meta-script5 Female Artists Creating The Future Of Country Music: Jaime Wyatt, Miko Marks & More | GRAMMY.com
5 Female Artists Creating The Future Of Country Music: Jaime Wyatt, Miko Marks & More
(Clockwise from left) Jaime Wyatt, Miko Marks, Hannah Juanita, the Local Honeys, Summer Dean

Photos:  Mickey Bernal/Getty Images; Jason Davis/Getty Images; TK, Mose Wilson, Lia Callie Photography; Scott Slusher

list

5 Female Artists Creating The Future Of Country Music: Jaime Wyatt, Miko Marks & More

Country music’s view of women is often reductive, yet a new generation of female country singers are breaking the mold. They've cracked open the notoriously slow-to-change genre, nudging it toward aural, queer, gender and racial diversity.

GRAMMYs/Mar 31, 2023 - 02:21 pm

In 2015, radio consultant Keith Hill provoked outrage by saying out loud what had long been an unwritten rule for much of country music radio: Women are like the tomatoes in a lettuce salad, they should be sprinkled in sparsely. Despite Hill’s comments and the country music industry's often restrictive and prescriptive attitudes, women are essential to the genre and its growth.

Female country singers have broken the rules and fought sexist expectations since the genre's inception. Just five years after the first country music recording, the Carter Family cut their first album — often considered country music’s "Big Bang" — at the 1927 Bristol Sessions. In 1952, Kitty Wells' "It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" placed the blame for unfaithful women squarely on the shoulders of philandering men in a retort so resounding, hardly anyone remembers the song that inspired it. 

A decade later, Bobbie Gentry scored a No. 1 in 1967 and three GRAMMY Awards with a torpid ballad about apathy and suicide ("Ode to Billie Joe"). Loretta Lynn routinely took a defiantly feminist stance (although she rejected the label) in her music and had her song "The Pill,"about how birth control pills liberated women, banned from most radio play. Throughout her career, Dolly Parton's hit songs have dealt with gender-neutral gut-wrenching poverty and pretty much every aspect of womanhood.

Contemporary acts continue the work of their forebearers, pushing the genre toward inclusivity and demanding respect in the male-dominated genre. Stars like Shania Twain and Faith Hill followed by Margo Price, Kacey Musgraves, Micky Guyton and Maren Morris have deftly charted their own stories, rejecting the genre's rigid stereotypes. Allison Russell, Rhiannon Giddens, Brennen Leigh and Sierra Ferrell (and many other artists) have shifted country music sonically, bringing bluegrass, Western swing, blues, and traditional folk-inspired tunes back into broad circulation.

Together, they represent a new generation of female country singers who have cracked open the notoriously slow-to-change genre, nudging it toward aural, queer, gender and racial diversity. These musicians aren’t waiting for radio DJs to slot them in between male stars; they’re leveraging social media, YouTube and Spotify to reach an audience tired of hearing the same old sad and exploitive songs. Avoiding stereotypes and the neat niches country music carved for them, these women sing about motherhood, wifehood, womanhood, sex, hard work, struggle and loss and yes, love and heartbreak too — but on their terms.

While it’s by no means a comprehensive list, here are five women essential to the future of country music who you may not have heard of, but should know. 

Summer Dean

On her 43rd birthday, the Ameripolitan Music Awards named Summer Dean 2023’s "Honky Tonk Female."The best-known twangy, danceable honky tonk-style tracks go to men, but Dean flips their signature bravado on its head with brash songs about a single woman’s empowerment. 

Since her debut EP Unladylike, Dean’s drawn power and inspiration from her own experience, singing about both the joy and sadness in not following social expectations of womanhood. "I’m all alone / Just a woman on her own / Writing songs with no baby and no vow," she sings, neatly skewering country music’s preconceived ideals of a woman’s path in life on "Picket Fence," which opens her 2021 album Bad Romantic.

Dean, a seventh-generation Texan, started her country music career in her late 30s after years of teaching elementary school. Making up for lost time, she’s collected accolades fast: A wildly successful duet with Canadian Western music heavyweight Colter Wall; opening gigs for Nikki Lane, Marty Stuart, and Charley Crockett; and her own co-headlining tour this spring. This summer, Dean will release her second full-length album, The Biggest Life. 

