It’s so gratifying — not to mention entertaining — to watch musical prowess blossom from a young age. To realize when it’s the real thing, when a kid has a special gift that, given the right breaks, might just take her or him somewhere. You never know what’ll happen, but having true, undeniable talent is always the first step.
There’s absolutely no mistaking the musical ability our 17-year-old family friend Kameryn McGlothlin, whom we’ve known since she became friends seven years ago with our youngest, Alex, has oozing from every pore — and from where it counts in her performances, which is her strong vocal cords and her polished-picking fingers, which make beautiful music up and down the guitar.
Along the way to where she is now — a 17-year-old whose parents bought her first guitar when she was just 11 and who’s been writing her own music since age 12 — Kameryn also learned to play the piano really, really well.
Incredibly, Kameryn’s been performing at venues and events around the Arlington-Kennedale-Mansfield area — restaurants, hospitals, bookstores, Mansfield Voice, Mansfield Pickle Parade & Palooza and too many others to count — for almost six years. All the while, she’s taken voice, guitar, piano and acting lessons through Music Place Mansfield, where she and Alex met when Alex also was taking voice and they sang for a while as part of a group called the Pop Stars. And, of course, over her 11 years at MPM, Kameryn and all the other children performed in countless recitals.
A couple of weeks ago, I learned through Facebook that Kameryn was going to be the opening act this past Sunday at the Levitt Pavilion in downtown Arlington, an open-air venue where free concerts have been staged for the past 11 years. She’d be singing ahead of a Dallas group called Justin Tipton and the Troublemakers, four guys I wasn’t familiar with but who I learned play mostly original country/Americana music and covers, some of it with a strong rock flavor.
So when I told Kay and the kids about Kameryn’s concert, we all decided we wanted to go to support her in one of her greatest gig opportunities. It had been several years since we’d seen her perform. Kay and I had plans to go to the Rangers baseball game with some dear longtime friends Sunday afternoon, but we figured we could work out the logistics to get home and pick up the kids, grab dinner and make it to the Levitt in time for the 7:30 start of Kameryn’s set.
We found out when we arrived that Kameryn hadn’t auditioned or otherwise pitched herself to the folks at the Levitt, run by a nonprofit — instead, they approached her, which made it an even more noteworthy get for her.
The setting evening sun was shining directly into Kameryn’s face when she kicked off her set with “Hope and Despair,” one of about 15 original songs she’s written (she’s working on another, her mom Kim told me). It’s one of the seven that’s on Kameryn’s CD, “This Is Who I Am,” which she released during a party at Truth Vinyl Records in Arlington on her 15th birthday on Oct. 5, 2019. She also has three extended-play records on Spotify.
Most of what Kameryn played Sunday night in her sensational 45-minute set was her original work, including the fun “Hey There, Mr. Detective,” full of exceptional guitar work and creative lyrics.
Every song in Kameryn’s show received loud applause, and even with her years of youthful experience, she was nervously giddy and talkative between most of them, expressing how excited and thankful she was at the awesome chance to play this of all venues in front of such a large, appreciative crowd.
As I was looking for material to include in this post after deciding I wanted to pay tribute to Kameryn in some small way, I found a video on her YouTube channel from November 2020. It was a 20-minute Q&A in which she answered questions submitted through various social media and text. Kameryn was asked her favorite song that she’s written, and she named “Hey There, Mr. Detective,” which wasn’t hard to believe.
“That song is just such a blast to do,” she told her viewers. “I always get such good reception from it. That was the first time I wrote a good guitar solo … that was a really chaotic song and the first really advanced song I started to write.”
I’m not a guitar player and am next to clueless on the instrument, but I have a musical background (clarinet, piano), am a decent vocalist and have recently joined my church choir. I do have a full-blooded brother from my birth family I’ve known for 17 years this month who’s 17 years older than me (that would make Crys 78 now). He is an expert (he owns about 30) who can pretty much tell you everything about a guitar just by seeing a photo or video.
All this to say that I texted some video of Kameryn’s concert to Crys the next day, and he came away duly impressed. And as I told her mom after Kameryn’s performance, she has such great voice control, and her range and strength are remarkable. She puts so much emotion into her performance, and there’s such depth of meaning in her lyrics.
