Texas-born singer-songwriter Koe Wetzel has quietly built a substantial following since he started releasing his signature blend of country, grunge rock, and Americana music.
Wetzel’s influences range from country mainstays such as Johnny Cash, George Jones and Willie Nelson, to rap icons The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac and 50 Cent, to grunge pioneers Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and Nirvana. The cornucopia of Wetzel’s musical taste had created a unique sound that fans crave. Favorites among his catalog are “Drunk Driving,” “Something to Talk About,” and “Good Die Young,” all of which Wetzel wrote himself.
Since 2015, Wetzel has quietly sold over 200,000 units, garnered 100 million streams and views, and went from playing dingy bars to headlining festivals in Texas. He made Pollstar’s Top Worldwide Tours in 2020 and 2021, and sold over 120,000 tickets last year alone.
In 2017, Wetzel released his debut album Noise Complaint, which lit his career aflame. Fans relished in the rowdy spirit and distinctive sound found on “February 28, 2016” (48.6 million Spotify streams), “Something To Talk About” (45.4 million Spotify streams), “Love” (31.2 million Spotify streams), and “Fuss & Fight” (26.7 million Spotify streams). Playing four nights a week throughout Texas and Oklahoma, Wetzel’s shows started to sell out—without the support of a label, agent, or any traditional team members.
After following up Noise Complaint with 2019’s Harold Saul High, which produced one of Wetzel’s most popular tunes “Kuntry & Wistern,” the singer aligned with Columbia Records in 2020 and released his third LP, Sellout.
“Most everybody in the Texas and red dirt scene does the same thing,” Wetzel says when asked about his DIY beginnings. “We were on the road for eight or nine years before we signed with Columbia. There was a long time period before we even signed a record deal that everything was all grassroots, all completely us. We decided [to sign because] there’s only so much you can do for so long until you need somebody else’s help. We weren’t ashamed to say that.”
Like many from the Texas music scene, Wetzel admits there was a bit of backlash from fans when it came to signing on the dotted line to be a major label artist. That’s why he named his first project with the label Sellout.
“We got a lot of hate when we came on the scene with Noise Complaint because our music is not your normal stuff. It’s not what country music fans are used to listening to,” Wetzel admits. “So we grew this solid fan base and they helped to get us to where we were [when we signed]. We were selling out rooms across the US, and that was all because of the fans. Whenever somebody from Texas or the red dirt music scene signs with a major label, the fans feel like, ‘He has sold out. He is not going to make the same music anymore.’
“[The truth is] Columbia let us take the reins and do it how we wanted to. I decided if [some fans] were going to think that way, then we’re going to call the record Sellout and hopefully that will give them insight on how we haven’t changed.”
Not only does Wetzel’s disruptive attitude and the refreshing blend of his musical influences draw fans in, but his witty online persona keeps them coming back. He’s not afraid to poke fun at himself, and there’s a special camaraderie with his fans through his presence on social media.
“I usually just tweet whenever I’m drunk, so whatever comes out, comes out,” Wetzel quips. “People seem to like it. I usually don’t wake up and just hop on Twitter and just start tweeting. It’s more like I wake up in the morning, like, ‘Holy, shit. What did I tweet?'”
But even with his major label deal and rapidly growing success, Wetzel doesn’t have any plans of leaving his roots in Texas.
“I’ll stay in Texas,” he says. “Nothing against Nashville, I love Nashville. I go there to write every now and then. I’ve got a lot of friends in Nashville, like Ernest, Hardy, Jelly Roll, and Parker McCollum, but I’ll stay in Texas.
“We just finished our new record, Hell Paso. Once we got off the road in July, we’re going start our new country record so I’m sure I’ll be up in Nashville a little bit more to write and do some collabs with some of the guys up there.”
Wetzel just released his brand new single, “April Showers.” The music video, directed by John Park, stars Wetzel enjoying his last day on earth.
Wetzel is currently on a 32-date headlining tour, making it’s stop in Franklin on Thursday night (April 21) at the FirstBank Amphitheater. Tickets for tonight’s show are still available here.
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