Jaime Wyatt

Sometimes Jaime Wyatt’s backstory sounds like any number of gritty, sad country songs — she served most a year in L.A. County jail for robbing her heroin dealer, struggled with addiction, and lost a best friend to drug overdose. Although her experiences feed her music, Wyatt uses them to illuminate relatable, meaningful stories that are anything but cliché.

Wyatt's 2017 debut EP, Felony Blues, draws heavily from her experiences with addiction and jail. Moving beyond those early experiences, she unpacks them, her sexuality and outlook on life in her Shooter Jennings-produced Neon Cross, released in 2020. Thriving on Wyatt’s smoky, intoxicating voice, the album’s title track ruminates on the hazy purgatory of nights lost in dim, alcohol-soaked bars; "Rattlesnake Girl" simultaneously celebrates gay joy and puts anyone who might mess with Wyatt on notice; and Wyatt owns her power as a woman in "Just a Woman," a duet with Jessi Colter, Jennings’ mother, whose own outlaw country career was often overshadowed by her husband, Waylon Jennings.

Wyatt recently performed at Willie Nelson’s famous Luck Reunion, and this summer will hit other big stages, including the Stagecoach Music Festival and Red Rocks Amphitheater. 

Miko Marks

Musicians of color, especially Black women, have been systematically sidelined by country music in spite of their foundational contributions to the genre. Fifteen years after her first run at country music success, Miko Marks is back and flourishing with a series of songs rooted both in her own experience and the genre’s history.  

With a heady mixture of country, blues and gospel influences, Marks highlights Black contributions to country music. On 2021’s Our Country, her first album after returning to music, she reclaimed the genre; 2022's Feels Like Home hinted at a broader, inclusive future for the genre. In between, Marks reimagined a slice of country music history with her 2021 EP, Race Records, a compilation of some of country’s best-known songs, for which she borrowed the name given to music marketed to Black listeners by the companies that started branding country music for white people in the 1920s.

Marks performed with the Black Opry, a collective of artists designed to lift up and highlight roots musicians of color. Last year, Marks made her Grand Ole Opry debut and was part of CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2022. On March 24, she released a single with Rissi Palmer, "Still Here."

The Local Honeys

In pop culture and politics, Kentucky evokes strong associations for almost everyone — a fact of which country and folk duo The Local Honeys are acutely aware. With nuanced, closely-worded songs, they critique and dignify the complicated stories and history of their beloved Appalachia.

Their first album, 2017's Little Girls Acting Like Men, kicks off with "Cigarette Trees," an anthemic takedown of the coal industry whose fiery message is accompanied by banjo and fiddle. The track planted Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs squarely in a long tradition of folk music that blends activism with oral history. Like their first album, the Honeys’ subsequent recordings, 2019’s This Gospel and The Local Honeys, released last year, feature a mixture of traditionally-inspired ballads and new folk songs that subvert and complicate typical Appalachian narratives.

The Honeys’ catchy songs and achingly-human, tragic and sometimes funny vignettes earned them tours with Colter Wall and Tyler Childers, a documentary about coal’s devastating effects and the region’s resilience for Patagonia and Pop-Up Magazine’s Working Knowledge series, and a record deal with La Honda Records. 

Hannah Juanita

So often in country music, men get to do all the leavin'. Declaring themselves unable to resist the siren call of adventure, they’re gone in a cloud of dust and three chords and the truth. Women in country music rarely hit the road and when they do, they often aren’t the ones who get to tell the story. But Hannah Juanita wrote a whole album about leaving — and then did.

Feeling stuck in a life that didn’t turn out the way she hoped, Juanita penned the songs for her debut album Hardliner as solace from a failing relationship and then moved to Nashville to sell it. Snappy and straightforward, with traditional country steel guitars, western swing and bluegrass’ sway, and a dash of conjunto, the album’s catchy sing-along lyrics sound like miles flying by on the road with one hand tapping a beat on the steering wheel.

Now a mainstay of the local Nashville scene, Juanita released her new single "Memory of You," on March 31.

Country & Western's New Generation Is Defiantly Of The Moment: Meet Charley Crockett, Colter Wall, Sierra Ferrell, Bella White & Others

12 Must-See Acts At Stagecoach 2023: Nate Smith, Morgan Wade, Jackson Dean & More
Jackson Dean performs at Faster Horses Festival in 2022.