In her YouTube Q&A, Kameryn shared how, like many songwriters, what she composes is often based on personal experience in her young life. She says her own insecurities have inspired much of her music, and there are a number of artists she loves who make her feel better about herself and life. Through her music, she wants to help other people dealing with the same doubts realize that their flaws don’t matter and that things are going to get better.
Kameryn, who’s already graduated from high school after homeschooling for many years, also calls writing music therapeutic for her.
“The worst times in your life are surprisingly the best times to song-write,” she says. “It makes me feel better and makes me feel like I can get all my emotions out. It’s kind of like a way to vent everything out.”
Kameryn and our Alex, who are just a month apart in age (Alex will be 18 in September, Kameryn in October), love playing video games together, singing and are both into Japanese anime. When they were younger, Kameryn towered over Alex — she still does, but it’s not as big a height difference as it used to be.
Kameryn performs different styles of music, from alternative to rock to ballads and some country. Some of her creations are based on inspiration she draws from the video games she loves, and one she sang Sunday is even based on the TV show “Manifest.”
When we saw Kameryn perform a couple of times at a Tex-Mex restaurant several years ago, she was doing mostly covers and a handful of her own songs. That was switched Sunday night, when the only cover I remember her doing was “Crazy=Genius” by Panic! at the Disco (not a song I was familiar with, lol).
Over the years, the dozens of artists Kameryn has covered include Maroon 5, Shawn Mendes, Radiohead, Harry Styles, Coldplay, One Republic, Charlie Puth, John Mayer, Ed Sheeran — and, yes, even Elvis. She remembers her first solo performance being Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” which she sang at age 10 — 10!! — in 2015 while taking voice at Music Place Mansfield.
You might be wondering: Does anyone else in Kameryn’s family have the natural musical knack she has? Well, her mom Kim, who grew up in Odessa, definitely has the genes. Kim’s mother was a singer and her dad owned a recording studio and often used Kim as a backup singer. Kim also sang in a band and played keyboard while attending Odessa Permian High, where she graduated in 1983. Coincidentally, I graduated from Texas A&M the same year and started as a sports writer at The Odessa American that June — and Monday while texting back and forth, Kim and I discovered that a few years later, we lived in the same apartment complex in Odessa in 1986!
Years later in her late 30s (before Kameryn was born), Kim says, she had the great fortune to sing a few times in the famed Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue at the Arlington Music Hall, which High created when he bought an old movie theater in 1994 and converted it into a 1,200-seat music venue.
So yes, music is in the family’s blood. But it’s been up to Kameryn to make something out of it, and she’s become an exceptionally talented, poised performer in an unbelievably short time. When she started playing guitar, it amazed Kay and me how quickly she picked it up — and mastered the ability to play and sing together at such a young age (pre-teen).
On that YouTube Q&A, Kameryn offered some enlightening thoughts in responding to a question about the most challenging part of what she does. She says it’s motivation, then went on to elaborate:
“Challenging yourself and not saying that I’ve reached my limit. Challenging yourself and saying I still have higher that I can go. Because there’s always times you’re gonna tell yourself that I’ve reached my limit and my brain just can’t go any higher. I can’t belt this because I’ve never done it before. “Crazy=Genius” is a really good example of I did not think I could belt that song like I do. And that song proved to me that I could. And when I did “Ignorance” by Paramour, those songs proved to me that I could strengthen up and be stronger in my vocals. And (with) guitar, there’s always something new to learn.“
Kameryn says her favorite part of the industry is helping people through her music.
“My huge motto is that if I can make even one person smile, one person happy, one person forget about all of their life problems for just the length of my music, then I’ve done my job, because all I want to do is make people happy.“
How cool — and mature — is that?
Another thing to mention about Kameryn is that she’s not just musically skilled — she’s also very smart. And she’s a great kid. A lot of that has to do with her parents, Kim and Patrick, but Kameryn’s got innate goodness, too. And one thing they’ll never have to worry about with their sensible daughter: Any success she may have will never go to her head.
Kameryn wants to pursue music as a career, whether performing, producing or both. Our family and her many fans in the area are cheering her on, knowing that whatever she does, she’s going to excel just like she has at so much in her just-starting life.
Congratulations and good luck in all that lies ahead for you, Kameryn. We’re all so proud of you!