Each year, SXSW plays host to thousands of artists from all over the world, ranging from the emerging to the already established. Having such a diverse range of artists to choose from can make navigating the festival a somewhat overwhelming experience, especially for the uninitiated, and this list isn't designed to make your life any easier.

What we've done is painstakingly worked our way through hundreds of artists and have narrowed down our selections to 15 "under the radar" artists who we feel deserve your attention and a space in your already crammed itinerary. Enjoy.

Harvest Thieves

Harvest Thieves began as a side-project formed by Cory Reinisch and Dustin Meyer, members of the Austin-based alt-country group Guns of Navarone. Quickly rising to full-time band status, they released their excellent debut album, Rival, earlier this year. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the band counts "dark liquor and dimly-lit places" as some of their influences considering their music--a unique no-frills mix of garage rock, traditional country, and Americana--almost makes you feel at times as if you're parked at your favorite dive bar on a hot and humid Friday night knocking back a few shots of bourbon while a killer band is busy lighting up the dancefloor.


"Soulful" is a term often readily thrown at artists whose music even remotely hints at anything resembling R&B, but in the case of Adée, it's pretty apt. The Swedish artist and producer is soulful and not just because of the obvious R&B and hip-hop influences found in her music, but also because of her distinct and powerful voice that lends a certain intimacy to her already personal and, at times, introspective poetry. So far she has released two strong EPs, 2013's One Step Closer and 2014's Honestly, which features 'Woman', the official anthem song for the world's largest political conference on gender equality, and now her sights are set on dropping a proper full-length album at some point this year. Equally vulnerable and assured, Adée is a rapidly rising talent worth taking note of.


Hyde Park, Chicago artist and Dreamville member Omen has been around for a minute. He began rapping 10 years ago and has been producing music for 8 of those years. After a solo feature on J. Cole's Friday Night Lights and Revenge Of The Dreamers 2 mixtapes, it seems as if Omen is finally (and rightfully) on his way to greater recognition, and last year's proper debut, Elephant Eyes, is further proof. Borrowing the album title from a nickname given to him by an ex-girlfriend, its 11-tracks are full of songs inspired by personal experience, or the experiences of others as seen through Omen's eyes backed by tasteful and jazzy boom-bap production. And, despite the personal nature of his rhymes, he spits introspective bars that still manage to come off in a relatable way. Side-stepping conventional braggadocio, Omen instead strives for a more authentic image, and it's that grounded attitude along with his knack for writing vivid and thoughtful stories that helps set him squarely apart.

Hailey Tuck

Hailey Tuck is quickly carving out her own unique space in the expansive realm of jazz music. The Austinite musician, who has been touted by Marie Claire as "the Millenial's Louise Brooks", grew up cultivating a love for black & white films, 1930s jazz, vintage dresses, and Edith Piaf, and her music reflects those loves and influences as it hearkens back to an era where smoke filled clubs were overflowing with elegantly dressed patrons. Listening to her newest EP, Delancey Street, it isn't hard to associate her music with scenes from the kinds of films Tuck grew up loving. With a captivating voice that sits somewhere between Billie Holiday, Regina Spektor and Ella Fitzgerald, her music is as vintage as it is modern and chic.

Ruby Velle and The Soulphonics

It wouldn't be entirely accurate to call Ruby Velle and The Soulphonics a purely "under the radar" act. The Atlanta eight-piece has been at it for close to a decade now, building themselves a reputation and receiving acclaim from major press outlets through their rousing live shows and a string of impressive 45's and an equally impressive full-length album that showcase their love for classic soul and R&B. Look at them instead as kind of a best-kept secret who are hopefully on the verge of getting the attention they rightly deserve. Their music could almost function as something of a "best of" compilation that spans the funky Southern soul of Stax and the stomping sweat drenched R&B of early Motown. What makes their sound especially captivating is Velle's sultry voice that effortlessly switches between tender crooning and scorching rave-ups. Far from a simple nostalgia act, Ruby Velle lovingly filters those influences through a modern lens and in the end, are making music that sounds less like simple revivalism and more like a loving restoration.


The SXSW electronic music showcase is looking especially good this year, with a mix of emerging talents spanning across diverse genres like psych, grime, noise, and internet pop (that's a thing now, right?) alongside established names like Jamie XX, Blanck Mass, D∆WN, Mumdance etc, as well as showcases being put on by Fact Mag, Resident Advisor, Ninja Tune, LuckyMe and more. With so many to choose from this can be pretty daunting, considering the mix of raw talent and high profile names. But for all of the obvious standouts, you would still be doing yourself a favor by squeezing in some time to check out (​(​PRESSURES​)​). The relatively mysterious New Orleans group makes minimal cold-wave that wouldn't be so out of place as the soundtrack to a throwback "futuristic" sci-fi film where tinny high-speed sequenced beats and rumbling synth bass are swathed in chilling melodic analogue synths and melancholic vocoded vocals.


Formed in 2013, Abjects are an international trio that consists of Noemi (guitar/vox), Yuki (bass/vox) and Alice (drums/vox) who serve up peppy punk and garage tunes with plenty of fuzz and attitude. So far they have put out two very good EPs, 2013's Fast Love and last year's Gone, and have a full-length album on the way. The group have toured with Fresh & Onlys, The Fat White Family, Mikal Cronin and recently supported Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, La Luz, Shannon and The Clams, The Parrots, and The Coathangers. So while they may not exactly be "under the radar", they are still deserving of some extra hype considering just how damn good and catchy their music is.

