Kylie Rae Harris has gone to sing with the angels.
She was quintessentially Texan. Talented. Brash. Fun. Passionate. Beautiful.
Our hearts are broken.
Kylie Rae Harris tragically passed away September 4, 2019 as the result of a car accident in Taos, NM.
Cody Canada famously sang, “bad news travels faster than any good news that you hear.” That was proven true again this morning as my phone began to buzz frantically around 9am and hasn’t stopped as of this writing around noon. Word was trickling in that songstress, friend, sister, daughter and mother Kylie Rae Harris had been killed in a car accident in New Mexico. As details emerged, the hurt set in deeper.
Our scene has been lucky over the years to avoid the untimely deaths that seemed to haunt the hallowed stories of rock n’ roll. From Buddy Holly’s plane to Marvin Gaye being shot by his father and all the crazy stuff that’s happened over the years, we’ve been relatively immune. Brandon Jenkins passing is the closest, but even that had been foreshadowed a bit by health problems. One of our own falling victim to tragedy with a vibrant life still ahead of her is a new thing. It’s a gut punch of the highest order.
Kylie Rae Harris was a product of Wylie, TX. The type of DFW bedroom community that strives to be great in football on Friday nights while staking out the front row of parking spots at the Baptist church on Sundays. It’s from that cloth that Kylie Rae emerged as a teenager. She staked her claim at open mics and campfires. A big personality matched only by her bigger voice.
She was charming, affable, humorous, goofy sensitive…human.
She made those she came in contact with take note. She followed the same career path so many females in this scene trudge through. Guest spots here and there, called up on the mainstage to sing harmony, opening spots and the like. She reached a new level of fame in early 2011 when she was tapped to take place in a reality series focused on Texas songwriters called Troubadour TX. The folks behind this project tapped a wide array of artists to participate that included Cody Johnson, Zane Williams, Josh Grider and a young Kylie Rae Harris.
Her EP, Taking It Back, was released in 2013 and was the artistic statement she’d been striving for. Songs like “Waited” and “Sticks and Stones” hit radio and playlists region wide. She finally had a product to back up her bonafides. KRH was the real deal. She gave birth to her daughter Corbie Watkins during this time and motherhood began to inform her art. She wrote songs with a new worldview and brought her tot along to the gigs. A single mom living the struggle and singing about it. Kylie Rae was always taking turns at war with her vices, but it never stopped her from loving her music, career or daughter.
Family was important to Kylie Rae, and she considered everyone in the larger music scene part of her tribe. It’s easy for artists in this business to fuel on jealousy and live on envy, but Kylie Rae Harris was always a cheerleader. She was always positive and always happy to see success for others. She contributed harmonies live and on record to everyone from Josh Abbott Band and William Clark Green to Radney Foster and Mike Ryan.
By the time her self-titled EP arrived earlier this year, KRH was at a new creative place. She was healthy, happy and respected. Everyone was pulling for her and she rode the goodwill to having her song “Big Ol’ Heartache” become a radio hit. The gigs kept coming and she continued to climb the ladder. Being a great songwriter was important to her, but being a great mother was her biggest priority and joy. Corbie became her co-pilot, muse and best friend. This past July, the two of them took the stage at our River Jam event and had the moment of the day when they sang Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy” together. It was one of the most special things we’d ever witnessed prior to today’s tragic news. Now, it’s heart-wrenching. In the years to come, this 60 second clip will serve as a reminder to Corbie of just how awesome her mom was and how much she loved her.
“God I hope I’m still around…”
Those lyrics from “Twenty Years From Now” ring harder today than ever before. Kylie lost her own father at age 54 and yearned to make a longer, better life for herself. Tragically, that did not happen. Yet, the legacy she built on the songs and stories and memories of an entire state and music scene will live forever.