From 'Slingshot' To SXSW: Public Radio Favorites Head To Austin

Mar 10, 2018

Last year, NPR Music and NPR member stations across the country launched a new series called Slingshot designed to boost the careers of up-and-coming public radio favorites. Since the beginning of 2018, 22 new Slingshot artists have been announced. Many of them are about to head to Austin, Texas, for next week's South By Southwest Music Festival. To preview the big event, here are a few artist recommendations from the Slingshot series.

Haley Heynderickx

"Oom Sha La La"

Not just any singer-songwriter, Heynderickx takes her nervy and ambitious songs down circuitous, unexpected paths. "Oom Sh La La" starts with a murmur and builds to a scream.

Download "Oom Sha La La" via NPR Music's Austin 100 Mixtape until March 31.

Jade Bird

"Good Woman"

She sounds like a Nashville veteran, but in reality, she's a U.K. singer who's not yet old enough to drink legally in the U.S. "Good Woman" is a rip-roaring blast.

Download "Good Woman" via NPR Music's Austin 100 Mixtape until March 31.

Liz Brasher

"Body Of Mine"

Brasher's voice seems to come from many places and eras at once, from early soul and girl groups to modern pop.

Download "Body Of Mine" via NPR Music's Austin 100 Mixtape until March 31.

Hear the full conversation with NPR's Don Gonyea at the audio link.

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Starting Monday, thousands of bands will show up from around the world in Austin, Texas, to perform at the 32nd annual South By Southwest music festival. NPR Music will be there to take it all in and even put on a few shows. Stephen Thompson is heading to Texas soon. But before he goes, he wanted to tell us about some of NPR Music's Slingshot artists performing there. Remind us, Stephen, what Slingshot is and what it means for these artists to play at South By Southwest.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: So Slingshot is a series that NPR Music put together in collaboration with a whole bunch of NPR member stations basically to put a stamp of approval on a number of bands that those stations - that those of us at NPR Music really love and want to share with as many people as possible. So it's kind of a little bit of a recommendation engine. If you go to, you'd see this grid of faces. And you can kind of click on them and sample them and spend time with them and hopefully find your new favorite band.

GONYEA: And you've brought just a few highlights with you. Tell me about the first artist you have, Jade Bird.

THOMPSON: Yeah. Jade Bird is really interesting because you hear her voice...


JADE BIRD: (Singing) In one minute, you told two lies - that you love me and it was you and I. In one minute, I came to see half a man of what you used to be.

THOMPSON: She sounds a little bit like a Nashville veteran. You know, she's just got this real grit to her voice. And then you find out that she is not old enough to drink and from England.

GONYEA: All right.


BIRD: (Singing) Did you die yourself on the other bed? Babe, you're giving me a heart attack. Oh, what were you thinking? What all do you take me for? Oh, what were you thinking? She's cheaper than a dollar-store version of me - version of me, version of me.

GONYEA: I can hear that leaking out of one of those doorways on Lower Broadway.

THOMPSON: And I would walk right in that room.

GONYEA: Absolutely.

THOMPSON: Yeah. Just again, you've got that grit of kind of like earlier country music - kind of vintage country music - crossed with a little bit of the more ethereal vibe of a band like First Aid Kit.

GONYEA: And some muscle.

THOMPSON: And some muscle. And some muscle.

GONYEA: OK, so next we've got a singer named Haley Heynderickx - sounds like Jimi Hendrix. I'm going to spell her name - H, E, Y, N, D, E, R, I, C, K, X. There's the X.

THOMPSON: (Laughter) I've had to type that name many times, and now I can finally do it from memory. She is an amazing singer-songwriter. You know, you think singer-songwriter with a guitar, you think you know what you're gonna get. But she will sit down, and she just sings with kind of this nerve to her voice. And her songs are constantly going down these kind of side roads. So when she starts a song, you never quite know where it's going to end up or where she's going to stop along the way. I find her music completely hypnotic and compelling, and I've already become a huge, huge fan.


HALEY HEYNDERICKX: (Singing) The milk is sour. I've barely been to college. And I've been doubtful of all that I have dreamed of. The brink of my existence essentially is a comedy - the gap in my teeth and all that I can cling to. The milk is sour - sha la la, oom, oom sha la la, oom sha la la.

THOMPSON: You think you know where the song's going. And all of a sudden, there are this kind of oom sha la las. Part of what I love about this song is that by the end, she's screaming.

GONYEA: OK, I got to hear that.


HEYNDERICKX: (Screaming) I need to start a garden. I need to start a garden.

GONYEA: And that's Haley Heynderickx getting tender again...


GONYEA: ...At The end. OK, it looks like you brought one more, and I hear you brought this one just for me.

THOMPSON: See, now I know you, Don Gonyea. And I know that you are a soul man.

GONYEA: Soul - it's like - picking your soul is like picking your barbecue, right? Detroit or Memphis?

THOMPSON: That's right. That's right.

GONYEA: Which is it going to be?

THOMPSON: And you're a Detroit man.

GONYEA: I am a Detroit guy.

THOMPSON: You are through and through. So I've got somebody from Memphis.

GONYEA: I like this.

THOMPSON: A bluesy soul singer named Liz Brasher, another young singer - so many sounds and eras going on in her music. You hear traces of this, like, Stax Records soul music. But you also hear girl groups but then, you know, modern ballad singers. There's a lot going on in her sound. I think she's got enormous potential.


LIZ BRASHER: (Singing) And this ain't the way I was made to stay, but I'm always down. Chained to the next one but only for a moment - ain't going to keep me bound. Someday, I want to rest this body, rest this body of mine. One day, I want to be somebody, walk into the light.

GONYEA: So we've got this great soulful voice here. Is she a Slingshot artist because she hasn't been around very long, or she's just unknown?

THOMPSON: Well, the Slingshot series is definitely about young artists. We want artists who've only put out one record - if they've put out a record at all. We don't necessarily want bands we've already covered before. So she was somebody who was definitely in this process - she was new to me.

GONYEA: Stephen, anything else people should know going into South By Southwest?

THOMPSON: Well, if you're going to the festival - but also if you're not going to the festival, if you just want to discover a new favorite band - in addition to that Slingshot series, we also put together this package called The Austin 100, which is 100 hand-picked discoveries from the festival. I curated it myself. You can download it. You can stream it. You can take home all three of the songs that we just played and 97 more. You can actually download them in one giant bundle and have all the songs in your computer forever if you go to and look for The Austin 100.

GONYEA: You can follow all of NPR's coverage of South By Southwest online at Stephen Thompson, thank you so much.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: Pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BODY OF MINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.