in Atlanta and New York City.

The first single from Indigo Child, “Decatur 2031”, is available on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services.

Christian Brinkley

Style: Acoustic Pop • Album: Something in Between

Within the past 12 months, singer/songwriter Christian Brinkley recorded and released his first album, played in nearly 100 shows throughout the area, and received national attention while taking part in a contest to open for Coldplay at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

“It started out with 10,000 entrants and within a month they whittled it down to 160. I ended up making it into the top 70 nationwide, which was really crazy. I got votes and social media traction from all over the country,” says Brinkley.

Photo by Thomas Parmiter

The competition encouraged listeners to vote for the artist they liked best, proving Brinkley’s album, an acoustic pop collection produced by Plaid Dog Recording Studios in Boston, is pretty good. It also opened doors for more opportunities to share his music such as at Jimmy’s Wrightsville Beach where he has 10 dates scheduled in 2023. Using live looping to layer instrumentals, Brinkley is able to engage audiences.

“That’s really the thing that spurred me on, to really enjoy what I do, enabling me to be successful at it,” Brinkley says.

Brinkley started performing in Wilmington in high school, and even performed at the Wilson Center downtown. His love of music developed at a young age through church.

“The college ministry was not held at our church, it was held in my living room,” laughs Brinkley, whose parents hosted the weekly group at their house. “We had live music every single Sunday, worship music, and that’s how I got guitars put in my hands and started learning little bits and pieces.”

Somewhere between writing and producing his album, Brinkley got engaged. The year will include a spring wedding for him and fiancée Olivia, new music, and many live performances.

“I’m excited to see what will happen. I’ll be focusing on the artistry of it a lot more,” Brinkley says.

Brinkley’s Something in Between is available on Spotify and Apple Music and other streaming services.

Molly Tetterton

Style: Country • Singles: “MaryJane”, “Dead to Me”

Singer/songwriter Molly Tetterton got her start at an open mic night in downtown Wilmington when she was 14. She is now 20 and living in Nashville, where she just released two new singles. “MaryJane” came out in January and quickly sparked more than 3,000 streams on Spotify. “Dead to Me” debuts in March.

“With ‘Dead to Me’… I wrote that after getting cheated on,” laughs Tetterton. “It’s just a really good chick song, an anthem for a lot of women. There’s so many of us who’ve been cheated on. I think it will be a song for girls to scream in the car.”

Photo by Mia Cervantes

“Navigating through life’s obstacles is best done by writing about it,” she says.

“It’s always been a healing thing for me,” says Tetterton.

What she didn’t expect was the number of listeners who would find her songwriting to be healing for them as well. Her first single, “Yellow”, currently has 1.5 million streams.

“It was about my parents’ divorce. I put it out on Spotify and it just blew up,” she says.

The tragic loss of her childhood best friend led to writing “Dancing in Heaven,” which received close to 20,000 streams on Spotify over the past year.

“Songs that are the hardest to write are the ones that are the most relatable to other people,” she says.

Tetterton joins other songwriters for writers’ rounds in Nashville. She recently headlined her own show and plans to stay in the Music City after graduating from Belmont University later this year.

“People call Nashville a 10-year town. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into those 10 years. I’m hoping to continue to release singles. I’m just really working my tail off, waiting on God’s timing,” Tetterton says.

Tetterton also works for Nashville production company Mailbox Money Music. When in town, she has performed at Jimmy’s Wrightsville Beach, Dockside and the Wilson Center. Her music is available on Spotify and Apple Music and other streaming services.

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