…Outside of music, I am very passionate about ending poverty, especially for children. It breaks my heart that any one is hungry or cold. I would love to create a foundation that bought up old hotels and buildings and turned them into living spaces where people could live, get medical care, mental care, educational resources, job training, financial education, etc. A safe space where they could get on their feet and heal.
As part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Rissi Palmer. Her gift lies in reaching across all musical boundaries. While she made her mark in Country Music, she is equally at home in R&B music, bringing the entire spectrum of popular music to bear on music she calls “Southern Soul.”
The daughter of Georgia natives, Rissi was born near Pittsburgh and spent her adolescent years in Missouri. Raised in a musical family that loved both country and R&B, at age 16, she sang in a singing and dancing troupe sponsored by a local television station and at 19, she was offered her first publishing and label deal.
In 2007, she released her debut album Rissi Palmer, charting singles, “Country Girl,” “Hold On To Me,” and “No Air.” Since then, Rissi has independently released a Christmas single, a children’s album, Best Day Ever, and an EP titled The Back Porch Sessions. Her most recent release, Revival, has been critically hailed as her most personal and uplifting work to date.
Throughout her music career, Rissi has performed at The White House, Lincoln Center, and the Grand Ole Opry. She has toured extensively all across the country, sharing stages with the likes of Taylor Swift, The Eagles, Chris Young, Charley Crockett and more.
Rissi has also appeared as a special guest on national shows such as Oprah & Friends, CNN, CBS Early Show, Entertainment Tonight, FOX Soul’s “The Book of Sean,” and the Tavis Smiley Show. She has also been featured in such prestigious media outlets as Associated Press, Ebony, Essence, Huffington Post, New York Times, Newsweek, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” PEOPLE, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, to name a few.
Presently, Rissi is hosting her own radio show, Color Me Country with Rissi Palmer on Apple Music Country Radio. During each episode, Rissi brings to the forefront the Black, Indigenous, and Latinx histories of country music that for far too long have lived outside the spotlight and off mainstream airwaves. Listeners will enjoy listening to Rissi’s riveting, often funny, yet very necessary conversations with some of country music’s most vital and underrepresented voices.
For more information on Rissi Palmer visit RissiPalmerMusic.com
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “back story” that led you to this career path?.
I was born in Sewickley, PA and raised in Eureka, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. I got my love of music and the arts from my mother, Donzella. She was the one who encouraged me to dance and sing when I was a child. She died of cancer when I was 7, which was devastating to me…it still is. My father remarried and I got an amazing mother and little brother.
I knew I wanted to be an entertainer from the age of 3. I performed in church, pageants, groups, and plays throughout my childhood and got my first publishing deal in Nashville at 18. I wrote songs for years before I signed my first record deal at 26. My debut album was released in 2007…it was an amazing time.
However, due to personal and business differences, I left the label in 2009, completely over the music business. I married my husband Bryan in 2010 and had my daughter, Grace, in 2011 and that was my life for a while. I got the itch to start singing again in 2012 and released a children’s album, Best Day Ever, and then two “adult” albums, The Back Porch Sessions in 2015 and Revival in 2019.
My career took a turn in 2020 when a dear friend suggested I turn my passion for music, specifically Country music, into a podcast. I started working on what would become Color Me Country Radio with Rissi Palmer in March 2020, in the hopes of highlighting the stories and music of artists of color in Country music. I named the show after Linda Martell’s groundbreaking album of the same name. Linda was the first Black woman to play the Grand Ole Opry in 1968 and is kind of the patron saint of the show. My mission has now turned into an artist fund that benefits people of color who are seeking careers in Country Music, called the Color Me Country Artist Grant.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Be smarter than me! I always think if I had it to do over again, I would have listened to my intuition, or God, more when I was younger. I would often be in situations trying to make other’s happy when it didn’t feel good to me. There was always a voice saying “Don’t do that” or “Get more information”. I wish that I listened and followed, that’s what I would tell young people. I’d also say surround yourself with people who actually care about and are invested in you, not people that just stand to gain from being around you. Those are the people that have the hard conversations with you. The ones who tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it. Those people are invaluable and will keep you from falling into the deep end.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
The things I’m most proud of right now are my radio show, Color Me Country Radio on Apple Music, and the Color Me Country Artist Grant. With my show, I am working hard to uncover the voices and histories of artists of color in Country music. I’ve been able to offer a platform to artists who might have had a harder time being seen by the mainstream as well as finding those that may have been lost to time. I try to provide a safe space for them to tell their truth. It makes me so happy to introduce my listeners to their new favorite music.
