When Brittney Spencer, an aspiring country singer-songwriter, posted her cover of The Highwomen’s “Crowded Table” on Twitter last Saturday (Oct. 10), she had no idea the reception she was about to receive.
Before the end of the day, not only had the Highwomen’s Maren Morris and Amanda Shires retweeted her snippet of the song, both women had invited her to sing with them when touring opens up post-pandemic.
Shires wrote, “This is beautiful, Highwoman. Some day, we will play again — and when we do, we’d be honored if you’d come sing this with us.” Morris simply commented, “Brilliant. Come sing with us.” Tastemaker Leslie Fram, CMT senior vp, music and talent, also heaped praise on Spencer.
— Leslie Fram (@FramLeslie) October 11, 2020
“I was honestly shocked,” Spencer says of their response. “I’m still shocked actually! I can’t even wrap my head around the kindness and generosity Amanda and Maren showed me… I’ve posted video covers online for years, never really expecting a response from artists, or for them to even see it. I just love to sing and write songs. Though there’s really no way I could have ever prepared for the most humbling experience of my life to take place on Twitter.”
Highwoman member/songwriter Natalie Hemby also sent Spencer a message, “just saying the kindest things,” Spencer says.
The boost came at a good time for the Baltimore native. Spencer, who attended Middle Tennessee State University, outside of Nashville, has been trying to make headway in the country music industry. “The experience of any artist trying to break into the music industry is an uphill climb,” she says. “Being Black, a woman, and not a size 2 has certainly presented additional obstacles on my musical journey here in Nashville… artists like me keep showing up with whatever amount of hope we’ve got that day, choosing to find a ray of sun in what sometimes looks like a sky full of gray. I recognize my journey is not just about my personal success — there’s a much bigger purpose.”
As her new song “Sorry Don’t Work No More” shows, Spencer has the goods, both as a singer and a songwriter. The haunting, mournful ballad, penned with Brock Human and Connor Stephen, tells the story of a lover who’s keeping a big secret. “I personally know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of infidelity… but this song was prompted by my curiosity of the other side,” she says. “I wanted to try and feel like the one holding the secret and feeling all the regret that comes with knowing you’ve hurt someone you love.”
Spencer, who was playing in Nashville clubs and on songwriter rounds before the pandemic, has spent the last several months working on her her EP. She has released three songs with one more to come. She has also appeared on Rissi Palmer’s Color Me Country Radio show and the Basic Folk podcast.
While she hopes “that the industry will one day realize that inclusion and diversity of thought, representation and sonic approach only heightens creativity and encourages innovative ideas that could make lasting impact for the entire country music community,” there are signs of improvement. A number of Black and bi-racial artists, including Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Mickey Guyton and Blanco Brown are having success and, following George Floyd’s death and this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, the industry seems genuinely open to broadening country music makers beyond the overwhelmingly white male artists who dominate the radio waves, charts and label rosters.
In the meantime, Spencer says she’s in talks with labels, managers and booking agents. Meanwhile, she’s content to wait. “I’m taking my time and having fun with my music,” she says. “I’m sure the right partnerships will come together in time. But for now, I’m filling up my circle with meaningful relationships and enjoying the journey.”