The Underscore: Behind the custom music of ESPN
This month on The Underscore, we interviewed Reyna Roberts. Reyna is an up and coming country music star out of Nashville who wrote and recorded “Countdown to Victory,” a custom song in celebration of the Music City Miracle. Reyna kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to share her incredible story.
Tell us a bit about your journey, musical background, and musical influences.
I was born in Anchorage, Alaska and both of my parents are Army veterans. They were both Combat Engineers for 10 years in the Army. Since my mom’s entire family is in Alabama, my early childhood was there, and later California – which is where my dad is from.
My musical journey started at birth. I was born prematurely – I only weighed 2 lbs. and had to stay in the hospital for 2.5 months until I could pass the milestones needed to leave the hospital. Because of my premature birth, I was expected to have many developmental delays so my parents used music to help my cognitive development and language production.
My mom worked with her professors to develop a language intervention program for me using music. Both parents chose a different genre of music each week and only played that genre during that week and so on. My mom always chose bands and singers with big voices, nice guitar riffs, and heavy bass. Electric guitar is just bad*** especially if you are listening to Hendrix, Zeppelin, Steve Vai, Slash, etc. Because I am a country artist, there are times I have to really think about the artists who influence me because my musical influences don’t belong in just one group. I really did grow up listening to all genres and all of those influences are the soundtrack of my musical development. That being said, my main influences are Gretchen Wilson, Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé, The Chicks, Led Zeppelin, Chris Cornell, Journey, and Aretha Franklin.
Can you talk about the music you’ve made for ESPN?
I wrote and recorded a song for the 20th anniversary of the Music City Miracle. When ESPN Music reached out for me to record a song for the Titans Music City Miracle 20 Year Anniversary, they said I had a week to turn it in, but 3 days for them to hear the song. I ended up finishing the song in a day. The song they chose was called “Countdown to Victory.” I wrote it with my friend and amazing guitarist/producer, Noah Henson, who happens to also be Brantley Gilbert’s guitarist. We had actually turned in two songs to see which one the ESPN team liked more, but ESPN chose “Countdown to Victory.” Noah and I also just had another song synced for Monday Night Football called, “Stompin’ Grounds.”
How did you get your start in the industry?
My parents and I didn’t know anyone when we started sending my music out to people. I did research to connect with people in the music industry that I wanted to work with and I would send multiple emails and direct messages a day to various songwriters and producers to see if they would be open to working with me.
I know people say it all the time, but it is absolutely true: You will most likely have to send about 20 emails and get 1-2 responses. When you get those responses follow up and maintain contact with that person.
How have you been coping with the pandemic and recent social justice movements?
Regarding the pandemic, I was a little worried in March 2020. I had just made the permanent move to Nashville when everything shut down. I had just finished writing a song that I wanted to release and I quickly realized I needed to find a way to put the song out that didn’t involve promoting it playing live. I started reaching out to folks in the ESPN Music Department requesting to submit music for ESPN. They followed up with my team and gave me an opportunity to share my music. It was around that time when Mickey Guyton posted a video of me playing Carrie Underwood’s “Drinking Alone.” Carrie saw the video and posted it on her timeline. As I gained more attention, I released “Stompin’ Grounds.” I have been writing nonstop for the past year and I’ve had a lot of great sessions with others artists like Karen Fairchild from Little Big Town, Danny Myrick, Kylie Sackley, and more.
With regard to the social justice movements: With increased awareness of the extent of racism and the murders of black men and women, people seemed to really SEE these injustices. There was nothing to distract us while we were socially isolated. We couldn’t avoid the horrible images. We were unable to look away. Once you see those all too familiar images – you can’t unsee the injustice.
What are some challenges you’ve experienced as a woman of color in country music and what kind of advice do you have for folks who are paving a way for themselves as you are doing now?
Whenever I answer this question in interviews, I am very careful about the way I answer it because my experience is not the same as it has been for other women of color. Women like Linda Martell, Rissi Palmer, and Mickey Guyton have given me a platform and paved the way so that my experience has not been the same as theirs. They inspire me, and I’m truly grateful for them.
What do you have on the docket these days and where can our readers find you?
I’m really excited about a lot of things. I have a performance at the Grammy Museum in LA on November 8,, 2021 and The Tortuga Festival on November 12, 2021. I am also releasing new music, touring with Reba and performing at Stagecoach 2022! I’m on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook at TheReynaRoberts.
Big thanks to Reyna to sharing her story with us and being so candid and open. We can’t wait to see what Reyna has in store!