Photo: Erika Goldring/WireImage

list

12 Must-See Acts At Stagecoach 2023: Nate Smith, Morgan Wade, Jackson Dean & More

Before the famed country music festival takes place on April 28-30, take a look at some of the rising stars to check out whether you'll be at Stagecoach or tuning in from home.

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2023 - 10:04 pm

Now that the Coachella dust has settled at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., it's time for country music to take over.

Since 2007, the Stagecoach Festival has been bringing some of the biggest names in country music to the desert. This year is no different, with the festival featuring headliners Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Chris Stapleton, along with some of country's newer hitmakers, including Bailey Zimmerman, Parker McCollum, Gabby Barrett, Lainey Wilson and Tyler Childers

In addition to the always exciting headliners and stars, Stagecoach continues to be a showcase for up-and-coming talent. Several budding country and folk artists are on this year's roster, from a genre-bending New Jersey native to a bluegrass songstress with a powerful voice.

For fans who can't make the trip to catch the action in person, Stagecoach will be live streaming all weekend on Amazon Prime. No matter how you're enjoying the festival, get to know 12 acts to catch at Stagecoach 2023. 

Nate Smith

The weekend will be a big one for Nate Smith all around: Not only will the California-born singer make his Stagecoach debut, but he will be releasing his self-titled debut album on the same day, Friday April 28.

It's been a long road to success for Smith, who first moved to Nashville in his early 20s. After things didn't take off, he returned home to Paradise, Calif.; in 2018, he lost everything he owned in the massive wildfire that ripped through his hometown.  

But through it all, he found hope through music, and returned to Nashville to try again. Now, he has a No. 1 song — the gritty breakup romp "Whiskey On You" peaked in January — and a rejuvenated soul that is clearly resonating.

Tiera Kennedy

Tiera Kennedy's smooth voice and southern charm first caught the attention of Nashville in 2019, when she was signed as the flagship artist on Songs & Daughters, a publishing company founded by songwriter Nicolle Galyon. In 2020, she released her first single "Found It In You" to critical acclaim.

Since then, Kennedy has independently released a self titled EP, giving fans a more full sense of who she is as an artist and songwriter. The release also led to a record deal with Big Machine Records in 2021.  

Kennedy's bright personality has resonated just as much as her music, as the singer hosts her own show on Apple Music Country. Titled The Tiera Show, the program sees Kennedy sharing her take on what's on the rise in country music with a very personal touch.

Jackson Dean

Another artist making his Stagecoach debut this year, Jackson Dean has been winning over country music fans with his outlaw style and unique, gritty voice. He's already scored a top 5 hit with his debut single, "Don't Come Lookin,'" which reached No. 3 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart.

Dean's success has not been limited to just the charts, either: "Don't Come Lookin'" was featured on the TV show 'Yellowstone,' and he's been included on a number of artists to watch lists including Spotify's Hot Country Artists to Watch in 2023, Amazon Music's 2023 Breakthrough Artists to Watch: Country Class, and CMT's Listen Up class of 2023.

After selling out his headlining debut in Nashville in January, Dean will spend the majority of the year headlining sold-out shows and supporting the likes of Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Parker McCullum, Lainey Wilson, and Jon Pardi.

Mackenzie Carpenter

After first seeing success as a co-writer on Lily Rose's breakthrough song, "Villain," Mackenzie Carpenter has since made a name for herself as an artist in her own right. The Georgia-born singer's down-home personality shines through in her fun country-pop tunes including the catchy cautionary tale "Don't Mess With Exes" and the heartbreaking ballad "Jesus, I'm Jealous" — all of which ultimately prove that she isn't afraid to be herself.

In less than a year since signing with Big Machine imprint Valory Music Co., Carpenter has enjoyed many career milestones, including a Grand Ole Opry debut and an invitation to CMT's Next Women of Country class of 2023. And just weeks before taking the Stagecoach stage, Carpenter released her debut self-titled EP. 

Breland

Since the release of his debut single "My Truck" in 2019, Breland has been making waves in the industry by stretching the boundaries of country music. The New Jersey native's sound is derived from a mix of hip-hop, R&B and gospel, while still remaining recognizably country — he even titled his debut album Cross Country.

