‘Cowboy Carter’ Singer Tiera Kennedy Talks Country Music, New Single ‘I Ain’t a Cowgirl’ (Exclusive)

Beyoncé's acclaimed album Cowboy Carter is often praised for being a singular achievement in pop-country music and for making a statement on the history and significance of Black voices in country music. One of the voices heard on the LP is that of emerging artist Tiera Kennedy. The track is "Blackbiird," and she had the honor of singing the poignant line "Take these broken wings and learn to fly." She also does background vocals on "Tyrant." 

Kennedy's journey from her Gardendale, Alabama, hometown to Nashville was filled with learning and growth. She quickly gained prominence as a notable new voice and opened for artists like Kelsea Ballerini and Danielle Bradbery while playing festivals across the country.

The Tiera Show on Apple Music Country soon followed. Giving fans an authentic taste of her R&B-infused brand of country, she released "Found It In You," inspired by her relationship with her husband and creative director Kamren Kennedy and co-written and produced by Cameron Bedell. The recording resonated with fans, bringing in over 21 million streams on Spotify alone. Kennedy has also worked with country legend Dolly Parton and pop-country icon Shania Twain.

Kennedy released her debut single, "I Ain't A Cowgirl," today, and she recently spoke to PopCulture about Beyoncé, her upcoming album, and the influence of Black women in country music. When asked about Cowboy Carter, Kennedy said of the monumental project, "I always said that like my dream collab is Beyoncé, but I'd never, I'd never ever imagined that it would actually happen. And even now, that the song is...it's out. It's out in the world. I still can't believe that it happened." 

"Blackbiird" in particular, was a special opportunity to amplify the voices of Black women in country music. Kennedy spoke on how meaningful she found the experience. "It's really special getting to be a part of the song," she said. "You know, I think I've really admired the research that Beyoncé has done with Cowboy Carter as a whole. And you know, I didn't know the history and the story behind "Blackbiird" before we recorded it. 

"And so it just made it even more special, especially getting to sing this song with Brittany [Spencer], Tanner [Adell], and Reyna [Roberts]. All of us getting to be a part of this song, I think it's it's really beautiful that she's sharing this platform with us, it's such an important song, and I know that so many people have learned about the history of this song through this cover and so that's really beautiful as well."

Now, the singer is releasing her own music, establishing her R&B country sound with the new single "I Ain't A Cowgirl," which Kennedy said is "a really special, really special song for me." The track details her struggle to fit the Music City "mold" to find success as an artist when she first moved to Nashville. 

She said, "For a long time, I would walk into the writer's room with my co-writers and they would want to write something a little more personal, a little deeper. And it just, it was really hard for me to tap into that. But I went through a really hard season recently, and "Cowgirl" was kind of like my beacon of hope.

"And, it was a song that I would go back and listen to when I needed encouragement," Kennedy added. "And so the gist of the song is I ain't a cowgirl, but I'm going to be one today. And it's just about sticking up for yourself and not taking no for an answer. And so I hope that it encourages other people as well."

"I Ain't A Cowgirl" is the first single off of Rooted, her forthcoming debut album, which she has called "a story of love, heartbreak, healing, and growth." "I've been there a lot in the past couple of years and I've learned a lot about myself and I feel like I have come out stronger on the end of the other side, and I'm really excited with this project to share my roots, where I come from," Kennedy explained.

"And those stories also share the struggles that I've been through and how I've gotten to the other side of that. So this is a really hopeful record. It's a fun record. And I love every single song on this project, and I hope that people see themselves in this music."

As for what to expect from Rooted, she said, "I'm getting back to my roots. It's definitely that R&B country sound. And I think people are going to love it. This is my first is my debut project, and I'm getting to put it out independently. And so it is fully 100 percent me. So I really hope people connect with it."

With so much controversy within country music regarding issues of race and authenticity, there has also been reckoning from Black artists, in particular, who have shaken up the genre's status quo by asserting their space within the industry. Kennedy called it "beautiful to watch." 

"Nashville has personally, for me always been so welcoming. And I've seen both sides of it. I have had doors closed in my face, but I have also had people that have really lifted me up and championed me. And I hope that that continues."

She continued, "For others, I think we'll see as it unfolds, all things change and what happens. But I see it flourishing. It's really beautiful to watch. Some of my friends have that platform, and for the light to be shined on them, I'm just really excited to watch that continue for other artists."

As far as her legacy as a Black female artist, Kennedy said she wants to continue to be known as a singer whose music has universal appeal. "I think the music I make is for everyone," she said, adding, "I think we're all going through something. We all have our own struggles, our own journeys. And my why, the reason I make music has always been to connect with people and to make people feel something and to make music that they can celebrate with and also cry to and heal through.

"And so, especially with this next music that I'm putting out, I really hope that it helps people heal through whatever they're going through. Because these songs were my healing. And I hope to continue to do that with every piece of music I put out."

Ultimately, Kennedy wants to leave her mark on the country music industry and inspire future generations of musicians. "I hope that, through me putting out music that is true to me, I hope that it touches people. All of the big shiny things like the awards and, the accolades, all of that is beautiful, and it's fun, and I welcome it."

She continued, "I'm so thankful for it, but at the end of the day, I make music to connect with people. And so I hope that that's the mark I make on country music." Kennedy's single "I Ain't a Cowgirl" is out today.