California is home to sunshine and surfing weather, but it is home to some of the best and most diverse music in the nation as well. From the rookies to the experienced, there are a lot of talented singers and songwriters that claim Southern California as their home. Here are some of the best to keep an eye out for in the Orange County area.
Orange County native Harlis Sweetwater was just a young child when his love for blues and music began. It was an introduction to a Chuck Berry album that got him hooked and that is in part due to his mother that "was into music and had some really cool records around the house. One of them was this Chuck Berry record with a full length picture of Chuck Berry on the inside sleeve," said Sweetwater. "That was the one that just got me. That was the one that when I saw that picture I said that is what I want to do. That is what I want to be." Sweetwater first started playing the guitar at the age of seven and then began his first band at 11 and never really stopped. Sharing the stage with the likes of Jimmie Vaughan, Everlast, Christ Shifflet of the Foo Fighters, ZZ Top, Brian Setzer, Etta James, James Cotton and Wilson Pickett and much more, the power in his voice and the depth of his songwriting really makes him a unique talent in the Orange County music scene. Catch him on tour in locations all over Southern California with tickets available here.
At just 12 years old, Skylar Stecker kick started an amazing career when she began recording cover music in 2013 of artists including Eminem, Gym Class Heroes, Avicii and much more. Her enthusiasm and ambition has landed her several major league sports performances of the "Star Spangled Banner" that range from the LA Lakers and LA Clippers playoff run in 2014 and much more. But it was in 2012 when the International Models & Talent Association Awards gifted her as the best singer and most sought-after talent that Skylar's future as an entertainer began to take form. Her first single, "Little Bit Too Much," was released in December of 2013 and now has more than 1.4 million views in just the first few months. A young star in the making, Stecker is one talent to keep an eye on in the coming years.
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Punk rock is still present in Orange County with local band Ignite that has been playing music for over 10 years. Diehard fans come from all over the world and what sets this band apart from the others is its support for organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Habitat For Humanity, Sea Shepherds, Project Blue Sea and Earth First. Its latest album "Our Darkest Days" brought together singer Zoli Teglas with bassist Brett Rasmussen in a songwriting collaboration with songs like "Bleeding" and "Let It Burn." The band illuminates its commentary of political issues through its music like the country's occupation of Iraq in "Bleeding" and the political struggles in Teglas' home country of Hungary in "Poverty For All." The Orange County band does a great job of blending hardcore, punk and rock with lyrical content that is true to their beliefs.
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Twenty-year-old Katie Stump may be young, but she has quite the musical resume that many artists can only dream of having. With more than 200 songs written, ranked as a top 10 singer-songwriter in Los Angeles by ReverbNation and two full-length produced albums, Stump is a multi-talented force in the musical scene in Southern California. The support of family encouraged the young artist to pursue a career in music at an early age. She is now a member of the music program at USC completing her second year and has expanded her reach to venues all over Southern California including the House of Blues, Room 5 and many more. Think Taylor Swift, Colbie Caillat and Ingrid Michaelson and a hybrid of country/pop and you have Katie Stump.
Named one of the semi-finalists in the Cosmopolitan Magazine's first Star Launch contest, Stevi Madison gained much momentum and exposure as a singer-songwriter from Southern California the past few years. Madison's love for music started at a young age in Orange County when she organized her first band at the age of 18 and toured some notable spots all over Southern California. She returned from Nashville in 2012 after taking time to work on her songwriting technique and will continue her tour in the Southern California venues.
Related: Best Cover Bands In OC
Elle Toussi is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.
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