Charlie Memphis (left) Frankie Leonie and Parker Twomey in the Modern Electric studio on Sept. 5, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. 

Charlie Memphis (left) Frankie Leonie and Parker Twomey in the Modern Electric studio on Sept. 5, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. 

Robert W. Hart/Special Contributor

Most high schoolers are preoccupied with filling out college applications or planning what to wear to their next dance. But Parker Twomey, Frankie Leonie and Charlie Memphis have different things on their minds — specifically, booking studio time, rehearsing for gigs and writing new material for their various musical projects.

They are all up-and-coming country musicians, and while each has his or her own distinct style, they're united by their friendship, passion for music and dedication to crafting a new sound in Dallas.

Each has been playing music as long as they can remember, but their paths recently converged. Twomey, 18, Leonie, 16, and Memphis, 17, play at some of the same venues across D-FW, and the three spend plenty of time at Modern Electric, the recording studio that has recently hosted soul singer Leon Bridges and country artist Paul Cauthen. They've even started collaborating on songs together, creating a supportive environment where they share their talents and tips while learning from one another.

"Me, Frankie and Charlie are under the same umbrella, but we're all doing different things under that umbrella," says Twomey, a senior at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. "I'm more rock 'n' roll, Frankie is more traditional country and Charlie has his own rockabilly thing going on. It's a new Dallas sound."

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Twomey describes his style as a blend of country, Southern rock, Americana and blues. When he's not onstage or in a classroom, you can probably find him at Modern Electric, where he's learning the art of recording and engineering. 

"My music is a marriage between these two loves: writing and engineering the sound," he says. "I'm always writing something, whether it's a short story or a song."

Leonie shares Twomey's love of writing. Her musical style falls into the Americana and alt-country categories. In April, she opened for Ray Wylie Hubbard at a sold-out show in Indiana, but despite her accomplishments, Leonie loves to keep a low profile. She plays regular gigs at the Rustic bar and restaurant in Dallas and in July, released a new single, "Johnny Cash," with support from the folks at Modern Electric. In addition to juggling multiple performances per week, Leonie also keeps her commitment as an upright bassist in the J.J. Pearce High School orchestra. But she's quick to deflect praise.

"Parker and Charlie can play basically any instrument they pick up, which makes me extremely angry," she says, laughing. "They have their styles locked down."

Memphis has also made a name for himself with gigs across D-FW. He recently recorded his first EP, Bloody is the Water, at Modern Electric, and brought Twomey and Leonie along for the ride. Twomey played keys on some of the tracks, Leonie provided backup vocals, and they were joined by Nik Lee of the Texas Gentlemen on lead guitar.

Lee calls Memphis' style "swamp rock," a term the teenager embraces. Completing the EP was a big milestone, but Memphis says the highlight was when Cauthen took a listen and asked, "You wrote this? ... This is awesome."

But not everyone has been as supportive of the young musicians and their careers thus far. Memphis has to continually fight the notion that he's not the real deal simply because he's 17.

"We're not just kids with guitars," he says. "We're playing shows and making our own music, and there's this excitement that we've really got something."

Leonie echoes that sentiment. 

"I'm not playing Taylor Swift songs," she says. "I'm playing my songs."

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"Maybe someday soon someone will be opening for me," she says.

Like his friends, Twomey is focused on one thing: making the best music possible.

"There's a lot going on in Dallas right now, and we're right in the middle of it," he says. "The city has molded us into who we are as musicians and as people, and you see us creating this country sound that no one else is making."

He sees big things in the future for that sound — and for him and his friends.

"No one ever knows where the next musical explosion is going to come from; it just happens."

See them live:

  • Frankie Leonie plays the Regal Room (2712 Main St., Dallas) on Dec. 6, opening for Brody Price. 
  • Parker Twomey performs at The Rustic (3656 Howell St., Dallas) on Dec. 13. 
  • Charlie Memphis plays The Rustic (3656 Howell St., Dallas) on Dec. 26. His EP, Bloody is the Water, is out now.

Tyler Hicks is a Dallas freelance writer.

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