Dream Realized: Miko Marks Receives Two Standing Ovations At Grand Ole Opry Debut

Miko Marks: "This is the moment I've been waiting for a lifetime."

"This is the moment I've been waiting for a lifetime," Miko Marks said tearfully on Friday, minutes before she made her Grand Ole Opry debut.

Seated backstage in dressing room No. 4, the "Into the Circle" room designated for artists making their Opry debut, Marks recounted a childhood filled with country music and dreams of one day stepping into the famed Circle.

"If it wasn't for my grandma exposing me to country music, I don't know if I would have gotten the exposure, and that's a shame because we're the foundation of country music and for us to not really see ourselves in that space is frustrating," Marks said.

Friday's performance held great weight for Marks as she had given up on recording country music more than a decade ago. A member of CMT's Next Women of Country Class of 2022, Marks had faced unsurmountable roadblocks as a Black singer while she navigated the genre in the early 2000s.

"Lay Your Burdens Down," one of two songs from the new album Feel Like Going Home she performed onstage Friday evening, touches upon this career heartache. "Long is the road you've traveled awhile/ Heavy the load that you bare/ Though sorrow has followed you every mile/There's hope in the midst of despair," she sings on the ballad's first verse.

"I was sad about not being recognized, not being seen as a true country artist," she said. "I don't have to carry that weight anymore. I can let that go."

Marks sees herself as a healer with her music. She says she wanted to gift the Opry audience with "Lay Your Burdens Down" and urge the crowd not "to carry all the weight; we can lay some things down and hold what we can."

This message came across as Marks received not one but two standing ovations during her two-song set. After an introduction from Grand Ole Opry Announcer Charlie Mattos, Marks walked into the Circle to perform fan favorite "One More Night."

Overcome by emotion at the start of the song, Marks says she felt the audience's support as they cheered her on. She quickly regained her composure and was able to connect with her family, friends and the faces she saw in the crowd.

"I felt them really listening," she said of the sold-out Opry audience. "They were really paying attention, were really supportive, and then they saw me struggling, and they brought me back with their cheers."

Ron Pope, co-founder of Brooklyn Basement Records, which manages and markets Marks' music, was in attendance for the singer's debut.

"After a lifetime of her doing the work to become an artist of this caliber, to watch her get to do that felt [like] a privilege to witness," he said.

Grand Ole Opry member Trisha Yearwood, who also was on hand Friday to flip the switch on the Opry's barn for "Opry Goes Pink," made a point to find Marks after her debut.

"I can't cry pretty and sing like you; you had it going on," Yearwood joked backstage. "If you had not sung on pitch, I would have just said, 'Nice to meet you!' but you're really good. I'm nice, but I'm honest. … You knocked it out of the park."

Yearwood introduced herself to Marks' family, friends and team. For Marks, who recalls listening to Yearwood, Shania Twain, and Martina McBride as a teenager, it was a career-affirming moment.

"She's everything I thought she was," Marks said. "She's always been one of my favorites, and she's everything: sweet, kind, gentle, so funny, real."

While Marks lists Yearwood as a musical influence, she also is part of CMT's Equal Access program and credits the initiative for taking her career to the next level.

"The support of mtheory, the support of CMT, the support of The Change Agent·cy, it's all the things that make you feel lifted and make you feel whole," she said. "If it wasn't for that program, I probably won't be here right now at the Opry. … I'm able to pursue my dreams in a bigger way.

"I'm so glad I listened to myself, and I'm so glad I didn't give up."

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