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Miko Marks: A Country Music Dream, Resurrected

Amanda Lopez

As she approached her 50th birthday, Miko Marks was just being realistic when she figured that her performing career was well in her past. “I didn't think I was making any more music,” she says. “I was done. I was done. But I had a dream.”

She’s not talking about the metaphorical Nashville “dream” of stardom but a literal dream, in which she was jamming with her old bandmates from a decade earlier, when she’d written and recorded two albums and made a run at the country music business in the mid 2000s. The reverie was vivid enough that she called her musician friends to check in and see if they’d like to play together again. “And I was just talking about jamming. Not making anything to put out into the world.”

But sometimes you find the most valuable things when you’ve stopped looking for them, and now a few years later, Marks has taken her music farther than she ever had before. She debuted on the Grand Ole Opry last October and was recently included in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s latest American Currents exhibit. She’s released three acclaimed recordings since 2021 and opened at the Ryman Auditorium for the Tedeschi Trucks Band. And she’s on the road - this month opening for legendary roots band Little Feat. Then in May, she’ll co-bill a tour with her friend Rissi Palmer, with whom she’s just released their new, co-written single “Still Here.” No wonder she calls her band The Resurrectors.

Marks is a self-described “late bloomer” as an artist with a unique journey. Her family hails from Mississippi, but she grew up in Flint, MI where her folks moved for automotive industry work. She remembers her home town as thriving, diverse and neighborly, and her love of singing came through church and formal classical chorus in school. It was her grandmother and her love of the Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw that instilled a love of country music in Miko, particularly Loretta Lynn, who shared her plaque in the American Currents exhibit.

She got a dose of living in the deep south attending Grambling State University in Louisiana, where the rewards of attending a historically Black school were tempered by her first run-ins with a culture suffused with systemic racism. Her legal studies steered her professional life toward the criminal justice system and her new family took her to the San Francisco area where she still lives today. Her husband, playing a similar role to Loretta Lynn’s decades earlier, encouraged Miko to pursue the art form she loved but had neglected. “You just focus in on music,” he told her, and he went further by promoting her music once she’d recorded her first album.

So Miko was in her 30s when she released two albums and made repeated trips to the CMA Music Festival as a fan and then as a performer, playing one of the side acoustic stages. “Each year that I performed at CMA fest - I think I did three years - my crowd got bigger and bigger, to where there was no room.” And then the rules that allowed her to find a voice at the event changed, and she says she hit a Nashville wall. Radio wasn’t welcoming independent artists, let alone artists of color. And her run at country music came to an apparent end.

In Episode 241 of The String, Marks talks about those years and the turns of events that led her back to Nashville and to venues around the country in version 2.0 of her musical life. The song “Goodnight America” became the linchpin of reuniting with her producer and her well-received 2021 album Our Country. Then she made the provocative EP Race Records, a savvy commentary on the segregated history of country music. While 2022's Feel Like Going Home presents Marks in her most thrilling posture yet - a fully realized country soul album mingling the stirring roots sounds of the 1960s and 70s with contemporary message songs written by Marks with her Resurrector bandmates and producers.

“I'm mature now. I'm older and wiser,” she says. “And I want to sing about things that matter to me.”

Find Miko's episode along with a full archive of The String HERE.

Miko Marks & the Resurrectors - This Time (Official Music Video)

Craig Havighurst is WMOT's editorial director and host of <i>The String, a weekly interview show airing Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. He also co-hosts The Old Fashioned on Saturdays at 9 am and Tuesdays at 8 pm. Threads and Instagram: @chavighurst. Email: craig@wmot.org</i>