Miko Marks’ Feel Like Going Home — “I’m not just one genre. I love everything. And if I can add something from each different genre and make a big gumbo, that’s what I am going to do. As artists, we must stir the pot with more and more ingredients. When you do that, it elevates us all.”

Donna Block
10 min readMay 24, 2024
Photo Credit: Karen Santos

Born in Flint, Michigan. Single mother, who had a calling for fighting for equal rights for all, worked the 3rd shift at the automotive factory while your grandmother watched you.

“Good Life,” “My grandmother’s family came out of the south, working in cotton fields, struggling, looking for hope up north as so many did during the great migration. I wanted to describe that in song and praise her and my mother and my ancestors for their power, and to thank them for persevering so that I could have a good life.” What advice would you give to aspiring Black country artists?

The advice I would give to an aspiring Black country artist would be to stay true to oneself and the art that you want to put out into the world. The music should transcend all barriers and boundaries that may be encountered along the way. The music industry is a hard road to navigate for any artist but especially for people of color and women. The reason why I stay pursuing my goal of being an artist is not confined to a genre or the industry. It is a gift and I feel compelled to share it with the world and for me, if one person is moved spiritually and impacted by my music then that is the goal, and really makes the road less hard to bear.

Growing up your love of theater grew as you performed in backyard plays with your cousins, and church activities encouraged your love of music. In high school, joined The Madrigals and performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City at age 15. Vocal and piano teachers helped encourage your passion. Can you describe how your teachers influenced you as a musician?

I was extremely fortunate to have what I call “angels” in my life ushering me into the direction of music and really bringing out my love for it, because at such a young age, I could not see what they saw in me. Mrs. Barnett, my second grade teacher, used to hear me singing to myself and in the hallways and asked if I would be interested in piano lessons. I asked my Mama and she agreed. That was my first introduction to an instrument other than my voice. At that time, I was heavily involved in my church choir and was used to singing. However, it wasn’t until her prompt that I started explore music outside of my voice. I did not stick with the piano, but I learned there were ways to accompany myself. Mr. Petrich, my high school vocal teacher, was really focused on bringing out my ability to sing different kinds of music -Jazz, Opera, a capella-style, and really focused on technique. I was like a sponge and really looked up to him, and I made a decision to do exactly what he taught me. It has served me well. If I had any formal training, it was from him for four years of my life. I have a subconscious discipline around connecting with songs and lyrics that I don’t think I would have if it had not been for his teaching.

Grambling State University, degree in Political Science. Planned to go to law school to become a criminal defense attorney. Put school on hold to raise your son, Justin. Released two albums, Freeway Bound and It Feels Good. Put music on hold, “I kind of gave up. I had put out two albums and recorded them in Nashville, and I felt like I was doing the things that I was supposed to do at that time to make it in this genre and in this industry. But it felt like I was knocking on doors, and they just were not being opened. I decided that I would just sing and perform on my own, but just not record any music because that wasn’t doing me any good.” You had a successful start in Nashville in the early 2000s, but then took a hiatus from music. What brought you back to making music, and how has your perspective on the industry changed?

I never saw myself as a professional singer in my early years. When my husband David told me to quit my job and pursue music as a career I was surprised and thought to myself he sees something that I don’t see. I trusted him and decided to take a chance because I loved singing and I was good at it. I did not plan on coming back to recording music and it was quite a surprise to me how it all unfolded. In the early 2000’s, I had a band of musicians that are extremely talented. Justin Phipps and Steve Wyreman were instrumental in my comeback and were a part of my band back then. I had a dream in 2019 where we were playing and jamming out like we did back then. It was inspiring so I called Justin, surprised he had the same phone number and picked up… I was excited to tell him about the dream. He preceded to tell me he had started a record label, Redtone Records, and he would love to send me a song to see if I would like to record it.

That song was “Goodnight America,” which is a lullaby about America’s foundation of wrongdoings and a plea to make things right. I cried when I heard the song and felt compelled to record it because I could identify and felt deeply connected to its message. That was my foot stepping back into the water so to speak. We recorded the song and put it out during Black History Month of 2020, and it ignited in me the desire to record again. I was older, wiser and had something to say in a way that was non-conforming. There was so much bottled up inside over the years that needed to come out. It was no longer about fitting in or the industry, it was about my life and what I wanted to leave on this earth. I no longer put my hopes and dreams in the hands of another. I hold them.

The song, “River,” tells your bands’ story, “The river can mean a lot of things. It’s always been such a strong and universal theme in song and poetry. It’s healing, it’s baptism, it’s crossing over, it’s cleansing, it’s rebirth. I’m calling out to the river to take me wherever it goes. Letting go and trusting it to take me where I need to be. Jumping in to escape whatever might be coming for me.” How has the music industry changed since you first started out?

