Exclusive: Mickey Guyton, A Lady Of Country Music Firsts, Is Just Getting Started
The country singer spoke with Blavity about her rise to stardom and responsibility to other Black country singers.
October 08, 2021 at 5:31 pm
Country songstress Mickey Guyton has been making hits, waves and everything in between.
The singer is the first Black woman solo artist to be nominated for a Grammy in a country music category, the first Black woman in country music to perform on the awards show and the first Black woman to host the Academy of Country Music Awards. She was also name-dropped by White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre earlier this year as a musician who'd caught her eye.
Now, while continuing her climb to the top, Guyton is celebrating the release of her debut album, the birth of her son, a monumental nod from the Country Music Television (CMT) Awards, and even some cartoon voice-over work.
As amazing as her trajectory has proven, Guyton said she's most inspired by being able to be authentic in her career, which came by way of a mindset-changing conversation with her husband.
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I was doing that for a long, long time," Guyton told Blavity. "I asked [my husband], 'why do you think country music isn't working for me?' He said, 'because you're running away from everything that makes you different; you're running away from your Blackness — you have to write country music from your perspective, you cannot write country music from a white perspective, because you are not white.'"
The 37-year-old said the conversation initially made her feel "gutted," but it completely changed her perspective. Her first country music hit, "Black Like Me," followed this revelation. And after more than a decade of minor successes, Guyton had finally landed in the spotlight, but it was amid a time of great turmoil in the country.
"It's been a beautiful thing, but it's also been really heavy," she said. "To have achieved this success not only during a pandemic but during a massive racial reckoning, that's something that weighed on me. There are so many activists out there doing the hard work that deserve all of this attention, and for me to have that because of something so awful, it's been really hard for me to come to grips with."
But, when she considers Nina Simone's famous quote about it being an artist's duty to reflect the times, Guyton said she is grateful for the opportunity to voice her truth in a genre in which she's a rarity.
"I feel really empowered," she went on. "I was writing these songs as a form of therapy for me because I didn't really have an outlet. For them to have gotten the attention they've gotten, it really does show you that you really do have to write from your heart."
The responsibility of uplifting other Black country musicians felt like a part of her newfound fame.
"I was shocked at how many incredible Black artists there are in country music. And, once I saw that — it was my mission to use the little platform I have to shed light on [their] amazing talent," she told Blavity. "That is how I use my voice and that is how I found my voice. It's not enough for one Black woman to achieve success in this genre. It's not enough for two or three Black men here and there to achieve success in country music. It has to be a collective effort for it to ever work and continue to work and make a difference in this genre."
In setting forth to use her music in this way, the Grammy-nominated singer said she's actually not afraid of being put in a box.
"When God put this on my heart to do I didn't think of a box," she said. "As Black women, we are often put into a box — an unnecessary, tiny, little box where we are supposed to stay. I'm choosing to believe that box doesn't exist, and we can do any and everything that we want to do."
For Guyton, that any and everything includes being plastered on billboards across the country while enjoying the new mom life and guest featuring as the voice of Wanda Warbler, a country western singer, on an episode of Disney's Mickey Mouse Funhouse.
"I never ever thought I would do voiceover work, but now as a new mom and being able to be on a cartoon and singing a country-western song, it was just…"
While checking out a preview of the episode, her 8-month-old son recognized her voice.
"I watched him just light up!"
Major cool points for mom.
While collecting milestones and cool points, she also marveled at being recognized by Beyoncé who gifted her some pieces from Ivy Park Rodeo, a collection that "honors an invisible history of Black cowboy and cowgirl culture," according to the note Queen Bey sent along with the clothing.
"It truly made me feel so special," Guyton said. "I have been forgotten, but I felt seen by my sister. It also further showed me that this path I'm taking is the right path."
Now, she's riding high on the recent release of her debut album, Remember Her Name, titled in honor of Breonna Taylor. It's a special feeling for her, not just because it's her debut, but because it represents self-rediscovery for her, one where she is validated for sitting in her truth.
"No matter where we are from or what type of music we listen to, we all just want to feel seen and understood. This album tackles so much. I hope [listeners] feel seen and encouraged to be their most authentic selves and I hope that they feel inspired to hear different versions of country music."
CMT certainly agrees with Guyton’s version. The country music network is honoring her as its Breakout Artist of the Year during its 2021 Artists of the Year program airing Oct. 13.
“Look at God,” the singer wrote on her Instagram post announcing the honor. “This means more than you know.”