Breland's feel-good, diverse sound has already helped him land collaborations with country superstars, including Sam Hunt, Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley. His single with the latter, "Beers On Me" (also featuring HARDY), scored Breland his first No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart, but he's proving to make an impact in his own right with more than 1 billion streams to date.

This year marks Breland's second year in a row on the Stagecoach stage, as he performed at the Late Night at Palomino after-party in 2022.

Bella White

Bella White brings a fresh perspective to an old-time sound. The Canadian artist serves audiences traditional bluegrass sounds with a clear, powerful voice.

White's voice, however, is not her only strength. She's also a skilled instrumentalist, as she was raised in a musical household and was drawn to the mandolin and banjo early on in her life. 

Following the success of her debut album Just Like Leaving, White signed to Rounder Records in 2021. Just ahead of her Stagecoach performance, White released her second album, Among Other Things, on which she explores heartbreak and a wider breadth of sounds, weaving drums and electric guitars into her traditional-sounding strings.

Kameron Marlowe

After a short stint on 'The Voice' in 2018, Kameron Marlowe began paving his own way in Nashville. The singer has made a name for himself with his signature smoky voice, while making sure his music is a true reflection of who he is.

Marlowe gained traction with his first independent release, 2019's "Giving You Up," which helped him land a record deal with Sony Music Nashville in 2020. He's since released his debut album, 2022's We Were Cowboys, and has sold out shows across the country — including his hometown of Charlotte, N.C.

Marlowe nods to his home state in his latest release, "Take Me Home," in which he grapples with the changes that come along with success: "I hate feeling like I'm someone / That I've never been before / Take me home to Carolina / I don't wanna be here anymore," he sings.

Morgan Wade

A trailblazing country singer with an edge, Morgan Wade has captivated audiences with the striking vulnerability of her music. Wade takes her experiences with heartbreak, mental health and addiction and crafts them into songs that stick with listeners.

Wade's voice borders on the edge of country and rock, which makes her moving lyrics all the more affecting. That is particularly true on her breakout track, "Wilder Days," which takes listeners through the raw emotion of finding the right person at the wrong time.

Since the 2021 release of Wade's album Reckless, she has been touring nonstop, both in the U.S. and overseas. Wade's Stagecoach performance is one of over 65 tour dates for 2023, giving fans across the country and around the world a chance to experience her powerful music live. 

Tre Burt

Folk artist Tre Burt uses his storytelling prowess to tell the stories of the moment, amplified by his rootsy sound. Burt engages audiences with tracks like "Under the Devil's Knee," a protest song written during the upheaval of 2020, a year during which he found musical inspiration in the chaos surrounding him.

Since hitting the scene, Burt has performed with artists including Nathanial Ratecliff and Margo Price, and has become a staple at folk festivals around the country. Burt expanded on his deeply affecting sound with his second album, You, Yeah, You, which arrived in 2021; with his powerful delivery on stage and on record, he's been labeled a "storyteller and musical philosopher," and a "troubadour" blazing his own path.

Jaime Wyatt

Jaime Wyatt's success has been long and hard-earned. The singer/songwriter entered the music business when she was just a teen, and the now 37-year-old has kept her nose to the grindstone ever since. Her years have been colored with late nights in honky tonks, addiction, and recovery, and she details it all in her traditional country music.

Wyatt's 2020 release, Neon Cross, challenged the genre, as the singer examined her identity as a queer woman, and positioned herself as a true outlaw in the landscape of the industry. In 2021, she released a merch line with a portion of the proceeds benefiting G.L.I.T.S, an organization that addresses systematic discrimination of LGBTQIA+ individuals. In being true to herself, Wyatt has provided a beacon of hope for queer artists and fans alike.

Kaitlin Butts

Kaitlin Butts has made a habit out of being a good listener, crafting the stories she hears into fun, innovative country songs. Like many of her Stagecoach cohorts, Butts has a versatile sound, drawing in influences from rock and 90's emo music — but the baseline is always undeniably country.

While Butts has been releasing music since 2015's Same Hell, Different Devil, this past year has been a whirlwind for the budding star. Her second album, What Else Can She Do, landed in the top 10 of Billboard's Americana Albums chart; the title track earned a spot on Rolling Stone's "100 Best Songs of 2022" list.

