ST. LOUIS — There is a significant cultural shift in country music, with a spotlight on Black country artists who say they’ve always been present. One of these artists is St. Louis’s own Michael B. Whit, who is now at the CMA Fest in Nashville, Tennessee.

Whit, originally from rural Cahokia, was drawn to country music from a young age, listening to artists like Brooks & Dunn, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Randy Travis.

Growing up on a farm with his family, Whit spent his childhood working with horses. “My uncles and grandfather came up from Mississippi. My uncles worked the paddocks. We just grew up country, working horses, and that’s been the fiber of my being,” he said.

Despite his love for country music, Whit noticed the lack of representation. “Seeing is believing. Unfortunately, growing up, I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me doing country music,” he said.

Beyoncé’s success as the first Black woman to top the Billboard Country Albums chart with “Act Two: Cowboy Carter” has amplified other Black country artists. “We’ve always been in country music, although we have not been prominent or seen. We’ve been there since the time of Deford Bailey. The Grand Ole Opry didn’t come on without the sound of the Black guy playing the harp,” Whit said.

Now, Whit is performing at the CMA Fest. “It’s unbelievable for me. Last year, I was at the CMAs just walking the red carpet. A little-known artist just getting passed up by the press,” he said.

Expect energy, storytelling, and heartfelt country music from Whit. “Real country music fans can see through the glitter and glam and see right to the heart of what’s real,” he said.

Feeling safe and seen, Whit believes his music will resonate as long as he stays true to himself. “Now there’s a light being shined on me. I said once I left there, when I come back to the CMA, folks are going to know my name, and here we are,” he said.