The Next Taylor Swift? Discovering Cody's Teen Sensation Jillian Nordberg

Jillian Nordberg says she would not mind being the next Taylor Swift. The teen singer out of Park County could be on that type of trajectory with an estimated thousand gigs already under her belt buckle.

Jake Nichols

March 22, 20249 min read

15-year-old Jillian Nordberg is taking Cody by storm.
15-year-old Jillian Nordberg is taking Cody by storm. (J. Marshall Photography)

Jillian Nordberg would not mind being the next Taylor Swift. The teen singer out of Park County, Wyoming, is on that type of trajectory with an estimated thousand gigs already under her belt buckle.

In the days before Nordberg, a generational talent like Swift had to be “discovered.” Then a record deal put in place to record songs, a distribution deal to get them spins at a record station and into the hands of fans. Agents, managers, the corporate grind begins.

In the days before Swift, the eye of the needle was even tinier. A musician or a band had to come from places like New York, Detroit, Memphis, Nashville, Seattle, Liverpool.

But Nordberg is a product of the second Roaring ’20s, a replay decade of social enlightenment coming on the heels of a worldwide pandemic (Spanish Flu in 1918, COVID in 2019). With a recording studio in her bedroom, the garage serves as her official rehearsal space.

It’s different now.

All of 15 years old, the goal-driven Cody High School freshman has got a lot of this life thing figured out. Put her behind a mic stand and a guitar and watch her really shine.

Love Story

Nordberg has a little Taylor Swift thing going on, actually. Minus the hit songs written about exes or a current NFL boyfriend, Norberg has a similar look and vibe.

The tall, fair-haired teen also is long on songs. Her catalog is growing by the day.

“I’ve been writing originals for about four years now. I have around 100 or 150 completed songs, but only about 30 are actually usable,” Norberg said.

To make the cut and be included in the regular rotation, Nordberg says it is all about a gut feeling.

“I will just get this feeling in my bones that this is the one to go with,” she said. “If it really clicks with me, I will play it a lot and work on it, fix it and improve it while playing it out live.”

And Norberg has plenty of opportunity to workshop new material. She’s gigged nonstop since the age of 6, often playing in joints she would be too young to get in if she weren’t on stage.

“In summer, I play about four nights a week,” Nordberg estimated.

Playing out includes Wednesdays at the Chamberlin Inn all winter where Nordberg also played a special Valentine’s Day show a month ago.

“Chamberlin Inn is a super fun space. It is small and inviting,” Nordberg said. “I am able to interact more closely with the audience, so it is a great place to work on material that is not yet polished or new to the public because I get that close immediate feedback.”

Nordberg is also a regular at Cassie’s Steakhouse in Cody — her favorite place to play. She enjoys the more “honkytonk” feel of the space. She began with a few open mics, then started opening for bigger attractions until she now headlines the venue on select summer nights.

Nordberg also can be found at onstage at the Wynona Thompson Auditorium, Park County Fair, Cody Elks, The Colonel Venue and Lounge, The Blanca Tatanka, Bar 72, Tossers Pizza, and more. She just wrapped up a weekend performance at Thirsty Street Brewing in Billings, Montana, where she opened for Rhino Skin.

When not under the neon lights, Nordberg is frequently found busking on downtown Cody streets — especially out front of dad’s Nordberg Lindauer Gallery on Sheridan Avenue. She first took to that in summer 2019 as a fourth grader.

“I started with the ukulele, which is easier to play. I didn’t know guitar well enough back then,” Nordberg said. “It’s different playing on the street. People around you are paying attention and not paying attention. It allows you to do what I love and that’s explain a little how the songs make me feel.”

  • Jillian Nordberg at home in the studio or out on the street busking.
    Jillian Nordberg at home in the studio or out on the street busking. (Courtesy Photos)
  • Jillian Nordberg with her first guitar on Christmas Day 2015. She was 6 years old.
    Jillian Nordberg with her first guitar on Christmas Day 2015. She was 6 years old. (Courtesy Photo)
  • The many faces of Jillian Nordberg.
    The many faces of Jillian Nordberg. (J. Marshall Photography)
  • Cassie's Steakhouse is a regular gig for Jillian Norberg.
    Cassie's Steakhouse is a regular gig for Jillian Norberg. (J. Marshall Photography)
  • From humble beginnings as a 6-year-old with her first guitar to the axe slinging diva Jillian Nordberg, 15, is today.
    From humble beginnings as a 6-year-old with her first guitar to the axe slinging diva Jillian Nordberg, 15, is today. (J. Marshall Photography)

Wildest Dreams

All that playing out has sharpened Nordberg’s skills. She has noticed a difference in where she was even just a few years ago.