With the Color Me Country Artist fund, I hoping to offer some hope in the way of a financial seed to artists of color pursuing careers in Country music. I know what it’s like to choose between eating and paying rent. Or taking a gig because you desperately need the money and not because you want to. I don’t anyone to give up their dreams because of money.
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
Honestly, I’m trying to provide artists with the spaces and financial help I wish had been there when I was coming up. If I can use any of my platform to make someone else’s way a little bit easier or clearer, then that’s what I want to do.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
I have received countless messages from people of color, especially Black women, who all say that for as long as they can remember, they’ve loved Country music but never felt quite comfortable saying it out loud because of how others would perceive them. Now, they see that they aren’t alone and that there are MANY of us who love the music and love being ourselves, unapologetically. It makes them proud and feel like they are a part of something bigger.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
Individuals can make a monetary donation at https://colormecountry.com/color-me-country-artist-grant-fund/, or can offer their professional services to an artist of color in need (I’ve had several individuals step up and offer things like PR and the like), or they can simply take a listen to some of the artists I’ve featured on the show and support them directly, by streaming or buying their music, or buying merch. Every little bit helps and makes a huge impact on the artists, most of whom are doing this completely independently.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
1) Always maintain the mindset of an independent: After I left my record company, I spent two years just trying to get my mojo back. I was so used to having a manager, a label, an agent, etc., to do the work for me. I had to get back into hustle mentality. My advice, even if you have a lot of help, make sure you are always planning and thinking ahead for yourself.
2) Don’t read the comment section: Just don’t. You will always get your feelings hurt. I learned that the hard way. I googled myself once in 2007 to find a particular article and ended up spending an hour reading random strangers pull my talent, personal life, and looks apart. I was crushed and extremely naïve, I had no idea people could be so cruel.
3) Always let your work/deeds speak for you: Just put your head down and do the work. It will get noticed; cream rises to the top. When I started Color Me Country Radio, it was just a podcast that I was going to be recording in my home. I had no idea if I would find a platform for it, press for it, or an audience. I just knew that I had a passion for getting the information out in the world, so I did the work. And thanks for various angels in my life (Shellie Warren, Kelly McCartney, Emily Parker, and Michael Bryan, just to name a few), my show found a home, an audience, and a platform. Just. Do. The. Work. Take the leap.
4) Remember your roots: We all start at the bottom…remember that. When someone comes to you for advice, give it. When someone is sincerely trying to help you, be grateful and acknowledge them. Be the person you were hoping to meet when you were starting out.
5) Be kind: Your reputation, good and bad, proceeds you. People may forget your talent but will ALWAYS remember how you make them feel. Remember that.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Outside of music, I am very passionate about ending poverty, especially for children. It breaks my heart that any one is hungry or cold. I would love to create a foundation that bought up old hotels and buildings and turned them into living spaces where people could live, get medical care, mental care, educational resources, job training, financial education, etc. A safe space where they could get on their feet and heal.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
To Whom much is given, much is expected. I have been blessed in SO MANY ways and I want to share any resources I have with others. Success is only rewarding when you can open doors for others and watch them blossom.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Just off the top of my head, it’s Ta-Nehisi Coates. Ta-Nehisi’s writing is magical, seriously. As a songwriter, I appreciate his vernacular and the way he paints well developed and vivid worlds with his words. I’d bet he writes beautiful song lyrics…hint hint LOL. I admire his fearlessness and the unapologetic nature of his art. As an artist I strive to be both of those traits.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!