WXPN’s Black Opry Residency reclaims Americana as the inclusive genre it can be

In collaboration with Black Opry, WXPN invited six Black Americana musicians to participate in a week-long residency in Philadelphia.


March 23, 2023

Samantha Rise: The stories that are the most important, the stories that offer solutions forward, that offer us creativity and imagination, that can carry us through impossible times are gonna come from the storytellers that are most often left on the sidelines of these essential conversations in and around major institutions.

Bruce Warren: The Black Opry Residency is a grant funded project funded by Pew here in Philadelphia and it's an artist development project. It involves emerging artists in the Americana music space. Black creators who have traditionally not been afforded access to resources to help develop their careers.

Tyler Bryant: Like, I've learned more in these five or six weeks than I've learned seven years of being in music. So much, like, being a creative and artist you focus on your art and that's really what you wanna focus on, but there's... It's called the music business for a reason. And so the business part is what can really get you. So they've really been hammering home a lot of that aspect of it and it's been very eye-opening.

Roger Lamay: As record labels have gotten out of the artist development business, we've really seen it as an opportunity and an obligation really for WXPN to sort of up what it does for artists in terms of development and connecting them to audiences.

Bruce Warren: Representation in Americana has resulted in increased voices from people of color and the LGBTQ community, and that's an exciting thing. The role that WXPN can play in that isn't so much for us to actually say that ourselves but it's to give artists an opportunity to talk about their roots and how their music is created and where that value is and who they are as people.

Tyler Bryant: Getting into country music as a Black artist, it's like there's not really anybody who looks like me in this space so it's hard to like relate. And so that's kind of why the majority of the Black community really doesn't participate or listen to country music. And so we kind of feel like if you... If they get more exposure with people who look like them and telling familiar stories then maybe we can start converting people over to also being country fans.

Roger Lamay: You know, what's great about this first residency that we're doing is that we're doing it in partnership with Black Opry, and Black Opry is really kind of a heroic undertaking of really trying to tear down the walls around country music which is sort of broadened into Americana music. And the artists that we have coming sort of span from like the edge of like pure country to sort of folk, more bluesy. But we're hugely supportive of the efforts to sort of diversify Black and Americana music.

Samantha Rise: There's a really unique and very special energy about what all of us are showing up with because I think there's just... You can really see the power where we overlap or where we create connections with one another. Just in the window of time that I've gotten to experience their music have been profoundly influential in shaping how I wanna write my own songs and contribute them. So I hope that the opportunities to collaborate only grow from here, but I'm really looking forward to seeing the ways that this sort of seed this inaugural experience of the Black Opry Residency gets to grow from here. It's only gonna get better, so.

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