There is no shortage of impressive guest stars on “Cowboy Carter,” the 27-track country music-inspired album Beyoncé dropped Friday. One just happens to be from Baltimore.

Among features by Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Miley Cyrus, you’ll find Maryland native Brittney Spencer on “Blackbird,” a cover of the Beatles classic, alongside fellow rising Black female country artists Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts.

It was the recent release of Beyoncé's first country single, the chart-topping “Texas Hold ’Em,” that had Spencer interested to see what one of the most popular Black women in music could accomplish in the genre.

“It’s exciting for me to watch Beyoncé in this era of her career,” Spencer said when I called on a recent afternoon during her run of shows opening for Grace Potter, apparently keeping tight-lipped about her then-forthcoming team-up. “I loved watching Destiny’s Child dress up in cowgirl wear, and she’s [Beyoncé's] always been from Texas and has let you know that she’s from Texas.”

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The inclusion on one of the most anticipated albums of the year is the latest achievement for Spencer, who refers to herself as “a country artist that comes from a city.”

The 35-year-old released her own debut album, “My Stupid Life,” in January, but she’s spent so much time on the road the last few years that she’s already happily returning to cities far from where she grew up in Baltimore. “We are in Bend, Oregon. I’m excited to be here,” she said. “I first came here two years ago when I was on tour with Maren Morris, so it’s really nice to be able to come back.”

Morris, a solo star and a member of country supergroup The Highwomen, was the first of many established musicians to take notice of Spencer’s talent.

One Saturday in October 2020, Spencer uploaded a video to the social network X (then known as Twitter) of her singing The Highwomen song “Crowded Table.” By the end of the day, both Morris and her groupmate Amanda Shires had posted Spencer’s cover and invited the Baltimore singer to perform the song with them in concert. Spencer’s star quickly began rising after that day; she’s since collaborated with several major artists — including Shires’ husband, Jason Isbell, who plays guitar on two songs on “My Stupid Life.”

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Isbell invited Spencer to sing the Gladys Knight classic “Midnight Train to Georgia” on his 2021 covers album “Georgia Blue.” “He’s such a prolific writer and singer and instrumentalist and producer, and so I was definitely nervous walking into the studio. But the thing that he wanted me to do was be myself,” Spencer said.

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The session went so well that Spencer was asked to sing another song, “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World,” for which they reworked James Brown’s lyrics to be sung by a woman. “We did some rewriting, me and Amanda, while we were there in the studio, kinda on the fly. I was so excited when James Brown’s family OK’d the lyrical changes before the album came out. That was really, really cool.”

Spencer was already on her way to becoming a great singer before The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks) provided the initial spark of inspiration for her to become a great country singer.

“I grew up singing in church in Baltimore. I grew up singing in school. I went to Loch Raven [High School] in Towson, and I went to Carver [Center for Arts and Technology] in Towson as well,” Spencer said. “It was a really eclectic mix, y’know, singing in church and then singing opera and Broadway. But then one day my friend named Kisha at church, she introduced me to The Chicks, and kinda set me on a little journey in country music and I just fell in love with it. And it took a few years, but I started to realize that I didn’t have to just be a fan of it. I could actually do it.”

“I like a lot of everything,” Spencer said, “but I found myself and I found my songs and I found a lot of my skill set through the lens of country music.”

Despite being a proud Baltimorean, Spencer’s family roots elsewhere have helped acclimate her to a career in country. “My introduction to Southern life wasn’t through the music. It was because I have family in Sumter, South Carolina, and we went there every year in the summer,” she said.

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Spencer went to Middle Tennessee State University and then moved to Nashville, working as a vocal coach and eventually touring as a backing vocalist for stars such as Carrie Underwood before her viral Highwomen cover set her on her current trajectory. In 2021, Spencer performed alongside Mickey Guyton and Madeline Edwards at the Country Music Association Awards, a watershed moment of visibility for Black women in country. A year later, Spencer signed to Elektra Records and began working on her album.

“My Stupid Life” was produced by Daniel Tashian, a multi-instrumentalist with an impressive résumé that includes co-producing the most recent country album to win the Grammy for Album of the Year, 2018′s “Golden Hour” by Kacey Musgraves. Though Spencer plays guitar and a little piano, she focused on her vocals and lyrics for “My Stupid Life,” while Tashian provided the lush instrumentation.

“We’d be like, ‘Oh wait, here’s a mandolin. I think that might sound good here.’ Or, ‘We need some pedal steel,’” Spencer said. “Just being able to experiment and trying things out, that’s really important for my creative process, and definitely for Daniel as well.”

Spencer’s album has received glowing reviews in several major publications, including Rolling Stone, Variety and the Wall Street Journal. “I feel like Spencer thrives in that space between party up-tempo and maudlin country ballads,” Rolling Stone critic Jonathan Bernstein told me. “I love how ever-present melancholy is on this album, how she imbues ‘First Car Feeling’ with real sadness. To me, the second half of the album is what this record is really about. Not just because of the expanded emotional depth and the seriousness of the songs, but it feels like where she really gets down to work with songcraft.”

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The most popular track from the album, “Bigger Than the Song,” is nominated in the Breakthrough Female Video of the Year category at this Sunday’s CMT Music Awards, where she’ll be performing live with singer Parker McCollum. The single name checks many of Spencer’s favorite artists, from country icons Parton and Reba McEntire to acts from other genres such as Alanis Morissette and, of course, Beyoncé.

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Spencer will be part of a legendary lineup of her own when she joins Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival tour this summer, playing a string of West Coast dates as the rookie artist on a bill full of veterans including Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp.

Despite the reviews, TV appearances and tours (she’ll be at the Stagecoach Festival, the Railbird Music Festival and the Confluence Festival this year, too), Spencer hasn’t broken into country radio’s old boys club. But she’s optimistic that it could happen.

“Country radio, I think a lot of people are urging it to become more inclusive. I think, right now, only 10% of their play time is dedicated to women, and they don’t really play people that look like me,” Spencer said. “Things may change in the coming year.”