“I feel like everything has improved — everything from stage presence to being more relaxed when talking on stage. My guitar playing is better,” Nordberg said. “My vocal control is way better. Stuff I wasn’t able to do before with my voice, I can now do.”

Nordberg’s career path began at age 6 when she got her first guitar. There was always music and instruments around the house. Dad is a furniture designer who dabbles with the bass. He’s been in a few bands.

“I knew from a young age I wanted to be a singer,” Nordberg said. “I have been interested in music since I was 3. When I was 5, I started taking singing lessons, which sparked an interest in guitar.”

And then, there it was. The launch of a career. Her first six string.

“I was 6. We were staying at a friend’s cabin and I remember waking up Christmas morning and there was this little miniature pink guitar under the tree,” Nordberg said. “It was the most life-changing present I ever got.”

Nordberg would eventually pick up the ukulele, piano, banjo and other instruments. She likes guitar best because the instrument keeps her more “connected” to the song she’s singing.

The guitar, though, was nearly an instrument of derailment for Nordberg early on in her development. Just a few years into her passion for music and she hit a wall, soured and got a little burned out.

“I was 8 when I quit guitar. I remember it was January and I was feeling a little sick. My guitar instructor, who was also my vocal coach, could see I was not able to concentrate. I was struggling to keep up with practicing,” Nordberg said. “It wasn’t really working for me at that time.”

Suddenly, the joy of playing music was looking a lot more like drudgery. Nordberg quit all of her lessons and put down the guitar. It would be two years before she’d take it up again, but when she did it was with renewed passion even as a worldwide pandemic put everything on hold.

Shake It Off

Just as the 10-year-old rededicated her life to music, COVID-19 hit. Nordberg landed a starring role in Cody Community Theatre’s “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” only to have the play canceled.

She practiced and practiced a song on ukulele for a Rotary talent show. The show ended up being scrubbed because of the pandemic, but during auditions in February 2020, Nordberg was shook by a performance from a fellow teen musician.

“At the auditions, I got inspired by a girl. This girl was playing her guitar and singing. Later that night, I grabbed my guitar that I had not played for quite some time and played a chord,” Nordberg recalled. “I searched up the song that the girl played it was called ‘Arms’ by Christina Perri. I tried playing the song and found I could do it.

“I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I really can do this.’ From that day forward, I made the guitar my main instrument.”

It was a pivotal moment for Nordberg. And it wasn’t until recently she was able to share just how impactful it was with the young lady in person.

“I had seen the girl, Jenna Maxwell, who inspired me around town, but I have never had the courage to thank her,” Nordberg said. “Finally, I got to meet her again and talk to her. We were performing together at the Buffalo Bill Birthday Ball (February 2023). As soon as I saw she was there, I knew I had to tell her how amazing her performance was and what it did for me.”

Nordberg used the isolation of lockdown to hone her guitar playing and write songs that helped her get through trying times. As the pandemic lifted, the young songbird was ready to rise from the ashes.

As a fourth-grader, Nordberg secured a spot in Wyoming Children's Honor Choir with a solo in a foreign language she sang phonetically. That same year, Nordberg got her first official gig — singing at her sister’s wedding ceremony.

Jillian Nordberg plays out at Cassie's Steakhouse in Cody, Wyoming.
Jillian Nordberg plays out at Cassie's Steakhouse in Cody, Wyoming. (J. Marshall Photography)

Blank Space

In between her frequent live performances, Nordberg tweaks her social media. She has her own YouTube channel and keeps her website and Facebook page updated.

“I feel like it is a mandatory thing now to be on socials. It’s a good way to make your own break,” Nordberg said.

Nordberg has steadily amassed the gear necessary to do what musicians do: cables, headphones, mics, laptop, recording hardware and software. Like her own self-taught style of making music, the 15-year-old has figured out through trial and error how to be her own producer and engineer.

She is also taking a music production class recently offered by Cody High School.

Nordberg music gravitates toward country, but she listens to a lot and will cover just about anything she likes.

“Older country music is what I go to automatically. Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard,” Nordberg said. “Their music shows how simpler life was in that time. It makes a deeper connection with me.”

Nordberg also digs stuff from her contemporaries like bell-bottom country stars Lainey Wilson, Ingrid Andress and Priscilla Block, as well as pop stars Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish.

Catch her while you can, while she is still affordable. Say you saw her when.

The Class of 2027 freshman navigates school hallways by day, at night Nordberg dons her guitar and becomes a local rock star. The day may be coming when the world will know her name.

“I'm loving what I do and just waiting to see where the road takes me,” Nordberg said.

Jake Nichols can be reached at

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Jake Nichols

Features Reporter