Within a span of six months, Butts played the Ryman Auditorium and made her Grand Ole Opry debut, and has opened for fellow Stagecoacher Morgan Wade as well as playing several other festivals.

American Aquarium

American Aquarium, led by BJ Barham, incorporates elements of country, folk and rock music into their thought-provoking music.The group's lyrics wrestle with some of life's biggest problems and tell delicate, personal stories.

The band's latest record, Chicamacomico, is a journey through the lead singer's personal losses. The album is a departure from the band's previously harder, rock-leaning sound, presenting more stripped-down tracks that lean more on Barnham's stirring vocals. Even so, Chicamacomico has been hailed as their best album yet. 

Over the span of a 20-year career, American Aquarium has cycled through many members; Barnham being a mainstay on lead vocals. The band has proven their staying power in the industry, and their presence at Stagecoach proves that the festival is a celebration of country music in all its forms.

Behind Shania Twain’s Hits: How A Hospital Stay, A Balmy Porch And A Hair Nightmare Inspired Her Biggest Hits & Videos

Erick The Architect Steps Into A New World On 'I’ve Never Been Here Before'
Erick The Architect

Photo: Ellington Hammond

interview

Erick The Architect Steps Into A New World On 'I’ve Never Been Here Before'

The Flatbush Zombies' member says his debut double album is more than catchy introspections: 'I’ve Never Been Here Before' is the arrival of a new persona and sound.

GRAMMYs/Feb 21, 2024 - 08:47 pm

Rapper/producer Erick The Architect is no stranger to reinvention. 

The Brooklyn-bred MC cut his teeth over alt-East Coast beats as Erick Arc Elliot before forming psychedelic rap trio Flatbush Zombies with childhood friends Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice. But after multiple mixtapes and two albums with the group, Erick is returning to solo form and venturing into new creative ground. 

Following 2021’s Future Proof EP, Erick is embarking on new musical travels with the release of his official debut album, I’ve Never Been Here Before. Out Feb. 23, the double album explores Erick’s flowy instrumentation, poeticism, and artistry at full scale. The project is fueled by singles "Shook Up" featuring FARR and Joey Bada$$, "Ezekiel’s Wheel" with funk forefather George Clinton, and the breezy "Instincts" with Westside Boogie.

Erick says I’ve Never Been Here Before is more than a collection of catchy introspections, melodic monologues, and '90s-inspired jams. It’s the shedding of one persona — and sound — and the beginning of a new: the Mandevillain. 

"This album is an identity of a new person," Erick the Architect tells GRAMMY.com, noting that the moniker is an ode to his father’s hometown of Mandeville, Jamaica. "A lot of people may have thought there was a ceiling to what I’m capable of, but I think this album will showcase a brand new artist and identity, which is really hard to do when people think they already know you. But I really think this is unique." 

The switch isn’t just in name — he’s taken on a new approach to music, too. For the first time in years, Erick says he’s prioritizing himself and his specific musical world. "It’s the first time I have created with the headspace that I’m free," he says. "I find that other artists don’t listen to other people’s music when they’re in a creative space, but this is the most locked off I’ve been from things."

As much as I’ve Never Been Here Before signals new creative ground for Erick to fertilize, it also represents his collective efforts to limit distractions and break free of any barriers — personally and sonically. 

While it was difficult to stay so focused and inward-looking while creating his debut album, turning to some of his legendary collaborators provided some clarity. After having conversations with James Blake, George Clinton, and other artists as part of the project, Erick no longer feels forced to fit a mold or address outside criticism. 

"This album is about sacrifice, and I’ve Never Been Here Before is me being okay with losing things," he says. "I think that losing has always a negative connotation because nobody wants to lose, everybody wants to win. But it's the first time I'm losing stuff and it’s better being lost. Whether it's a habit or a person in your life, you don't need to hold everything."

I’ve Never Been Here Before lives up to its title in both theme and creation. Where Erick previously wrote songs in moments of vulnerability, the rapper says he "doesn’t feel that way anymore." 

Citing the work of Keith Haring, Miles Davis and Pablo Picasso as inspiration, Erick says he was driven to write more high-spirited songs, rather than ones tethered to struggle and hardship. As a result, the album is more accessible than some of his previous work.

