Brittney Spencer (photo by Nicki Fletcher, PR)
As FUV pays tribute to music pioneers over the next month, we’ve also reached out to a new generation of emerging artists and innovators to discuss the “Five Essential Albums” that have guided them creatively and personally.
Breaking into country music is no easy task, but black country artists have faced unique challenges in establishing a foothold in Nashville, including outright racism and the marginalization of women and minorities in radio. country. Recent triumphs, such as Mickey Guyton’s three 2022 Grammy nominations (including Best Country Album for his debut, remember my name)are just the first step in changing the way the Nashville music industry works.
Britney Spencer is a dynamic voice in this tide of determined and gifted performers and songwriters pushing for inclusivity. Raised in Baltimore, she moved to Music City in 2013, earning a living as a backing vocalist for artists like Carrie Underwood. As the early 20s dawned, Spencer began to rise rapidly as a country star. His restlessness Compassion EP was released in 2020 (which includes the superb ‘Sorrys Don’t Work No More’) and last year she released the single ‘Sober & Skinny’. Named one of CMT’s “Next Women of Country” of 2021, Spencer emotionally joined Gutyon and Madeline Edwards onstage at that year’s Country Music Association (CMA) Awards for a breakthrough performance of “Love My Hair “.
Spencer’s tell-all cover of The Highwomen’s “Crowded Table” first connected her with three-time CMA winner Amanda Shires and Maren Morris; in turn, Morris shouted out Spencer and other black female musicians at the 2020 High Level Country Awards.
“When Maren Morris included several of us in her CMA acceptance speech, I just started tagging other black women in country music,” Spencer told the New York Times Last year. “Like, I’ll post about it, but I’ll tell you I’m not the only one. Mickey [Guyton] is not the only one, Rissi [Palmer] not the only one, Miko [Marks]queen [Roberts], that’s a whole bunch of us. We’re a whole fucking army.”
Brittney’s “five essential albums” for WFUV came with a caveat in an email – as a young girl she didn’t have high-profile black country musicians as guides, due to an industry restrictive. But fortunately, a future generation of budding country musicians can look to Spencer and his contemporaries as their inspiration.
Brittney Spencer: Five essential albums:
India.Arie, Testimony: vol. 1, Life & Relationship
This album had an incredible range of subject matter. It was also the first time I heard my worlds collide on a song: “Summer” with Rascal Flatts.
My favorite Beyoncé album, by far. Sonically, there were so many styles and genres reflected, and yet the album told a complete story. I think a lot of people listen to music that way today. I revisit the visuals of this project quite often – it’s captivating in every way.
Priscilla Renea (now Muni Long), Colored
My friend Langston Bleu introduced me to this album in college. I listened to each song, feeling more excited than the last. The album was southern, young, black, personal and honest. I love Muni Long, and I will always love and remember Priscilla Renea the same way.
Sade, take me home
This album contains some of my favorite Sade classics! She sounds amazing live. Every time I listen to this album, I’m reminded how much I want to see her on stage, and maybe, by some weird stroke of luck, have the incredible honor of sharing the stage with her one day. She fused such a fresh, alternative, and expansive approach to storytelling that had a huge impact on how I see and engage with music as an artist.
This album is just iconic in every way for me, mainly because it’s so much fun to listen to. Songs like “Cheers (Drink to That)” and “What’s My Name?” can set the tone for any party, while tracks like “California King Bed” give us a thoughtful, fresh and lyrical approach to such a simple subject. (Plus, I recently realized this song was written by Priscilla Renea, and now I finally understand why I always thought this song could definitely be country!)
Brittney is on tour throughout February 2022 and she joins the C2C Country to Country festival in London and Glasgow in March.