Rissi Palmer

As the first black woman to land a single on the Billboard charts in nearly 20 years, Rissi Palmer knows that she stands out, but she’s not complaining.

“It’s been a very interesting experience, but in good way, for the most part,” she tells Newsweek. “I think initially everyone is really curious to see if I’m for real. Once they get past the ‘Oh my God, you’re black’ phase, people are able to focus on the music. Let’s face it, there aren’t many 5-foot-9 black women with big curly hair performing country music in Nashville. It’s a definite attention getter!”

Rissi, who made her Grand Ole Opry debut in June, says the experience “was truly one of the most amazing moments of my life. I first came to Nashville when I was 19, and one of the first places I visited was the Opry. I swore that one day I was going to play there, and there I was, six years later, standing in the sacred circle, singing my single and a Patsy Cline cover in front of a full house that included my family, friends and label family. It was extremely emotional. I cried several times that night. I feel like it was a milestone in my career, it was validating.”

Rissi admits the lack of African-American country singers scared her in the beginning of my career. “I was like, ‘I can’t be a country singer. There are no black women country singers,’ ” she says. “It was the encouragement of my first managers, partnered with my very defiant ‘tell me I can’t and I will’ attitude that propelled me forward.”

Rissi is proud to be representing a genre that she says has no boundaries. “There are a lot of African-Americans who love country music,” she says. “Most of the feedback I get have been comments like, ‘Finally there’s someone out there that looks just like me that I can relate to.’ I personally feel that anyone who is truly touched by country music, whether they’re black, white or whatever, can sing it with sincerity. In my opinion, it’s universal music and exclusive to none.”

  • Hurt Don’t Know When To Quit
    Hold On To Me
    Country Girl
    Anybody Out There


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