On Jan. 22, 2017, a 17-year-old Sara King uploaded to YouTube a cover of the outro piece of “Fucking Young/Perfect” by Tyler, the Creator featuring Kali Uchis and Austin Feinstein. The video has since amassed over 110,000 views.
That same month, a Twitter user by the handle @b1lue posted a link to the video in a since-deleted tweet, saying, “YO, @TYLERTHECREATOR + @KALIUCHIS, CHECK THIS OUT! SHE’S GOOD!”
King was in her math class at Woodrow Wilson High School, where she received an influx of Twitter notifications and used her backpack to conceal the use of her phone. What she saw caught her by surprise.
“(Tyler) retweeted it,” King says.
That pivotal moment in King’s career would prove to be the first of many achievements the Dallas dream pop artist now carries under her belt.
King has developed a strong bully pulpit on the internet, where she boasts over 188,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 21,500 followers on Instagram. Her most popular single, “Dreamz,” has over 656,000 streams on Spotify and over 79,000 on SoundCloud. Her cover of “Sunflower” by Rex Orange County has over 1.9 million views on YouTube, and her cover of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” has over 1.4 million.
Despite having no affiliation with Los Angeles, King has generated a dedicated following there that rivals and possibly exceeds that of Dallas. She's even the proprietor of a vintage clothing company and is working toward starting a website that sells handmade merch.
King is riding on a speedy, upward trajectory toward success, but it has been nearly a decade in the making, starting when she enrolled in School of Rock at age 10 and first learned to play guitar.
“I would go, because obviously I wanted to learn guitar, but also because my friends were there learning their instruments,” she says. “There’d be season shows where we would learn a bunch of cover songs of a certain band. We did like, ‘Ozzy Osbourne vs. Black Sabbath’ sets.”
By age 14, King’s friends began to drop out of the program in pursuit of their own creative endeavors, which inspired her to do the same. She used YouTube as a creative outlet and uploaded the first of over 200 cover songs: “Sparks” by Coldplay. Since then, she has uploaded covers of other artists who have inspired her, such as Lana Del Rey, SZA, Lorde, Kendrick Lamar, Mac DeMarco and others.
In 2018, King decided to break the cover artist mold she was confined to and began to write her own material. Before releasing her debut EP Heat on Aug. 4, she met Arlington-based booking agent Max Cronen of Biker Gang Booking.
“I found her music. I was listening to her on YouTube, and I just thought it fit really well with everything that we were doing,” Cronen says. “I saw she wasn’t playing any shows, and I thought she had more potential.”
While Arlington is certainly not a hotbed for talent agencies, Cronen is no mere de facto talent agent with no contacts in the music industry. He signed acts such as Bane’s World and Inner Wave, and Cronen got the former on the 2018 installments of Coachella and Camp Flog Gnaw. Both acts have since been signed to Paradigm Talent Agency, one of the largest agencies in the entertainment industry.
King has not yet toured, but Cronen has already gotten the singer-songwriter on a handful of shows in California and has otherwise been involved in advancing her career. She made her San Francisco debut at a festival called Young Love, which was headlined by Bane’s World, Omar Apollo and Inner Wave. Last December, she embarked on a brief leg of a tour with Bane’s World, in which she played Goldenvoice-curated shows in Santa Ana and San Diego.
King can look back on impressive achievements and coveted opportunities just in the past year alone, but the one she is most proud of was reached just last month, when she got to play two Texas shows with English indie rock outfit Her’s, her favorite band of all time.
“I have been following them since 2016, when they first released ‘Dorothy’ and ‘What Once Was,’” King says. “I got hardcore obsessed with them.”
After discovering the band, King would send unsolicited messages, requesting to open for them in the event they made a DFW appearance. When Her’s made their American debut on a short tour, she even offered to fly out to Brooklyn just for the opportunity. While King was ultimately turned down by their management, the band soon announced a tour that coincided with SXSW.
“I talked to Max. I was like, ‘Please get this for me. I need to,’” recalled King. “I had already bought my ticket (to their Dallas show) because I obviously had to see them no matter what was going to happen. I ended up getting (to open) that show and the Houston show.”
After King opened the Her’s show at Curtain Club on March 17, the band told her that her releasing a cover of “What Once Was” was an important milestone, as it was the first time anyone had covered one of their songs. The two acts quickly became friends and kept in touch via Instagram.
Ten days later, both members of Her’s died in a traffic accident outside of Phoenix.
“(Cronen) saw me crying in my car,” King remembers. “I’m deeply saddened, obviously, but I’m so, so grateful that I got that chance.
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“I’m just glad they were together and doing what they loved, because they were happy, amazing people. So funny, nice and welcoming to me.”
Despite 2019 having opened with such sadness, King is determined to make the year eventful for better reasons. She plans to release her debut full-length album sometime this year. She is making strides in starting her handmade merch website. She has been offered touring opportunities that would be just as fruitful and career-defining as her previous runs in California.
King has another goal, too, which involves finding ways to let other like-minded artists in on this ride.
“I’ve been wanting to collab with certain people for a while,” says King. “I feel like it would really take off if I were to do it.”