And the award goes to … Lincoln County’s Rona Barrett named 2023 Female Country Singer of the Year

Published 12:32 pm Thursday, April 27, 2023

She wanted to win, but was overjoyed just to be among so many other singers, songwriters and even legends at the Mississippi Music Foundation’s 7th Annual Mississippi Music Awards.

Rona Barrett Herring and her husband Chris Herring traveled to Southaven one week ago for the ceremony after Rona had been nominated for two awards — the vocal award, and Original Gospel Song of the Year for “The Old Church House.” The song is from her second album, by the same name. Her first album is “Lost John Road.”

When the winner of the song award was announced and it wasn’t her, Barrett said she thought, “Oh, well. I’ll just enjoy it all.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

She was enjoying getting to network with other artists, especially more female songwriters and performers, so the weekend was going to be a win for her no matter what.

“It was really an honor to get to see them participate and win awards,” she said, noting that many were very seasoned performers in all genres of music, and had been in the business for multiple decades.

“But then they were talking about the Country Singer of the Year award, and they called my name,” she said. “I thought, ‘Huh?’”

The rest of the evening was pervaded by another question she kept asking herself — “Is this really happening?” 

The feeling has stayed with her even after she came back to Brookhaven.

“I’ve been so awestruck the last several days,” she said. “I’d like to be able to go every year with my husband. It’s so much fun. We’d love to participate again and see where this takes me.”

As a music educator — teaching lessons in violin and other instruments at Downtown Music Academy in Brookhaven — Barrett gets excited talking about young people learning to express themselves musically. She’s also glad the Mississippi Music Foundation takes such a great interest in students.

“We got to see some of the student ensemble performances, too,” she said. “It’s good to see they are going to those lengths to help with education. I spoke with (MMF leaders) and would like to get some of my students included in the future.”

It was a dream for Barrett to win an award like the one she just garnered, but another dream of sorts was fulfilled the same weekend in nearby Memphis. The couple visited famed Beale Street, where musicians performing on the streets (“busking”) are common.

An older blues performer who goes by the name “Black Smoke” was taking a break from playing his keyboard and guitar when Barrett’s husband approached him. Chris asked the man for a photo opportunity and began to tell him how Rona had just won the Country Singer award. Black Smoke invited her to pick up his classic early 1960s Fender Stratocaster guitar and play something, so she did.

She played “Rain,” her blues offering on her debut album, as Chris videoed the performance.

“It was almost like I was borrowing Curtis Loew’s spotlight,” Barrett said, referring to the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song “The Ballad of Curtis Loew,” about a busker. “I got to busk on Beale Street! That was really, really cool. That was the one thing that just tied everything together — the cherry on top.”

Coming back home after the eventful weekend was not a letdown for Barrett, though.

“I keep thinking how grateful I am to have a huge support system like Brookhaven. It is the Home Seekers Paradise,” she said. “Everybody who was reaching out to me, supporting me, and all of the congratulations … I want to thank everyone and scream how much I love y’all!”

Barrett’s music is available at Downtown Music Academy and online at Her next performance is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend at the First Songwriters Fest at Atwood Water Park in Monticello.

Until then, she’ll keep riding the wave of excitement.

“It’s a ride I’m not off of yet.”