Lennon Stella, Brittney Spencer, Betty Who complete Roots N Blues festival lineup

Aarik Danielsen
Columbia Daily Tribune
Lennon Stella

Singer-songwriters Lennon Stella, Brittney Spencer and Betty Who will join the lineup of this September's Roots N Blues festival, organizers announced this week. 

These artists will perform alongside the likes of headliners Sheryl Crow, Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker and Mavis Staples at this year's fest, which runs Sept. 24-26 in Stephens Lake Park. 

Roots N Blues veteran Amanda Shires, previously announced for this year, is withdrawing from the lineup, organizers noted. The roster, as it rounded out this week, represents the full slate for September and fulfills a commitment to female representation in every festival slot. 

More:Roots N Blues festival set for September return; Sheryl Crow, Tanya Tucker among headliners

Lennon Stella, former "Nashville" star

Stella, a Canadian artist, will perform on festival Friday. She first traveled across many radars as Maddie Conrad on the TV series "Nashville," and has performed widely as a duo act with her sister, Maisy, who played Daphne Conrad on the show. 

Stella released her solo debut, "Three. Two. One.," last spring; the album has a layered pop feel, anchored by the singer's dreamy voice. 

"Stella's chillingly perfect, R&B-tinged vocals are what shot her into the spotlight as a child, and they continue to be the guiding light driving her success," Ariel Matheson wrote in Exclaim! "From start to finish, Stella takes us flying across the octaves like a trick pilot."

Last year, Stella took home the trophy for Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the Junos, Canada's equivalent to the Grammys. 

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Brittney Spencer, who previously performed with Carrie Underwood

Brittney Spencer

Spencer will appear at the festival on Saturday. Relatively early in her public-facing career, her talents have stretched across genre — she has performed with country megastar Carrie Underwood and artists in the fields of gospel and contemporary Christian music. 

Her interest in country was spurred by the powerful trio The Chicks, Spencer wrote in an entry on the website Common Hymnal.

"I began listening to country radio every day, watching CMT to catch up on the latest music videos and researching my favorite artists online," she said. "It wasn’t until I was eighteen that I decided I wanted to be a country artist, and even then I don’t think I really took myself seriously. I knew I loved the music and I knew that I could sing and write it, but I knew society would make it hard for someone like me to see my dream realized. A black girl from Baltimore? No way. That’s what I told myself for years until the day I finally got the nerve to pack up my car and head to Nashville."

The post details some of the challenges and micro-aggressions Spencer has encountered within the genre — and beautifully describes her resolve and sense of hope.

"My dream to exist in country music is no more radical than the many ways God has managed to express himself throughout creation since the beginning of time," Spencer wrote. "... So, I have no doubt in my mind that the story of country music has every hope of one day progressing and reflecting talent from men and women whom all represent different races and walks of life."

Spencer's 2020 EP "Compassion" unites a seemingly effortless pop approach with the underlying instrumentation of country. Her recent single "Sober & Skinny" is a hymn of empowerment that follows an ambling, acoustic feel. 

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Betty Who blends 80s, 90s and 2000s sound 

Betty Who

Australian artist Who — born Jessica Newham — has been releasing music since 2012, when her debut single "Somebody Loves You" hit the top of Billboard's US Dance Club Songs chart. A cover of Donna Lewis' 1990s hit "I Love You Always Forever" also topped charts at home in Australia and the United States.

Who's work references specific periods of pop, but as AllMusic's Heather Phares noted, achieves a remarkable, pleasing unity. 

"Who's mix of '80s, '90s, and 2000s sounds could be too algorithmically good to be true, but her buoyant personality and the catchy, conversational songwriting ... always feel authentic," Phares wrote in a review of the 2019 album "Betty." 

Who's pop prowess has led to touring slots alongside the likes of Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue and Panic! At the Disco. 

Other artists appearing at this year's Roots N Blues include Mickey Guyton, Tank and the Bangas and Larkin Poe. Learn more at https://rootsnbluesfestival.com/.

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Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at adanielsen@columbiatribune.com or by calling 573-815-1731.