In 2003, Miko Marks came to Nashville with a guitar and a dream. Despite performing several times at CMA Fest, releasing two albums and being recognized as “Nashville’s Hottest New Country Star” by People, she struggled to feel fully embraced by the industry.
After over a decade away from music, which she herself didn’t expect coming back to, Marks burst back onto the scene in 2021 with her acclaimed EP Race Records and full album Our Country. The positive response from each project led to Marks being minted a member of CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2022 and a slew of tour dates supporting the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Ron Pope.
“Since I’m older now I’ve become more settled into my own voice, my purpose and what I’m supposed to be singing about,” Marks tells The Boot. “My career has taken a full circle turn because I didn’t anticipate doing music anymore after my first two albums. I was ready to ride off into the sunset, but COVID had other ideas.”
Since her departure from the industry, many of her former bandmates went on to form Redtone Records. Out of the blue in 2020 they sent Marks the song “Goodnight America” — a stripped down tune touching on the death of the American dream and injustices toward the poor and powerless. The song even references “America The Beautiful” with Marks singing, “Oh beautiful for spacious skies / But they won’t hide your lies / America, your dream has died.”
Marks ended up cutting the song for Our Country and was off and running from there.
“I’ve got my third eye now and am able to look at things as they are and not all starry-eyed,” says Marks. “It’s allowed me to concentrate on the music and what I want to leave behind on this Earth.”
With a powerhouse voice and heartfelt lyrics that reflect on her experiences in the music industry and as a Black woman in America, there’s no doubt that Marks is country to the core. She’s already left quite a mark on both Nashville and the music business, and hopes to continue that with the highly anticipated follow up to Our Country and Race Records expected in the fall.
The compilation’s first single, “Feel Like Going Home,” is an empowering anthem that delves into Marks’ return to music and her journey of self-discovery to find her purpose in life. It’s an emotional ballad that Marks says is one of her favorites to perform live.
“The song is talking about how I’m the wanderer and I no longer feel like I have to roam around searching for my place in music and the world,” says Marks. “I’ve also settled into a sound that’s more authentic to who I am, so that song isn’t just about my return to the music industry, but a return to my roots as well.”
Also helping to make Marks feel more at home during her second stint in the music industry is the Black Opry, an organization started in early 2021 with the goal of fostering a more inclusive community within country and Americana music for artists of color. In Sept. 2021 she spoke on a Black Opry panel at AmericanaFest discussing her prior struggles in the industry. She’ll also perform with the organization’s touring “Black Opry Revue” in Berkeley, Calif. on June 30 with Rissi Palmer, Stephanie Jacques and Leon Timbo.
“I love how the Black Opry is shining a light on so many up-and-coming artists of color because there is so much talent out there,” says Marks. “I’m glad to see so many artists of color entering country music because when I was first getting started there were just a few of us. Black people have been a part of country music since its inception, so it’s wonderful to see that community grow and become more connected.”
A Brief History of Black Country Music, From Tee Tot to Breland: