Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UTalent artist uses Nashville experience to fuel budding Austin music career

Naina Srivastava
Advertising sophomore Kylie Hernandez plays the guitar on Feb. 12, 2024. She’s a signed artist on UT’s student-run record label, UTalent Records and will release her debut country album in April.

Walking through the halls of Belmont University in Nashville, the “Country Music Capital of the world,” would be ideal for many young, aspiring country artists. However, after a year there, Kylie Hernandez traded it for burnt orange and a desire to lay her roots as a country artist in Austin while attending UT. 

Hernandez, an advertising sophomore, said she initially felt drawn to Belmont because of its Nashville location and music program. However, coming from a family of Longhorns, Hernandez said she decided Austin may offer an environment better suited for developing her career. Now a signed artist on UT’s student-run record label, UTalent Records, she will release a single, “Dirt On Your Name,” in a few weeks before her debut country album releases in April. 

“(As a musician,) what makes UT special is that it’s in Austin. They call Austin the ‘Live Music Capital of the World,’” Hernandez said. “Now, it’s kind of moved to more of an indie rock scene, and there’s nothing wrong with that; indie rock is great. But I also feel we need to bring some of that country vibe back, and I feel like I could do that.”

Her marketing chair, Heidi Melgar, a business freshman, said she’s been impressed by Hernandez’s maturity and focus on her music. Melgar said she doesn’t feel Hernandez’s chosen genre will hinder her success. 

“I’ve heard all the songs so far, and all of them anyone can relate to,” Melgar said. “That’s what’s going to allow more people to reach her, even though it’s country.”

In a songwriting program at Belmont, Hernandez said she learned a lot about the commercial side of the music business but didn’t get to explore the full creativity of her songwriting. She said this experience gave her a deeper appreciation for UTalent and the less competitive nature of the UT music community.

“I love Nashville, and it has nothing against the talent or anything,” Hernandez said. “It just felt like the school I was at was missing something for me. I did feel nervous because (UT is) super big, but I felt it’d be easier for me to get my name out there. I was right about that because I’ve been pretty successful this past year. I had someone stop me on the street the other day, and she’s like, ‘Are you that UT singer girl?’”  

In addition to the music environment, UTalent members themselves boast a diverse range of skills they bring into the studio, which Hernandez said she appreciates. Sanni Saari, business freshman and UTalent financial chair, for example, helps Hernandez with budgeting and supports other UTalent artists as a pianist and backup vocalist. 

“I prefer (UTalent’s diverse dynamic) because I don’t feel so limited,” Saari said. “I can just hop on to anything that I’m interested in.” 

Through it all, Hernandez said she doesn’t regret her decision to plant her roots in Austin. 

“Normally it’s the opposite— you go from somewhere else to Nashville, but everybody’s path is different,” Hernandez said. “A part of me just felt like I needed to grow more here.”

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