Brittney Spencer Hopes to Offer 'The Representation I Didn't See as a Kid' in Country Music

"I remember not seeing anyone that looked like me when I was younger," Spencer tells PEOPLE

brittney spencer
Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty

This country singer is paving the way for generations to come — and she's doing it with grace.

Brittney Spencer, the classical-turned-country musician is featured in PEOPLE's Ones to Watch package in this week's issue — and she tells PEOPLE she hopes to be the representation she didn't get to see in country music growing up.

"I remember not seeing anyone that looked like me when I was younger," the "Sober & Skinny" singer, 33, says. "Now to be where I am now, and I'm not a household name, I'm not famous or anything, but there's a few people who know my name and they know my music."

She adds, "I hope that the generation coming up behind me gets to see the representation that I didn't get to see as a kid."

Brittney Spencer
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In terms of navigating through country music as a Black woman, Spencer says that "being comfortable with who I am has opened more doors than music ever could, in a world where people are always trying to decide on a persona to have."

The singer does admit, however, that it was difficult to find herself amid a world where "people who look like me aren't always treated the best."

"I'm a plus-size Black woman and sometimes that narrative gets lost in some of the shinier ones," she says. "Just figuring out who I am as an artist, figuring out the woman that I am, and being comfortable with just saying, 'This is who I am,' it's changed so much for me. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I'm very vulnerable."

Spencer is currently on tour with Jason Isbell, and she performed on stage with The Highwomen in September — a moment she describes as "electric" and unreal.

"There were several times where I looked to my left and there was Maren [Morris] because she was right next to me. I just thought, 'How is this happening right now?' This woman who, her debut album is called Hero, and she's one of my heroes. She's part of my country Mount Rushmore," Spencer said.

"To just be on that stage and to be sharing that moment with these women that I've loved for so long, it was an absolute dream," she continued.

As Spencer continues on her musical journey, she says she just wants "to make people feel everything."

"I want to make songs for everybody. I want to have a song for everything. I want to have a song that will meet people in whatever moments in life happen," she says. "I just want to find ways to be part of people's lives, and I do it best through music."

If there's one piece of advice that's stuck with her throughout her career, it's in Jennifer Nettles' words, to "never ask for permission."

For more from Brittney Spencer, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

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