The industry seems to be more inclusive to a degree, but not fully. There is more representation in the country music industry for artists, but no real movement that I can tell as far as mainstage, front office, tech support, etc. It is still a climb for us all.

The Bill Pickett Rodeo, an organization that celebrates and highlights Black Cowboys and Cowgirls and their contributions to building the west. “We’ve all been sold the fairytale over and over, that the goal of life is to find the perfect love. But life is bigger than that. A lot of songs sung by women that I was raised on were songs about falling apart when love fails. But that’s not a message I want to put out there, especially for young women. Your life is much bigger than love and romance. You can find joy and balance and contentment within yourself, in your own spirit.” What message do you hope your music conveys for listeners?

The message I hope to convey to listeners is strength, courage, vulnerability, honesty and truth. That can look different for the listener. I sing about subjects that resonate with my soul and my life experiences now. The more that I keep the foundation basic and true, the listener is able to connect in their own personal way.

Music that blends Americana/roots, gospel, soul, and the blues. Feel Like Going Home (Deluxe Version), returning to your true self, finding your place in the world through your music. “I’m not just one genre. I love everything. And if I can add something from each different genre and make a big gumbo, that’s what I am going to do. As artists, we must stir the pot with more and more ingredients. When you do that, it elevates us all.”

Covering Alice Randall’s “I’ll Cry for Yours (Will You Cry for Mine)” on the album, My Black Country: The Songs of Alice Randall. What makes this song so special for you?

Alice Randall’s song is special to me because I see two mothers having a shared experience around war and death and facing the truth of our country’s foundation around race relations. Two women supporting (or maybe not each) the other, with darkness all around, and asking can we heal this wound that has been inflicted upon us.

Equal Access Development Program, a program designed to foster and support marginalized communities underrepresented in the genre of country music, “I get emotional around it, because I didn’t think I would see any of this in my lifetime.” Grand Ole Opry debut. Finding freedom through music. On your journey as a Black woman in country music, “For me, being a country music singer-songwriter, I’m truly dedicated to the work, so it’s an uphill battle, but it’s one I’m willing to climb.” Can you describe how it felt to debut at the Opry?

The Opry was a lifelong dream. It is one of my highest achievements. I describe as the Holy Grail of Country Music. I was a ball of emotions walking the halls of The Opry and hope to become a member one day.

“Trailblazing Women of Country,” a tribute to the foundational women of country music, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Patsy Cline. “I grew up with my grandmother who migrated from Mississippi to Flint, Michigan. She brought the music and the culture from Mississippi. I would come over to her house after school, try to watch cartoons and she’d be like, “Baby, turn that off. Let’s put this music on. I want you to hear this.” And she just fed me — Dolly, Loretta, Patsy. Kenny Rogers, Johnny Paycheck, Waylon Jennings. She had such a plethora of music in her wheelhouse. There was R&B, there was jazz, but there was mostly country and gospel.” Two songs you love performing, Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors.” How have these songs influenced your songwriting?

I have been influenced by all three of these women. They are a part of my DNA. I’m sure it’s just in me and very hard to describe. The determination and drive they display influences me. They all lean into subject matters that may not be so popular and I’m learning to be bold and speak my truth in songwriting from these women and through life experiences.

What was the best part of performing at Stagecoach?

Stagecoach is the largest festival I’ve played to date. It was exciting, scary and validating. I hope to be back on that stage! It is such a well-crafted festival with so much variety and I was elated to be a part of it.

Summer and fall, festivals including Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco. What can fans look forward to hearing?

Fans can look forward to me and my band leaving it all on the stage. There will be dancing, laughter, crying, and everything in between.

Going on tour with Rissi Palmer next year. Performing a duet together, “I’m Still Here,” “This is a song about not just surviving the odds but overcoming and thriving on the other side,” she said. “The energy and spirit of this song is captured in this video. It’s in the palpable joy on everyone’s faces, the dancing in the crowd, the performance.” How has this collaboration been particularly meaningful to you?

Rissi and I got started around the same time and we’ve cultivated a friendship that will last a lifetime. We wrote that song together as our true testimony and it’s a marker for us both. We will continue to make music together.

“If I didn’t have this music to focus on, I don’t know what I would be doing. I would be stuck in a hole somewhere depressed with all that’s going on in the world.” “Trouble,” pays homage to late civil rights leader John Lewis. “I want to put music out that speaks to where we are as a country. I want to speak about the real issues that are happening and how I’m being affected by these things. Everything that has been going on has me realizing what I really want to say, and what I want to leave this world, through my music.” What are you working on musically these days?

I am working on writing new music with my team at Redtone Records. I want to dig a little deeper into my personal story. I will also be collaborating with some artists in Nashville this summer. More tour dates to come.

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