Interviews

Reyna Roberts' Military Family Inspired Her Rowdy Southern Anthem, 'Stompin' Grounds' [Interview]

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"These are my stompin' grounds, and don't you forget it/ Ain't a thing in the world that could change it," Reyna Roberts sings on debut single "Stompin' Grounds," released to widespread acclaim last summer.

The song, a rollicking ode to the south, from moonshine to Alabama football, doubled as a rallying cry for Roberts, a rising 23-year-old country singer-songwriter determined to make music on her own terms.

But even before the release of "Stompin' Grounds," the 2021 CMT Next Women of Country classmember turned heads with her stunning cover of Carrie Underwood's "Drinkin' Alone," which earned her praise from Underwood herself and Mickey Guyton, who, in 2020, became the first Black woman nominated for a solo Grammy award in a country music category.

"Country music also looks like this," Guyton wrote.

Just seven months later, both Roberts and Guyton took part in a New York Times roundtable, along with Rissi Palmer, Miko Marks and Brittney Spencer, to discuss their experiences as Black women in country music.

Last year, Wide Open Country caught up with Roberts to chat about "Stompin' Grounds," representation in country music and finding inspiration in Star Wars and Supernatural.

On finding her 'Stompin' Grounds'

"My parents were veterans and so, for me, the song represents two things. I personally had to go from state to state with my family and I had to make wherever I was going my home... I also want the song to represent people who haven't moved, who have been where they are their whole lives."

Roberts, who was born in Alaska and lived in Alabama and California before moving to Nashville last year, says having to move around a lot gave her a strong sense of independence.

"I had to switch schools so many times and have different friend groups, but I was okay with that. And even if I didn't have friends, which happened a lot sometimes, I was comfortable just being by myself," Roberts says. "So I feel like definitely moving from place to place shaped my character in that aspect."

On finding inspiration in pop culture, from Kylo Ren to 'Supernatural'

"I'm a big Kylo Ren fan. I think he's awesome. I just wrote a song like a week or so ago called "Raised Right." For some reason when I was watching The Rise of Skywalker that title popped in my head and I was like, 'I'm gonna write a song about Kylo.' If you listen to it, you're not gonna know that it's about him. But for me, I know. [Laughs] I don't always necessarily write from personal experiences....the majority of my songs I get from watching movies and just nerding out."

Roberts also penned the sultry "67 (Winchester)" about the character Dean Winchester from the CW series Supernatural.

"It was my first country demo," Roberts says.  "I had been watching the show since I was, I want to say like 15 or so. It's really cool because most of the cast members on Supernatural actually posted about my song or helped with 'Stompin' Grounds'...If I would've told little Reyna, at like 15, 'Hey, you know, this is your favorite show and in a few years, they're all going to support you.' I would have been like 'what?!'

[Mickey Guyton] saw me and she raised my voice.

On the advice she'd give to younger artists

"I would say trust yourself, because a lot of people are going to tell you a lot of different things. You do have to know when to take advice, but also recognize what your heart is telling you...Certain people have a certain vision for you, but that might not be the vision you have for yourself. It's important to stay true to yourself and do what you love as opposed to following somebody else's dreams. For me, for example, because I write different genres... people would say, 'You should sing pop, you should sing R&B, you should sing rock.'...People were trying to push me in different directions, but that's not who I am. And it took me probably a year or so to find out who I am, because you have all these people telling you different things."

On getting shoutouts from Carrie Underwood and Mickey Guyton

"I was very speechless, especially because of Mickey's generosity. She didn't know me. She didn't have to do that. But she saw me and she raised my voice and every time I talk to her, I tell her how much of a blessing she is, because if she didn't do that,  I wouldn't be in the place that I am right now... I tell her all the time she's an angel. She's so giving and supportive and you just don't -- you don't always see that and it's a beautiful thing."

Guyton's tweet caught the eye of Underwood, which led to a full-circle moment for Roberts.

"With Carrie [Underwood], I mean, I've been listening to her for as long as I can remember and her music shaped my voice when I was little. I'd be listening to her songs and I'm like, 'I want to sing like that.' And I would try to do her runs and riffs and belt those same notes until I could get them. For her to recognize me or see me and support me... I was like 'what?' [Laughs]. I was speechless."

Roberts says Guyton has been a constant source of support and guidance.

"Without her help, without her support, there are so, so many things I just wouldn't know about... I'm able to follow down her path. She's paving the way for other artists like me. If she hadn't been doing what she's been doing, if she didn't go down her path, I feel like it'd be hard for me to -- that road wouldn't have been paved. I see her and I'm like, 'This is possible. This is something that's possible.' When you don't have a representation of someone who looks like you, it's sometimes hard to imagine you being in that spot. So for me, seeing her live her dream, I'm like, 'Okay, this is possible.' You know, I'm able to do this. And she inspires me in that way."

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Reyna Roberts' Military Family Inspired Her Rowdy Southern Anthem, 'Stompin' Grounds' [Interview]