NASHVILLE, Tennessee – I’m not sure how Reyna Roberts showed up on my Instagram feed. It was probably because Mickey Guyton reviewed a clip of her singing a cover of Carrie Underwood’s “Drinking Alone, Together.” After I picked my jaw off the ground, I immediately put Roberts on my radar because I knew her career was getting ready to take off.
Roberts was born prematurely in 1997 to U.S. military parents in Anchorage, Alaska. She was told that she could have cognitive, physical, visual, and vocal developmental delays. Because of the bleak prognosis, her family kept music as a main influence to help her improve and become successful.
Roberts said, “Music has always been a part of me. They used music to help me develop faster. Before I knew how to talk, I knew how to hum and sing. I’ve been singing forever.”
Roberts grew up listening to an almost impossibly wide array of music as she and her parents lived in Alaska, Alabama, and California. Her mother included the hard rock genre with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Audioslave, and AC/DC. You can hear these influences in the songs she writes.
Roberts didn’t get formal singing lessons until she was 18 but as she said, “My whole life was just listening to all these artists I love and trying to imitate what they were doing. I would practice the runs and the rifts until I could do the same thing.” (She is currently being coached by the amazing Brett Manning.)
The songstress didn’t record any songs until she was 16. Being a wrestler herself, she had a crush on her high school wrestling captain, and writing about that was the beginning of her songwriting career.
We agreed that sometimes breakups help inspire the best songs. Roberts said, “You know, I’ve never had a boyfriend but if I can write ballads and heartbreak songs now, I can only imagine how good (the song) will be once it does happen.”
The 23-year-old explained, “When I grew up, my mom played Gretchen Wilson and the Chicks all the time. We would be singing them in the car all the time at the top of our lungs.” In elementary school, when given the chance to perform, she sang a Gretchen Wilson song.
Even though the vocalist can sing any type of genre, she thinks storytelling is what makes country music capture people’s hearts.
“That’s why I love it so much. If I have watched a movie or read a book, I can pull from that and create a story that even I haven’t felt it personally myself, somebody else out there might have. I want to create songs that are timeless,” Roberts said.
Before she moved to Nashville, she lived in California and worked on her music and writing songs by herself. She didn’t know anything about the co-writing scene for which Nashville is famous. But since moving to Nashville earlier this year, she has been immersed in its songwriting culture and has since written with Jamey Johnson.
“It’s artists like him and Chris Stapleton and Gretchen Wilson who inspired me to write Country Music specifically and become a country artist,” she said.
She continued, “Just because I don’t see a lot of people [in country music] who look like me, it doesn’t mean I can’t do it myself. And I don’t just mean because I am a black woman, but my hair is red and I don’t always dress in blue jeans and have the specific kind of [country] look. It’s not going to keeping me from doing what I love.”
Remarkably, Roberts was able to move to Nashville and get a jump start on her career during the COVID pandemic.
“It’s crazy because this year has been ridiculous. I’ve had a blessing and I have been able to start my career in spite of everything,” the singer said.
Roberts showed off her country pride in her latest release, “Stompin’ Grounds.” Even though she has lived all over, her mother’s family is from Alabama and she unashamedly worked the words, “Roll Tide” into the lyrics.
“My mother went to the University of Alabama and Roll Tide and red is everywhere,” she said. Even though she remembers where she comes from, all the places she has lived helped inspire the lyrics. Still, it’s an ode to the “deep, dark, dirty South” – and a warning to those who dare disrespect it.
The songwriter recently sang with the Song Suffragettes at The Listening Room when it first reopened this year. She promises that there will be more shows to come in the future.
In the meantime, Roberts is currently working on a music video with Matt Cohen for “Stompin’ Grounds.” Also, she has been writing like crazy. Her goal is to have 12 songs that she can sing for the rest of her life so she is co-writing and recording to get ready for when she can start performing in person again.
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