"I’m tired of writing from a perspective of just being like, 'I’m sad today, bro,'" he says. "I haven’t made a project that I feel like you can just put that joint on and just play it, don’t even think about anything else because it’s commanding an energy that we all need." 

In transforming the project, the "Die 4 U" artist pieced together a blend of new and older songs he recorded five years ago. And while a double album is a "death sentence" in the eyes of most rap fans, Erick says he’s prepared for both heaps of praise and hurls of "he’s overrated" from listeners. He would feel more anxiety only if the music never came out.

"I’ve always believed that I had another special part of me that I think people didn’t witness because I didn’t put it out in the forefront," he says.

While getting a new release across the finish line can be a heavy weight to bear, Erick says he’s determined to prove his doubters wrong and own his legitimacy as a solo act. "I didn’t get lucky or sneak in here and steal beats from somebody’s laptop," Erick says. "This project is great to defeat people who have perceptions about me that are incorrect."

With the momentum of I’ve Never Been Here Before, Erick is set to test his new music and moniker on the road during his upcoming Mandevillain Tour, which kicks off in Austin on March 25.

Now that he’s fulfilling his ambitions as a solo act, the artist has a few more mediums he plans to explore – TV and film. After being a rapper/producer for more than a decade, Erick says he’s ready to take grander creative leaps.  "I’m just trying to take this to the highest caliber," he says.

Benny The Butcher Is Ready To Rise On 'Everybody Can’t Go'

It Goes To 11: DPR IAN Unveils The Drumsticks That Inspired His Musical Dreams
DPR IAN

Photo: le3ay Studio

video

It Goes To 11: DPR IAN Unveils The Drumsticks That Inspired His Musical Dreams

Korean artist DPR IAN shares the story behind his Ahead 5A Drumsticks, the nostalgic piece of gear he discovered while watching Joey Jordison's Slipknot performance videos as a teenager.

GRAMMYs/Feb 21, 2024 - 06:01 pm

Korean artist DPR IAN might have abandoned his drumming days, but that doesn't change the fact that it planted the roots for his artistry — which is why he still names his Ahead 5A drumsticks his favorite piece of musical gear.

"I remember my friend showing me a video on YouTube by SlipknotJoey Jordison," the singer/songwriter, whose birth name is Christian Yu, recounts in the latest episode of It Goes to 11. "That was the first time I got absolutely shook."

Because of his hours of watching the band's videos, he could quickly recognize the tools they used on stage in any instrument shop. After convincing his mom to buy the same drumsticks as Jordison's, Yu drummed everywhere, including his car dashboard, which still has dents today.

Eventually, it was time to perform on the drums live. Having never been in front of an audience, the nerves were so high that he remembers he "blacked out" on stage as soon as the song started playing. "It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life because I froze."

However, DPR IAN says it taught him a valuable lesson: not to become a drummer. But it also showed him that one negative experience shouldn't ruin his entire perspective on music.

"The greatest success is actually from a failure," he declares. "You have to learn how to be bad [at] things."

Press play on the video above to learn more about DPR IAN's history with the drums, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of It Goes to 11.

9 Korean Alternative Artists To Know: Jiwoo, Zior Park, Huh & More

How Lola Kirke's 'Country Curious' EP Is A Full-Circle Moment In Many Ways
Lola Kirke

Photo: Alexa King Stone

interview

How Lola Kirke's 'Country Curious' EP Is A Full-Circle Moment In Many Ways

While hearing Lola Kirke sing country music might be surprising to some fans, the actress/singer details to GRAMMY.com how her new EP, 'Country Curious,' is actually one of the most authentic projects she's done to date.

GRAMMYs/Feb 21, 2024 - 03:41 pm

You've likely seen Lola Kirke a time or two on the big screen or your favorite streaming platform. However, the London-born, New York City-raised performer — who's been featured everywhere from Amazon Prime Video's Mozart In The Jungle to HBO's Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty — is now looking to be recognized in a different way: country music star.

Country Curious, her third project due out Feb. 16, aims to reinforce her oftentimes overlooked honky tonk credentials, to both fans and critics alike. She turns old-school tropes on their head with a cheeky blend of nostalgic sounds and contemporary, female-forward storytelling.