Mai Nimani

Mention folk music, and some people tend to associate it with classic artists like Joni Mitchell or Woody Guthrie, or more contemporary ones like Angel Olsen or Father John Misty. To some Western ears then, the kind of folk music Mai Nimani is making may sound a little strange, to say the least. Hailing from Sindh (one of the four provinces of Pakistan), Nimani was born into a musical family but didn't formally take up music until being taught by her husband after they married. Her music draws heavily from her heritage and her sets often consist of Sindhi kalaams of Shah Abdul Lateef Bhittai, Punjabi kalaams of Baba Bulleh Shah and Guru Nanak, as well as Sindhi folk songs, often accompanied by her husband on harmonium and brother in law on dholak. It's rich and vibrant and pleasingly exotic to those of us who may often associate "folk" music with places like Laurel Canyon.

Rosie Carney

It's almost startling just how gifted Rosie Carney is. She began composing her own classical pieces on the piano at age 10 and gained recognition after an especially stunning performance in St James's church for Ireland's Highly acclaimed Other Voices at the age of 16. The now 19-year-old Hampshire, UK native (who is currently living in Downings Co Donegal Ireland) creates songs that tap into folk music's most basic traditions: they are hushed, minimal and deeply intimate. Her voice is striking and fragile and the sparse backing of a gently plucked acoustic and occasional whine of a harmonica or the muted thump of a kick drum that resembles distant rumbling thunder almost gives it a haunting tinge. What's probably most remarkable about her music, though, is regardless of how familiar it may feel at times, it somehow manages to remain timeless.

Casual Strangers

Probably one of the more interesting things about a group like Casual Strangers is that their music seems to be constantly evolving, never holding to a specific shape yet never really abandoning its own distinct form at the same time. Over the course of two albums--2014's Self-Titled and this year's Pink Panther--the Austin-based group (who describe their sound as "cosmic sludge") have shifted from an experimental rock sound that relied on traditional song structure to a certain extent to something a little more atmospheric, glacially paced, and freeform--music less rooted in specific genres and shaped more by an expansive creativity that, at times, brings to mind the kind of experimental instrumental pieces Pink Floyd were creating during their pre-Dark Side of the Moon era, the kind of meandering ambient jams meant for late night drives into the desert that could easily set your mind wandering off on some sort of inner cosmic journey.

A Giant Dog

A Giant Dog can't resist a good pun. Take for example their previous releases which boast titles like House, Fight, and Bone. Come this May, they're dropping a new puntastic album called Pile (get it?) Obviously far from being "under the radar" this is another one of those standouts that are just too fun to simply pass by (and are also a personal favorite). Not to mention, this is the kind of band that's bound to make you lose your shit and spill the overpriced beer that you're likely nursing in the process. The Texas quintet mixes equal parts of irreverent humor with raunchy glam, hook-driven melodies, and the kind of scruffy primitive noise influenced by both The Stooges and The Velvets. It's loud and rude, sloppy and catchy, and, as previously stated, a whole lot of fun


One of the most common forms of communication breakdown is language barriers, but one form of communication that has always transcended those barriers universally is music, something the music of AW-A (pronounced "ay-wah", meaning "yeah" in Arabic slang) does almost effortlessly. Sisters Tair, Liron, and Tagel Haim grew up in the small village of Shaharut in the southern Israeli Arava Valley in a musical family and have been singing and performing their whole lives. Combining influences of traditional Arab folk songs filtered through strains of diverse modern pop influences, AW-A are creating a unique and inviting kind of music that is not only breaking language barriers, but also cultural barriers.

Clareta Haddon

You could technically view just about any gospel artist as being "under the radar" from a secular standpoint considering gospel itself occupies a realm of its own, having its own separate music association, awards show, and touring circuit. Still, gospel has never been limited to crossing over and someone like CLARĒTA might just have crossover appeal. Coming from a well-known gospel musical family "The Haddon’s", she possesses not only a unique sense of fashion and a commanding stage presence that could rival just about any secular pop artist, she also possesses and an incredibly powerful voice that at times brings to mind Tina Turner and is capable of captivating and moving even the most agnostic of souls. It's no wonder she's been invited back for a second SXSW appearance.


Expander have been quickly building a name for themselves since releasing their six-song debut Laws of Power last summer, and there's good reason for the buzz surrounding the Austin four-piece. Their music is a sludgy and explosive synthesis of metal, D-Beat, thrash, and crust full of thrashing tempos, crunching hooks, scuzzy beats, and menacing vocals. It's one thing for a band to play with crunching volume and power, just about anyone can turn it up to 11 and crank out face-melting noise, what sets apart a band like Expander though is that they do the same thing with the kind of finesse that makes their brand of crossover thrash-punk remain loud, raw, and intimidating while coming off as oddly accessible at the same time.


Rei is probably one of the more unusual blues artists you are likely to come across, and that's actually a good thing. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter first picked up a guitar at age four and became fascinated with blues music just a year later. What's so refreshing about her music is that it isn't strictly rooted in tradition or brittle slavish imitation. She uses the basic foundation of blues music as a template and colors it in with unusual funky rhythms, playful vocal melodies, and an unconventional approach to playing (she primarily uses an acoustic guitar in her performances, and simulates the electric guitar by using an effects pedal and creating audio feedback with the amplifier which gives her a unique sound and the freedom to explore a wide range of styles). Yet she never strays that far from her influences, honoring them instead by putting her own distinct spin on them. But if you really need proof as to just how impressive her chops really are, just watch the live video posted on her YouTube of her covering the Johnny Winters song 'Illustrated Woman' and it's pretty evident she has both the talent and the unique vision for carving out her own niche.