Philadelphia public radio station WXPN has launched a new podcast called Artist To Watch: Black Opry Residency, airing each Thursday through Black Music Month.
Hosted by John Morrison, the podcast presents five stories of up-and-coming Black musicians seeking to reclaim country and Americana as inclusive genres. The first episode of the five-part series is available to stream across all digital platforms now, with subsequent episodes airing each Thursday.
“Artist To Watch: Black Opry Residency” is the culmination of WXPN’s first-of-its-kind artist development project, which launched earlier this year with the goal of helping selected artists build sustainable careers through mentorship from industry professionals and a weeklong creative residency in Philadelphia. Each episode offers a deep and personal dive into the real-life struggles of emerging performers and new talent, and the debut season delves into the lives and music of up-and-coming musicians who found support, community, and inspiration through the Black Opry Residency.
The first episode features country musician Tylar Bryant, a Texas native based in Nashville who marries modern and traditional country with rock and pop grooves. Each subsequent episode will focus on four other Black Opry Residency participants: Samantha Rise, a Philadelphia-based teacher, activist, performer and writer whose inclusive music is rooted in indie folk; Grace Givertz, a Boston-based folk artist and multi-instrumentalist whose witty, honest lyrics bring a refreshing energy and sound to folk music; Nashville-based twin brothers Brandon and Derek Campbell, who harmonize, write and perform as The Kentucky Gentlemen, blending pop, country and R&B; and soulful singer-songwriter Denitia, a Nashville-based artist music exhibits elements of country and folk.
“We’ve been focused on showcasing emerging talent through our Artist To Watch program for two decades,” says Bruce Warren, Associate General Manager for Programming at WXPN. “Building on that commitment, we really wanted to up our game and build an artist development residency. We chose to partner with Black Opry and focus on Black creators who have not traditionally been afforded access to resources to help their careers.”
The Black Opry founder and co-director, Holly G, adds, “The partnership with XPN for the Black Opry Residency has been such an easy fit, it felt like we were meant to work together. It can be hard to find people in the industry that are passionate about emerging artists and willing to provide the resources to support them, especially artists from marginalized identities in the country and American landscape. It displays a tremendous amount of leadership and faith that Bruce and his team were able and willing to put their efforts behind such a big project and I’m grateful they were so keen to listen to myself and people like Rissi Palmer about the needs of our community. My hope is that others will see the success of this project and realize that we need to do it many times over.
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