Rissi Palmer has packed a lifetime of milestones into the past year while establishing herself as one of country music's most promising young stars. Her impressive rise has earned her a rapidly growing fan base and drawn the attention of media across the board.
Rissi has been featured in People, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Billboard, Country Weekly, Rolling Stone, Parade and Ebony, to name just a few. She has appeared on CMT Insider, GAC: On The Streets, Opry Live and others, as well as on National Public Radio's Tavis Smiley Show and XM's Dr. Maya Angelou Show on Oprah & Friends.
Her first single was chosen as part of Starbuck's "Song of the Day" campaign, she has been featured in the newly launched "Wal-Mart Mobile," and she has achieved Top Ten and Top Five rankings on MySpace and iTunes, respectively.
Rissi's first video received significant airplay on CMT and GAC, and her debut at the Grand Ole Opry was one of the most emotional and well-received in recent memory, leading to several return engagements, including on the televised portion. She performed during the American League Championship Series and at several NFL games, including the Pittsburgh/Jacksonville playoff game.
It is as diverse and impressive a collection of achievements as any rising star could want, and those who know her realize it is only the beginning.
And with the release of her latest single, "Hold On To Me," she takes an incredible year of accomplishments to the next level. The song, co-written with Shaye Smith and Ed Hill, demonstrates once again that Rissi is an accomplished songwriter in addition to being a world-class vocalist and a show-stopping entertainer. In fact, her songwriting skills helped her establish her reputation in Nashville. She has written with many of Nashville's finest writers, including Angela Kaset, James Dean Hicks and Shaye Smith, and she penned the song "Faith," which appeared in the 2004 Lee Daniels/Miramax film "The Woodsman."
Rissi's self-titled debut clearly establishes her as an impressive talent, showcasing the poise and maturity she has gained through a wealth of performing experience. RISSI PALMER is a testament to both Rissi's amazing vocal abilities and to her lifelong passion for country music. The album, on Atlanta-based, 1720 Entertainment, features Rissi's work with producers Keith Thomas (Amy Grant, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood), Dan Shea (Martina McBride, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez), Shannon Sanders (Randy Travis, Lyle Lovett, India Arie), Drew Ramsey (India Arie, Kimberly Locke), and Cory Rooney (Barbra Streisand, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez). It reflects the variety of strengths that make her such a compelling artist. She is equally at home with the sweet intimacy of "All This Woman Needs" and the ache of "Flowers On My Window Ledge." She can relay the heartbreaking longing of "Anybody Out There" and the sass of "Sweet Contradictions." She proves that her love of classic country is deeply rooted with a knockout performance--steeped in the echoes of Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee--of the timeless "Leavin’ On Your Mind." However, it is in the blues-tinged "Country Girl" where she unfolds her banner, luxuriating in her country roots with a song as infectious as it is joyful—in fact, the song earned a spot in Club Connection’s Top Ten Country Club and Dance Hits of 2007. Add to her vocal skills the fact that she wrote or co-wrote nearly all of the album's songs, and her debut is that much more impressive.
Rissi's hard-earned success is the culmination of a lifetime dedicated to music and achievement. "I remember the house being filled with really good music,” says Rissi. “My mother listened to a huge variety-pretty much everything classic and great.” Yet it was the country music, like the Patsy Cline records she heard around the house, that would remain close to her heart after her mother's death.
“I lost my mother at a very early age,” she says. “It was her love for music that has stayed with me.”
Her talent has been evident since she was a little girl, standing on a milk crate as she sang with teenagers and adults in her church choir. When Rissi was 13, the family moved to St. Louis, where she was exposed to music across the spectrum. It was in St. Louis that she took part in talent pageants, including Hal Jackson's Talented Teens, formerly the Miss Black Teen America pageant. Those experiences led her to join Team 11, an entertainment troupe that played for audiences including Former President Bill Clinton.
"That is where a lot of my country influences started to come out," she says. "At the audition we were instructed to pick an artist that we admired and perform some of their songs. I chose LeAnn Rimes and Shania Twain. I was not the one they expected to walk out and sing "Any Man of Mine" at those state fair shows," she adds with a laugh, "but they always liked it!"
It was also in St. Louis where Rissi met and partnered for a time with Us Girlz Entertainment, which began to groom and develop her budding talent. At 20, Rissi signed a publishing deal with Song Planet in Nashville, writing with many of the city's best. A performance at a New York club led a representative of the CBS-telecast Star Search to offer her a chance to compete, and Rissi rode her voice and stage presence all the way to the finals. Judge Naomi Judd was especially supportive, and it was Judd's manager who led Rissi, then singing jingles and recording songs for "Dance Fever," to the creators of "Waiting in the Wings," a CMT documentary on African Americans in country music that also featured Charley Pride and Trini Triggs. Rissi was also featured on CMT's "Most Wanted Live" and worked with producers including Brian McKnight and Deborah Allen.
Her music reached 1720 president and CEO Terry Johnson, who liked what he heard and met with Rissi on a Saturday. The following Monday, he offered her a record deal.
"She is a true artist in every sense of the word," says Johnson. "She's an incredible vocalist, a prolific lyricist who writes most all of her own music, and a talented musician as well. But as gifted as she is in all those areas, the most special thing about Rissi is her heart and her spirit. It's who she is as a person, and when you combine all that, you really have a superstar in the making."
Rissi is impressing fans and critics alike as she tours the country, taking her new material to live audiences. "The best part of it all for me is to be able to touch people," she says. "Performing is almost like being in a friendship--I like to be interactive, to talk to the audience about the songs and what's behind them. I think Country music is relatable to everyone. It's not exclusive to any one age group or one type of people. The songs tell stories and they have such integrity--it's the music of life."
For Rissi, life has been about a dream she has had since childhood. She was just 12 when she wrote her Grammy acceptance speech, sealed it in an envelope and vowed not to open it until she could read it from the stage. That envelope is still in her Bible and, given the career strides she’s making, it’s clear she would be wise to keep it handy.