Brittney Spencer is yet to release her debut album, but the Baltimore-born singer has already established herself as a rising country music star.
“I’m really new,” Spencer said, calling during a rehearsal break in Nashville. “Like, I’m so new that the tag is still on me.”
Spencer’s In a Perfect World tour – her headlining debut – was scheduled to begin Thursday in New York City, and she has two concerts in Philadelphia on Friday.
First, she’ll play the free WXPN-FM (88.5) at noon at World Cafe Live. Then in the evening, she will headlining at MilkBoy Philly, where her openers are Sam Williams – son of Hank Jr. and grandson of Hank Sr. – and Camille Parker.
When Spencer talks about her novelty, she is referring to how quickly she has come into the limelight. Although she moved to Nashville in 2013, she did not release her first original song, “Compassion”, until July 2020.
And she got her first measure of fame in October of that year, when her cover of The Highwomen’s “Crowded Table” was amplified online by the group’s Amanda Shires, and Maren Morris shouted at Spencer at the Country Music Association Awards. later in the month. .
But Spencer, who USA Today cited as one of the “12 black artists who are shaping the future of country music” and who Row of music magazine this week named as 2022 next big thing, Also means that she is a newcomer to many other black country and American artists who deserve deserved attention at the forefront of a genre from which black artists have often been excluded.
“My feeling is that we’ve always been here,” says Spencer. With contemporary country stars like Jimmie Allen, a native of Milton, Del., Who is a new Grammy-nominated artist, and Kane Brown, the mainstream star making headlines at Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 13, she credits credit to veteran black women who are finally gaining a measure of acceptance in the music industry.
Such as: Allison Russell, who won three Grammy nominations last week, and her good friend Mickey Guyton, who last year became the first black woman ever to be nominated for a country solo performance for “Black Like Me.” And also Rissi Palmer, country singer from Sewickley, Pa., Who centers “the black, native and Latin stories of country music” on her Apple Music radio show. Color me country.
»READ MORE: A country singer who shakes up the custom
“There are so many artists out here that have been doing this for a while,” says Spencer. Country has been a genre dominated by white artists, but black artists have played key roles dating back to original Grand Ole Opry member DeFord Bailey to Ray Charles. Modern sounds in country and western music in the early 1960s and the long career of Charley Pride and the recent success of Darius Rucker.
But a new examination of the country’s past and future began last year as part of the racial calculation that is taking place in all aspects of American society.
“I think race became the number one talking point during the pandemic… and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were at the forefront,” Spencer said. “It has become so prevalent in music and especially in country music. And then Mickey released “Black Like Me” and it broke a ceiling. “
Growing up in Baltimore, Spencer sang in church and studied opera. “I’ve struggled with anxiety most of my life,” she says. “Music was my saving grace, my little refuge. As a teenager, I listened to Maria Callas, Ray Charles, the Dixie Chicks, Britney Spears, John Mayer, Beyoncé and Diana Ross.
“I wanted to learn as much as possible. I immersed myself in everything, and I found a home in country music because I started writing songs and writing poetry, and I loved it.
Two key artists have opened a door to country, Spencer says. Taylor Swift “was so poetic and from Pennsylvania and didn’t have a twinge of heart. Something about this piqued my curiosity. Alt-R & B singer India.Arie “was the closest I had to someone who was vaguely country or folk who looked like me. When you don’t have a performance, you find songs in a million different places.
Spencer quit his job at a Baltimore healthcare company and moved to Nashville, after watching documentaries on Swift and Reba McEntire.
The long road to overnight success followed. She has worked in customer service and cafes, and focused on playing guitar and writing songs. She sang back-ups on tour with R&B singer Carl Thomas and Carrie Underwood at awards shows.
It imposed itself during the pandemic. “I’m a mid-forties artist,” she says. “Being an artist right now is so unconventional for everyone. But I’m like ‘Man, that’s all I know.’ This is the norm for me.
Her Compassion The EP features a gun violence rumination titled “Thoughts and Prayers” and it generated a buzz with “Sober & Skinny” which inspired the title of her tour. “In a perfect world, you get sober and I get skinny,” she sings.
And she has also shone in many recent celebrity tours. The powerful singer has a stunning performance on Georgia Blue, Jason Isbell’s new album featuring songs by Georgian artists he has pledged to record for charity if Joe Biden wins that state in last year’s presidential election.
Last month, she brought home the Country Music Hall of Fame in homage to songwriter Dean Dillon with a skyrocketing performance of “Tennessee Whiskey.” Country legend Brenda Lee shouted into the audience, “Let’s all go home. I’m giving up. I stop! “
She’ll be signing a recording deal soon and, with a stock of songs, plans to release new music in 2022.
She has opening dates for McEntire early next year, including a show at the Borgata Event Center in Atlantic City on February 18. “Now my heroes have my phone number,” she said with enthusiasm that pinches me.
Spencer’s upcoming shows have something to measure up to, to top the CMA Awards last month. She joined Guyton and Madeline Edwards for Guyton’s “Love My Hair” in a prime-time performance. The trio were presented by Faith Fennidy, the girl from Louisiana who inspired Guyton to write the song after she was kicked out of school for her braided hair extensions.
“We’ve all been through things that have invalidated our presence, our existence in this space,” says Spencer. “It’s our story. It was a beautiful moment. I will never forget the meaning. Be on CMA awards, given the history of country music.
“We are part of the future. I’m new and it’s an honor to be able to establish my presence on a song that says, hey, I’m a black woman, and I love that about me, and I love country music.