Is Philadelphia’s next Jill Scott among us? How about the next Kenneth Gamble? For decades, this city has produced dozens of renowned musicians, producers and songwriters. And now, we’re ready to honor the next generation of young talents with major ambitions.
Welcome to the August 2017 edition of Who’s Next. Every month, Billy Penn publishes an installment of this up-and-comer series, presented by the Knight Foundation, focusing on a different industry or field. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve featured more than 400 of the city’s leaders under the age of 40, from teachers to artists to PR professionals to chefs.
This month, we’re showcasing the music industry. Our list features recording artists working in a variety of genres, as well as people working behind the scenes to make hot shows happen. Here, presented in alphabetical order, are 11 Philadelphians moving up in the music world.
Up-and-coming Philadelphia musicians often need guidance when it comes to navigating the business side of the industry. And that's where attorney Jason Berger comes in. A partner at the Margolis Edelstein firm, Berger has been focusing on entertainment law for the last seven years, and regularly represents bands, artists, producers and even indie labels. He’s done everything from licensing and merchandising to drafting and negotiating agreements and deals. In his spare time, Berger is also involved with the Philadelphia chapter of the Recording Academy.
Burse is a rock and soul artist who’s already made an impact on the international music scene. Here in Philadelphia, he regularly performs at local venues and also recently released the album XXII. The record shares intimate moments from his own life, as well as a call to better the world through love. Overseas, his voice is featured on the theme song for Italy’s version of “Carpool Karaoke,” an award-winning television program. Next month, Burse will be honored at the Comcast Center by the Made Man organization for his leadership in the African-American community. You may have also seen him in Stella Artois ads — he was the face for the company’s local marketing campaign.
Feeney is frontwoman for the seven-piece funk-rock-party band You Do You. The group has played at World Cafe Live and Boot & Saddle, among other venues, and performed at events like Art for the Cash Poor, Rally for Rock and JUNK’s Snowball. Feeney also hosts a monthly open mic night at Connie’s Ric Rac that encourages young musicians to showcase their skills. Even more impressive when you hear that You Do You and open mics aren’t even her main jobs: She works full-time as the development director for Rock to the Future. The organization ensures underserved youth have opportunities for music education in a safe, accepting space.
Gennett is a folk and blues musician who got into the game three years ago. He started playing open mic nights, then quickly recorded his first album, Hey Kid, which was released at World Cafe Live in 2015. He’s also performed solo or with bands at Theater of the Living Arts, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and at numerous venues in New York and Boston. He was named artist of the month at RockOnPhilly.com in June 2015. Gennett’s next album is due out in 2018.
With R&B music that sounds a bit like a modern version of TLC or En Vogue, Good Girl turned a 2016 showing on “America’s Got Talent” into increased fame. The group features four women in their early-to-mid 20s: North Philly natives Megan Nicolle and Bobbie, CAPA graduate Arielle, and JL from South Jersey. Last year, the group released an EP titled Goodie the Appetizer. A show at the Theatre of Living Arts followed last fall, and this spring, they performed at South By Southwest. The group has 100,000 Facebook fans and a devoted YouTube following where their original songs, as well as covers of pop hits like “Bang Bang,” have all been popular.
Thee Glitterbombs formed in 2012 when Madeline Thomas, Rebecca Lopez Kriss, Stefi Varghese and Michelle Freeman met at Ladies’ Rock Camp in Philly. This summer, they released an LP with fellow band Sick Panda. Many of the group’s other achievements can be traced through their volunteer work with Girls Rock Philly, which caters to women and trans and gender non-binary adults. Thomas serves on the organization’s board, and the rest of the band members volunteer, with the goal of increasing women’s foothold in the local music industry.
During his few years as a professional musician, R&B performer Julian King has compiled a diverse list of achievements, including being featured in VIBE magazine and collaborating with producers who've worked with Usher, Mary J. Blige and Ne-Yo. His Sing For You EP was released in 2016, and this spring he performed at South By Southwest. As his full-time job, King works as dean of students at John Wister Elementary School, and he also teaches voice lessons to children. For the next year, he’ll be touring in Asia, performing at hotels, conferences and for private parties.
Ill Fated Natives is a soul/rock trio that likes to consider their fused musical styles "earth music." The goal of members Otheni Thompson, Joe Pointer and Bets Charmelus is to move humanity towards a more positive and sustainable future. Since forming four years ago, they have played at Wawa Welcome America, Firefly, The Roots Picnic and South by Southwest. Their latest single, “Blind Man,” was co-produced by Grammy-winning engineer David Ivory.
Perella, a native of Delaware, got his start on the Philadelphia music scene when he managed The Blockley, the former show venue at 38th and Chestnut. Now his career has taken him just outside the city to the Ardmore Music Hall, for which he handles booking talent and also co-owns. He runs the latest incarnation of the storied performance space, which was once known as 23 East Cabaret and has hosted the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Blues Traveler. Perella's friends like to say he’s keeping a local flavor in a sector that’s growing increasingly corporate.
Silver is the founder of REC Philly, a company that provides resources to up-and-coming musicians, bands and other entertainers. REC Philly helps members record, get booked for live shows, network and receive PR services. The organization, which Forbes magazine called “a WeWork for musicians,” operates a 400-person music venue in West Philly called William Street Common and a creative facility in North Philly called the REC Room. Silver, a Temple graduate, has also co-organized Amplify Philly at South By Southwest for three years, booking music acts for a presentation that draws attention to Philadelphia’s music and startup communities.
Stuckey is the lead for Red 40, a performance band that has played Fringe Arts, Johnny Brenda’s, Kung Fu Necktie, the Art Museum and even a sold-out Union Transfer. The band, which originated in 2013 as Stuckey’s thesis project, combines music and theater. In 2015, the group won funding from the Independence Foundation’s New Theater Works Initiative to develop a hybrid musical, and Red 40’s first album, She’s Keen to Feed, came out in 2016. This year, Stuckey has been a theater resident at Joe’s Pub and the Kimmel Center, and she plans to release a solo EP soon.