A year to remember: These 5 North Texas musicians broke through in 2022

Wearing a denim shirt and jeans, Drake Milligan is seated at a bar, looking off to the right

Drake Milligan. Photo: BBR Music Group

It’s been a phenomenal year for artists hailing from North Texas — and we’ve covered plenty of the goings-on. However, as 2022 heads for the exit, we wanted to shine a light on a few more local acts who had breakout success over the past 12 months, and anticipate having even bigger 2023s ahead of them. Here are five North Texas-bred musicians who are saying farewell to what’s been a banner year.

Drake Milligan
As staking local claims goes, it doesn’t get much more potent than naming your debut album Dallas/Fort Worth, as singer-songwriter Drake Milligan did. The Mansfield-born musician first turned heads as a young Elvis on CMT’s “Sun Records” series, before finishing in third place on the popular reality show “America’s Got Talent.” He dropped his debut LP in mid-September, has already headlined Billy Bob’s Texas, and made his Grand Ole Opry debut — all before turning 25.

Nezi Momodu

The Nigerian-born, Dallas-based rapper has been one of many bright lights in the city’s hip-hop community, as my KXT colleague Alec Spicer noted earlier this year. She guested on Logic’s “Introducing Nezi” in June, dropped The Pound, her first album in four years, in August, and just two months later, signed with Def Jam (a label which has also snatched up fellow 214 acts like Bobby Sessions).

The woman born Taylor Gayle Rutherfurd in Plano had a monster 2022, thanks to her smash single “ABCDEFU,” as well as a pair of EPs, A Study of the Human Experience, Vols. 1 and 2. The song also nabbed Gayle a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year, which is not the only career moment she has to look forward to in 2023: Taylor Swift also tapped her as an opening act for the hotly anticipated The Eras Tour.

Josh Jenkins
The Fort Worth-born singer-songwriter may be familiar to fans of the pop-rock act Green River Ordinance, but Jenkins is rapidly carving out a path all his own in Nashville, as a songwriter for others. He’s co-written hits for Randy Houser, Muscadine Bloodline and Walker Hayes, whose massive 2021 hit, “Fancy Like,” earned Jenkins a share of the 2022 ACM Award for Single and Song of the Year.

Juliana Madrid
Dallas-born singer-songwriter Juliana Madrid’s vivid blend of folk, alt-rock and pop broke through this year on her debut, self-titled EP on the Neon Gold record label, which was produced by Benjamin Ruttner (of The Knocks). The 21-year-old got another boost near year’s end, when her song “Pretend” landed on the soundtrack for the buzzy Netflix film “Do Revenge.”

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.