I’m really happy that this incredibly talented artist, Rissi Palmer, agreed to do this interview with me. I was definitely lacking in the genre of country when it came to interviewing musical artists but I wouldn’t so much categorize her style or put her in a box & label it “country” per say. But as you read on, you will soon find out that she is a woman of many talents.. so for those who do not know her, let me introduce you to Rissi Palmer.
Q: You have been in the music business for over fifteen years now, what advice would you give your younger self about how to prepare for the struggles, highs and lows of the music industry?
A: The best advice I could give to a younger me or an up and coming artist is to take the time to figure out who you are as an artist. What you stand for. What sounds you gravitate toward. The more you know about yourself and your artistry, the less likely you are to be forced to do and be something you aren’t. You’ll be able to advocate for yourself and your art.
Q: So I read that when you were a teenager, you were offered a record deal by big time producers (notably of Janet Jackson fame) Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis but you turned it down because R&B really wasn’t the direction you wanted to go. That’s very admirable that you were able to make that choice at such a young age. I can imagine some people probably thought you might’ve made the wrong decision. Did you have tremendous pressure/ and did you have a lot of support back then?
A: It was definitely a hard decision to make it I felt very strongly about staying on the path we had started down and sticking with what I loved. At that time, while I had managers, I felt more pressure from them than support. My family was extremely supportive but didn’t know a lot about the music business so there was only so much advice they could give. Ironically, I ran into Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis this past June at an event. I went to speak with them a d they remembered me and were gracious and praised me for sticking to my dreams and all that I had accomplished because of that. It was a full circle, reassuring moment.
Q: You’ve recorded an EP and 2 albums, with the latest, Revival, in 2019. I was listening to Revival at work & from the first song, “Seeds”, I was captivated. With the words and music, it feels like I’m witnessing a powerful movement, a rising up of voices speaking out for an injustice. Can you tell me more about this song & the album? It’s obviously very personal.
Q: Thank you so much! This album was a long time coming for me. The first part of my career, I tended to play it very safe as far as the subject matter of my music. I didn’t stray too far from love and heartbreak. When I wrote “Seeds” with Deanne Walker and Rick Beresford in 2014, I had been glued to my television watching the events surrounding the murder of Michael Brown in my native St Louis, MO. I knew I wanted and needed to say something. From there, I became preoccupied with news and politics and my writing reflected that. This album is a reflection of the times we’re living in and how they reflected me personally….it’s a snapshot of me; a Black woman/wife/mother/daughter/American, in this moment.
Q: Color Me Country Radio debuted on August 30, 2020 on Apple Music with you as the host. I love love the concept of this show. You are trying to bring forth voices that are not necessarily being represented on the airwaves and basically saying to people, “Hey there is diversity in country music” by celebrating Black, Indigenous and Latine artists in country music. Did you go to Apple Music with the idea in mind? What have been some of your favorite moments/discussions on the show?
A: I started developing what became Color Me Country in early 2020 when the pandemic started. A dear friend had been pushing me for years to turn my knowledge of country music, specifically artists of color in country music, into something that I never had time for. Suddenly, I found myself with a lot of time during lockdown, so I started conducting interviews with all artists that I personally knew. By June 2020, I had interviewed 24 artists and was ready to launch on my own. Another dear friend and fellow Apple Music Country host, Kelly McCartney, introduced me to Emily Parker and Michael Bryan at Apple Music Country and the rest is history. The name of the show pays homage to Linda Martell, the first Black woman to play the Grand Ole Opry and the first and highest- charting Black female country artist in history. Her first album was named Color Me Country and it only seemed right to name the show that.
Q: It must’ve been a proud moment to see Mickey Guyton, a Black woman country artist, sing The National Anthem at the Super Bowl during Black History Month. I thought it was pretty historic. Hopefully, it will bring more attention to her music. A few of my favorite artists, who are sometimes labeled as country but I feel are more along the lines of folk, are Yola, The War and Treaty and Amythyst Kiah… Is there any distinction in your mind when artists are labeled country but sort of cross over to other genres? How do you feel about artists in general when that happens? ( I personally find it great because I may never have had come across that artist if they hadn’t jumped genres)
A: Mickey has had to fight and advocate for herself for a long time to have this moment so it was really great to see her get the attention and opportunities that her talent deserves. I love all the artists you mentioned and have had the honor of speaking to all of them and calling a few of them friends. I think it’s awesome to see each of them branch out and experiment with their sounds. I think the worst thing you can do to an artist is stifle their creativity. Every artist that I look up to and admire is versatile and brings something to their respective genres. All of the artists you mentioned do that. While I am very inspired by country music, I am also inspired by the blues, soul music and pop and my music is a reflection of that.
Q: You are going on tour supporting Christone “Kingfish” Ingram on March 2nd in Ft Lauderdale, FL. I saw him perform in March 2020 in Boston. He is amazing, he can shred and sing. He’s phenomenal to watch perform. What a great tour to be a part of! How excited are you to be going on tour? Are you ready for tour life?
A: I am SO excited to be touring with Kingfish and still can’t believe I was asked to do it. He’s an amazing performer and my band and I are honored to share a stage with him. I’m ready as I can possibly be. I have two little girls, so in addition to getting the band together, picking out outfits, packing and travel logistics, I’ve had to plan out their routines so that life isn’t interrupted while Mommy is on the road. It’s a lot different from when I first started touring 13 years ago!
Q: Who are you listening to right now on your Apple Music playlists?
A: I make playlists on the regular now so I am always thinking of what works together and what will sound good together. My current favorite playlist is one I made for Valentine’s Day called “Love, Southern Style” and it has music from The War and Treaty, Maren Morris, Lizzie No, Lizz Wright, Patty Griffin and the like. Here’s the link: Love , Southern Style by Rissi Palmer
Q: When you are not prepping material for your show and broadcasting on air, what do you like to do in your down time? Are you a binge watcher, book reader? Fun things to do?
A: Although I feel like I am ALWAYS prepping my show or doing something for my artist grant fund: Color Me Country Artist Grant Fund when I do have a quiet moment, I love to read. I just finished, “The Vanishing Half”, by Brit Bennett and it was great! I also binge watch shows while I’m working sometimes…I’m watching The Gilded Age, Euphoria and Harlem right now.
Q: Are you currently working on any new music? If so, when can fans expect to see an album?
A: I’m working on a new album now, it’s called Survivor’s Joy. I’m in the final stages of writing and plan to get in the studio in April and May. I’m hoping to have it out by the end of the year, fingers crossed!!
Q: When can fans listen to the show? And where can fans find you on social media?
A: Color Me Country airs on Sundays at 7p-9p ET on Apple Music Country. Listeners can click this link and hear the show for free when it airs live: http://apple.co/rissipalmer
Make sure you listen to Color Me Country Apple Music this Sunday, February 27th at 7pm EST.
What a great interview, thanks again Rissi!
Some people have messaged me with suggestions on who they’d like me to interview next, if you have any suggestions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next up, Anorak Patch, the UK teen punk band that has made the BBC’s Radio 1 and 6 Music playlists.
Until then, I’m Your Music Stylist.