Ever since he was a young boy, Kyler Dean Judkins has been a performer. Dean — who goes by his first two names on stage — didn’t hesitate years ago when his father, a song leader at Bible Baptist Church in Rising Star, asked him to join the church choir.
“I’m kind of the guy that likes to jump out there,” Dean said, “so I said yeah, I’ll sing.”
Now 15 years old, Dean’s been singing every Sunday since then. But about two years ago, he said, he told his parents he was ready for an even bigger venue.
“I just said, I want to start pursuing this more. I want to do something with it,” Dean said. “My dad knew Kay Lynn Scott in San Saba, and we went down there and talked to her. I started taking voice lessons with her.”
Scott owns San Saba’s Performance Talent Studio, hosting camps and lessons for performers of all kinds. As an area director for New York-based Talent America, Scott was able to send Dean to New York City for an acting, singing and modeling opportunity with industry executives.
When Dean got back, though, his singing voice stopped cooperating. “Right after New York,” Dean said, “my voice changed completely. I was like, ‘I can’t sing any more, Kay Lynn.’ She said, ‘Oh, you’ll be fine.’ And then she heard me sing and she said, ‘No, you can’t sing any more.’”
Dean suggested they try a different style than the pop music he’d been singing to that point. Sure enough, his new voice was perfect for the low notes of Texas country. “I’m glad,” he said. “I grew up in a country music family, and I’ve always like country music.”
Since then, Dean has been writing, singing and practicing for a country music career, spending back-to-back spring breaks in Nashville for lessons and visits to famous venues like the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Dean said he’s trying to learn from the greats. “I like George Strait,” he said. “I love his personality. And I like the songs that Josh Turner puts out and what he sings about.”
Dean also mentioned Cody Johnson and Aaron Watson as influential voices. “So I like to mix all of that a little bit together and kind of make my own artist out of it,” Dean said.
So far, Dean has recorded two songs that are available on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube. “Me and My Dog” was written and recorded in Nashville as part of a songwriting intensive with Misty Rae and Jason Carson. It’s about a young man driving around with his dog in the passenger seat — and even getting a phone number from some passing girls who want to pet it.
“Cigar Man” was written by Kay Lynn’s husband, Mark Scott, and recorded in San Saba, an upbeat tune about making it big with a cigar-smoking industry executive.
With his growing profile, Dean has now performed all across West-Central Texas and in Nashville. He’ll be returning to the country music capital this summer, this time with his whole family. “I’m going to perform at the CMA Festival,” Dean said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but God will put it the way He wants it.”
He said he’ll take as many opportunities as possible, looking for a breakthrough. “That’s the thing about this career,” Dean said. “You never know. Things take off.”
But in the meantime, Dean stays plenty busy just being a normal teenager. He plays baseball and runs cross country at Brownwood High School, makes good grades and enjoys acting. Dean’s parents, D.J. and Tina, have two other boys and are hosting a Chinese foreign exchange student this year as well. “We stay pretty busy,” D.J. said.
Fans can next catch Dean on stage on Saturday, April 29 when he performs at the Goldthwaite State Championship BBQ & Goat Cook-Off. He also has a May 20 gig at Pepperbelly’s Mexican Restaurant in San Saba and a June 24 show at the Performance Talent 30th Anniversary Showcase.