Marissa R. Moss was born and raised in New York City. Despite much of a market for country music in the area, Moss’ father exposed her to the musical genre from a young age. Though reluctant at first, Moss went on to develop an affinity for country music..
She has since traded the Big Apple for Music City — Nashville — so that she can pursue her writing career full-time. Moss has gained acclaim as a freelance journalist, with her articles posted in Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, Billboard, NPR and Nashville Scene. In addition, Moss is the 2018 recipient of the Rolling Stone Chet Flippo Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism for her stellar writing and extensive knowledge of country music.
Moss’ most recent endeavor is her debut book, “Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be.”
This week, Moss is set to stop in Oxford and discuss “Her Country” at the weekly Thacker Mountain Radio Hour.
Moss’ book is centered around three leading women in country music today — Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris and Mickey Guyton. Moss discussed their rise to success, while also highlighting the difficult roads they traveled, and other groups who were discriminated against in the genre due to its history of limited voices.
“The consistent thread through the women that I focused on in the story was that they fell in love at a very early age with women that they heard on the radio — like LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain and The Chicks. They did hear them on the radio. They were visible,” Moss said. “They felt like country music and a career in country music was something that they could do. Now, if you turn on the radio, you don’t have that experience. There’s very little chance that a woman or anyone sitting in the backseat of a car on the way to school is going to hear a woman’s voice, or any voice that is not just a straight man on country radio.”
Addressing the lack of female airplay, Moss believes the gender gap is rooted in stubborn familiarity.
“Nashville is so slow to move and change, and there’s a lot of fear there. If you build your house on the brought-in foundation, you become scared to move or change anything in the house for the fear that it will collapse,” Moss said. “I think their houses are literally made out of cards. The cards are people named Luke, Jason and Chris, and it certainly doesn’t help it that 90% of those programmers are white men making those decisions.”
Though the power of the consumer appears limited in today’s country music market, Moss believes movements by active country music fans are the only way to bring change to the genre.
“Calling radio stations is probably not going to do it, but people still have an enormous amount of power,” Moss said. “I do think just using your ticket buying power and your merch buying power works. That’s what helped keep Kacey Musgraves so successful — she doesn’t have country radio, but her fans turn out to shows in arenas and buy merch. That allows her to continue to be as artistically creative as she wants because she’s successful on her own terms.”
Moss revealed that since the release of her daring book, she has received a surplus of rude messages calling her a faux fan of the genre, but she said that brings her to the realization that she is going down the right trail when it comes to changing country music.
“You would only go through all this trouble about something you really care about and that you love. That’s how I feel about country music,” Moss said. “Country music was, from a marketing perspective, designed to separate and segregate. It was split into hillbilly records for white people and race records for black people. And that’s a difficult legacy to move on from if you don’t acknowledge and repair to the degree that you would need to, and we have not done that.”
You can hear Moss talk more about “Her Country” at 6 p.m. Thursday Nov. 10 during the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour.