Network Under 40
Join Network Under 40 on June 21 at AJ’s Good Time Bar, country music star Alan Jackson’s restaurant and bar, located in the heart of downtown Nashville. With
Fourteen-year-old Tegan Marie has been called the “Princess of Gen Z,” and the country music singer-songwriter is just getting started.
In the past year, Marie, who hails from Flint, Michigan, performed at the Ryman, released her debut single, “Keep It Lit,” with a video to match, performed on the TODAY Show, and sold out the first ticketed show at the Opry City Stage in New York City—and she can't even drive yet.
But, when the trending artists of her generation are Selena Gomez, Drake, and Justin Bieber, how did Marie find country music?
“I love country music so much because it tells a story, and I love going in and writing country music because I can tell my story,” Marie says. “Country music is varying so much-with young people, too. It’s crazy how it's changing so much, with artists like Kelsea [Ballerini] and Cam and Raelynn. It's just changing a lot, and we love it.”
Marie first found country music and her passion for singing at age three, thanks to her dad’s karaoke machine and her parents’ love for Smokey Robinson, Motown, and Marie’s ultimate country music idol, Johnny Cash.
“I grew up on Johnny, and he’s my favorite artist ever…He just made me want to sing and follow my dreams,” Marie says.
At seven, Marie joined Sweety High, an all-girls media website, where she was able to share videos of herself singing and playing guitar. As her relationship with the site grew, Sweety High’s chief creative officer and co-founder, Veronica Zelle, took Marie under her wing and signed her as the brand’s first artist, starting her career at age 12 and bringing her into Sweety High’s family.
Now, Marie is signed to Warner Music Nashville and is here in Music City frequently to write—she has written enough music for nearly three albums, she says, and hopes to start working on her debut soon.
When it comes to her songwriting, Marie's work references her real life experiences, everything from sweet tea to finding a silver lining.
“We’ve written about literally every single thing you can think of, from smashing guitars and making boys cry, all that stuff. So, when I come to write, I think it really depends on how the day is going and how everyone’s feeling, if you’re happy or if you’re sad,” Marie says. “Most of the songs I write are about positivity. Even when it’s supposed to be a sad song, you can still see the rainbow in the song.”
That positivity is front and center in Marie’s single, “Keep It Lit.” That song and its music video also showcase Marie’s other talent: pairing country traditions with more genre blending elements that bridge generations and musical biases.
“Country music has changed a lot, from Johnny to Florida Georgia Line or Thomas Rhett, but I love both versions of it. When I go in to write, I love mixing the old Johnny Cash country music into the newer version of country music, you could say,” Marie says. “And, even in the newer versions of country music, it still references these old legends, like Johnny Cash. In country music, it tells a story either way—it hasn’t stopped telling a story.”