Oct 15 2007
Rissi Palmer

Rissi Palmer, a Black “Country Girl” Emerging From the Shadows

Quick. Name a black country singer. A music head might have pulled out good ol’ Charlie Pride. It’s about all I would ever come up with, but if the question was name a living black country singer, we’d all be stuck on stupid. Rissi Palmer. Remember that name for your next game of Pop Culture Trivial Pursuit. The 26-year-old was featured in an MSNBC story this week. Her single “Country Girl”, off her self-titled debut album that comes out Oct. 23, hit number 54 on the Hot Country charts.

When Rissi Palmer was 19 she got an offer from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to sign to their Flyte Tyme Records label. The deal would have involved her recording R&B music, but this is the production duo who skyrocketed Janet Jackson’s career. Rissi turned them down..

Rissi Palmer

“A lot of people in my family said, ‘I can’t believe you just did that. That’s money.’ But I couldn’t imagine having to sing something I didn’t feel, I didn’t identify with and didn’t feel sincere about.”

Instead of bumping elbows with well established folks in the music industry, Rissi worked various low-paying, low-skill needed 9-5’s, and wrote songs for a publishing company on side duty while she looked for someone who would sign her to a country music deal.

She had demos that music executives loved until they matched the face to the songs. Rissi said it’s just the reality of the genre. How do you market a black country singer?

Better question.. Knowing how tough it is, why did she decide to become a country singer in the first place?

Rissi said as a youngster she heard country music around her house; until she was in her teens she didn’t think that was strange at all. Oh, but she still loved and listened to it on the low.. “A lot of times when I pulled into the high school parking lot I’d turn the music down or turn it to a different station.”

Having those roots ingrained in her, she eventually took her country love public and joined a music group where she sang Shanai Twain and Faith Hill songs. Friends encouraged her to give the music industry a try. Remember that Jimmy Jam, marketing no-no thing.. ok, we went there.

Just when Rissi was about to give up she ran into Terry Johnson, the CEO of the Atlanta-based independent label, 1720 Entertainment. Johnson signed her to his label. And this summer Starbucks distributed a four-song EP in their stores, featuring her song “Country Girl.”

Rissi Palmer on the cover of RnR

She has faced resistance from the core country audience, particularly radio, but Jay Frank the senior vice president of music strategy at Country Music Televsion has her video in regular rotaton…

He believes Rissi Palmer has enough talent to break through with the right song.

For now she’s looking forward to the day when stories like this don’t even mention her race.

“I’m hoping that once the album releases and people have time to hear it and live with it and I’ve done some touring and everything that it won’t be a question anymore. I totally look forward to the day when it’s, ‘So Rissi, tell me about the album’ as opposed to ‘You’re black. Tell me how that feels.’”

☼ What's Your Opinion? ☼

1 maggieatkinson Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - 10:29 pm

I loooove your music!  A LITTLE HIUNT   I AM A COUNTRY GIRL!!!

2 Ohso Kool Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - 7:15 am

“its a state of mind, no matter where you’re from.”


Either Rissi truly wants to break down the Country music wall (ie: 98% white), or its good marketing tactic. Either way, good luck. She has a good voice.

3 Bezzy Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - 10:12 am

She’s fine nice voice but country music is not my swagger.

4 Laurie Larson Wed, Oct 31, 2007 - 4:01 pm

I saw her in concert Monday night in Madison, WI and she is awesome! I bought her new CD..This gal is amazing!

5 Ericka Tue, Nov 06, 2007 - 4:50 am

awesome CD. bought it. she is already getting whiners. but I believe she can win them over if she does a massive tour. country music is a wide genre, she fits right in. Along with miko marks, carl ray and trinni triggs great music not because their are black but because its great music.

6 Marcus Jay Sun, Nov 11, 2007 - 11:17 pm

Country music is not a wide genre. It is white peoples music that some blacks sing. Lets be honest about that.

7 country lover Sun, May 03, 2009 - 2:31 pm

Country music is a HUGE genre!
Anyway, “country” does not belong to a color of people. It’s a state of mind, a way of life. Me, I am just an old “white” country girl who graduated years ago in a tiny town known for it’s KKK connections. I would love to see a bigger racial mix of singers in the country world. White, black, brown, purple with yellow polka dots ... if the voice is there, what’s the hold up?

8 dionp Mon, May 09, 2011 - 4:17 pm

I am a black man who happens to live in the country. I used to listen only to R&B, or Jazz and Blues. I listened to some of the so called new R&B and “rap” music, and most of it is degrading to one sex or another, and is offensive to my ear. Charlie Pride was man enough to play and perform what he liked. It was his genre. Color has no place when it comes to the direction of ones individual talent. Today we have Darius Rucker and Rissi Palmer. There will be some die hard rednecks that won’t accept them, but that is expected. Rissi, Darius, we belong in country music jus as much as anyone! Keep up the great work!

9 dionp Mon, May 09, 2011 - 4:20 pm

sorry, my finger missed the “T” on the end of just! don’t mistake it for poor english! LOL

10 Bea K. Thu, Dec 06, 2012 - 5:07 pm

I truly believe that Rissi Palmer could be a real threat to the country music circuit, and even break that glass ceiling all to pieces, so why do you think we’ve yet to see her perform ‘live’ on any of the ‘CMA’ or any other country music shows (or even on the morning news shows such as ‘Good Morning America’, ‘The Today Show’, etc.)?
I really hate to say this but look at folks like Robin Roberts who’s a ‘country girl’ herself, but won’t even mention black country singers like Rissi, what’s up with that?
It’s way past time to shatter that ceiling once and for all, especially when it’s someone who sings as good as this woman does and truly loves the music. A very sad and awful shame.