"I've joked that a lot of these new songs are like bro-country for women," Kirke tells GRAMMY.com. "I just wanted to mimic those sounds to see if I could create something more feminine by singing about it as a woman instead."

On its four songs, Kirke goes from gushing over a southern accent ("He Says Y'all") to saying adios to those not worth her time ("All My Exes Live in L.A." and "My House"). It's been a calculated adventure for Kirke, who's slowly expanded on her country sound with each passing record, moving from the glimmering 70's and 80's influenced Heart Head West and Lady For Sale to the empowered contemporary stylings that dominate Country Curious

The title of her EP also stems from a childhood infiltrated with country music that she credits to her father, who played in classic rock bands and introduced her to artists like Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline. Despite her long fascination with the genre — and even fronting an all-female country band in college — Kirke acknowledges that, from the outside looking in, she doesn't look the part of a cowgirl.

"As a girl from New York City who was half Jewish and half English, it wasn't exactly up there," she jokes about the possibility of a career in country music. "For whatever reason I delusionally believed I could be an actress and that would be easier, and it worked for a while. One thing I've always loved about music is that I don't need a green light from people like I do as an actress, I can always raise hell and sing a song."

Calling from her Nashville home between rehearsals for a new acting role, Kirke spoke candidly about her path to country music, imposter syndrome and how acting and making music compare.

Country music is often tied to a place, but it can also come from the heart — something people often neglect when debating authenticity in the genre. Is that idea what you're hitting back on at the beginning of "He Says Y'all" when you sing "I've got my Wrangler's starched and I'm pearl snap pretty, which is kind of strange 'cause I'm from New York City?"

I definitely want to empower more people to listen to country music. But these days it doesn't seem like I have to because it's becoming increasingly ubiquitous, which I love since it's my favorite kind of music. 

The most authentic thing we can do in this world is love something with every ounce of our being. That's what should be the price of entry, because in the end that's all that really matters. If you love something then you're going to do right by it — and I love country music, so I hope to do right by it.

What are some differences and similarities of how you approach acting and musical pursuits?

Well, for acting I would never take a shot of tequila before I did a scene, but maybe I should because it could be very fun! [Laughs.]

I'm able to do that more when I'm performing due to the social element of it, which is really exciting. I do try to bring my whole self to whatever it is I'm doing, whether I'm on a stage singing or I'm in front of a camera acting. That being said, the Lola Kirke that I am when I'm playing music is not the Lola Kirke that I necessarily am at home.

For one, I look like s— when I'm at home, but on stage I really love wearing fun costumes. On that note, with acting, I was starting to get a lot of feedback about the way I looked that wasn't positive and made me sad, hearing I was too fat for roles. I didn't want to be part of an industry that did that. I'm not naive to the idea that music can be kinder to female artists, but so far I haven't felt that same pressure in my music to look a certain way because I have a lot of control in how I look when I'm doing it.

There was always this confusion with me as an actress where I felt like a really glamorous person even though I was constantly playing an assistant. You can be a glamorous assistant for sure, but there was a leading lady role I wanted to step into that I just wasn't being cast as. I feel like with the role I've created for myself with my music that I've been able to embody that.

In some of your songwriting and in past interviews you've alluded to your battle with imposter syndrome, especially in terms of your music and moving to Nashville. What's motivated you to be so open about those struggles?

It's really important to try new things in life and to test your own limits of what you believe is possible. If you get into the habit of doing that a lot, you'll often find yourself feeling like an imposter because you're constantly learning and growing. There's a healthiness and bravery in allowing yourself to feel like that.

However, that feeling of not deserving anything I have is something I've also dealt with a lot.  It can seem self-centered at times, but it's made me realize that life doesn't have to be as hard as I make it. You don't have to be scared all the time that everyone's gonna come down on you for doing something wrong. 

Overcoming my imposter syndrome has been a lot of looking at my own judgmental nature because I have a lot of negative self-talk that I'm working on. While it's nice when somebody else validates you, that ultimately has to be an inside job.

Is that what you're singing about in "My House," not only getting toxic people out of your life but your own toxic thoughts and insecurities as well?

I think all of my romantic or heartbreak songs have a double meaning. On "All My Exes Live In LA," while it is a true story, it's also about leaving behind the proverbial abusive ex-boyfriend of Hollywood and being like, "I don't want this anymore. I'm gonna go find my own place in this world and maybe I'll come back, but if I do it'll be more whole and not defined by you."

Sometimes it's easier to write about these bigger ideas through the foil of a man or love because somehow it sounds less cheesy — even though we break up with a lot of things in this life, not just romantic partners. I hope listeners find double meaning in all of my songs about breaking up with a man, or being empowered by a relationship, to be a different thing because we have relationships with a lot more things than just lovers.

Regarding "Exes in LA," I love the inclusion of First Aid Kit on the song. They're not a band that I necessarily think of when country music comes to mind, but I love them jumping on these and feel like they really nailed the vibe. How'd the opportunity to collaborate with them come about?

It all came from a mediocre 6.4 review that Pitchfork gave my last record, Lady For Sale. Overall it wasn't a bad review aside from mentioning it was egregious that someone from New York City like me was making country music. That became the thesis of a TikTok I posted that the First Aid Kit gals commented on jumping to my defense, saying they loved my music and would be interested in hearing what Pitchfork had to say about them making country music from Sweden. 

After that we became close friends online and I got to go on tour with them throughout the UK, which was so special. A real friendship blossomed from that, so when I was dreaming up collaborations for [Country Curious] they were at the top of my list with Rosanne Cash.

I imagine that your collaboration with Rosanne, "Karma," was a pretty serendipitous and full-circle experience, since she's one of your biggest country influences?

Many years ago during a moment of heartbreak, I was consulting a psychic — as one does — and she told me that I really needed to listen to the song "Seven Year Ache" because it'll be a huge window into my future. The song doesn't have the most optimistic perspective so I thought that was weird. 

Then when I was sitting down with [Lady For Sale producer Austin Jenkins] he mentioned it'd be really fun to make a record like Seven Year Ache and it brought me back to that moment. We ended up making this record that was very inspired by Rosanne's. 

Eventually, I got back on the phone with the psychic again, where she re-emphasized the importance of working with Rosanne Cash. I remember thanking her but inside thinking she was crazy — until a couple years later and I was lying in bed one night after a pretty rough day professionally, and refreshed my email one last time to see if any opportunities trickled through. Lo and behold, a message popped up from Rosanne Cash. 

She said she'd been trying to reach me for a while to see if I'd like to do this workshop project in New York with her for a theater piece. It was such an honor and such a beautiful experience as an actress and musician to get to work with her in both capacities. When it came to this dream EP I reached out fully expecting a no in response, but to my surprise she said yes.

I love "Karma," particularly for its double-edged sword dynamic that has you referring to karma as your friend one moment and declaring you don't mess with her because she can be a b— moments later.

That's a song I wrote for a dear friend of mine. I originally thought of it as more of a quippy Pistol Annies upbeat number, but when my co-writer Jason Nix sent me a tape of him playing it in this really sad way that I thought was brilliant, so we did that with it instead.

You talked earlier about being steeped in old country influences growing up and on past recordings. I feel like "Karma" very much sees you with one foot planted in the nostalgia of '70s and '80s country and the other in its contemporary, pop-tinged present.

A lot of that also came from Elle King's influence as producer of Country Curious. She has much more of a rootsy sensibility that I was really happy she brought because it was able to ground this more contemporary sound in a lot of the classic country influences that I really love.

From your early days in London and the Big Apple to the bright lights of Hollywood and now Nashville, what is something that music has taught you about yourself?

Music has taught me that I can do things that I never thought I could do. Through disappointments in other areas of my life, I've been empowered to discover hidden talents that I would've never honed because I grew up thinking that only really gifted people made music. 

While I may have raw talent somewhere as a musician, what I've loved most is the constant working you have to do at it to get better, and how you can see the results when you do. That's also probably why I didn't enjoy playing music as a kid, because I never wanted to practice the piano, but as I've gotten older I've become much more interested in practicing and expanding in that way. 

Music has made me realize I'm more capable than I ever thought, which comes back to the imposter syndrome. We contain multitudes as humans, and music has helped me to see that.

Why 2024 Is The Year Women In Country Music Will Finally Have Their Moment