Mickey Guyton is a well-known 38-year old singer after ten years of being in the business.
Erika Goldring via Getty Images

Mickey Guyton, a Black artist signed to Capitol Nashville in 2011. She was the first woman of color supported by a major country record. After 10 years, her debut single “Better Than You Left Me” in 2015 and three EPs, the 38-year-old singer has become a household name.

Guyton shared a small portion of her single in May 2020. This was a turbulent time for Black Lives Matter protests following an assault of police brutality. “Black Like Me” on InstagramThis is the final version. Over 8000 views were recorded and Spotify reached out to Guytonteam for the final version. They later added it to their Hot Country playlist. The song is now played over 8,000,000 times on Spotify.

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There was no formula, no master plan to “go viral.” For the past decade, Guyton has remained honest, rejecting pressure to conform to the industry’s standards. It was only after Guyton started singing freely about her experiences as a Black woman in Nashville’s music industry that things clicked.

“It’s a really weird feeling. You try so hard at something and then you finally come to grips with the fact that it’s probably not going to happen for you, then it does. It happens at a time where there is so much pain,” Guyton said. “I didn’t write this song for this moment. This song was written before the moment. It is for Black country musicians and all Americans. This is out of my own frustration.”

Guyton began to receive the attention and traction she deserved. Interviews with Variety, ABC 20/20, and People were given by Guyton. She was also nominated for a Grammy in 2021 and she performed at the ceremony. Most important, she was able to share the realities of being Black female in country music.

Following the viral success of "Black Like Me," Guyton began to receive long-overdue traction and attention.
Guyton started to get the attention and traffic he deserved after his viral hit “Black Like Me”.
Arturo Holmes via Getty Images

While some may dub her “the ‘Black Like Me’ Girl,” Guyton says she doesn’t feel pigeonholed. She feels more a sense that she has to do something.

“For the longest time, before this moment happened for me, I was trying to prove that I was just a country singer that loved country music. I was told to not even focus on the Black part of me, but that’s who I am,” Guyton said “It’s not a pigeonhole at all to me, and I am trying to normalize it as much as possible. How I normalize it is by opening the door for other Black women, especially in country music.”

On Sept. 24, Guyton released her debut album “Remember Her Name,” an homage to Black womanhood, love, healing and the past decade in Nashville. The album includes 16 tracks, such as “Higher,” “Love My Hair,” “All American,” “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” and more.

Guyton described the moment that she released the album as terrifying but also frightening and an amazing dream. After writing unfulfilling “middle of the road” songs about white picket fences and the blue-eyed James Dean archetype, she was intentional in releasing a project that was unique to her lived experiences.

Be it verses about James Brown, early experiences with racism on the playground, or reveling in Daisy Dukes and dookie braids, Guyton’s “Remember Her Name” sounds like a heartfelt love letter bridging Black womanhood and her Southern roots.

“I remember I’d be in a writing session, we’d be singing about love, and they would throw out ‘with his blue eyes.’ I’m like, ‘My man has brown eyes. He doesn’t have blond hair and blue eyes.’ I was like, ‘No, I’m going to put in what love looks like for me,’” Guyton said. “That really was important for me, to write country music just from my perspective. It wasn’t for anybody else, but for someone that understands my walk — and hopefully, help other people understand it as well.”

On Wednesday, Guyton will be gracing the Bridgestone Arena stage in Nashville for her debut CMA Awards performance. Though she is nominated for New Artist of the Year, the reality is that Guyton is not new to this craft.

Born in Arlington, Texas, and raised in Waco, Guyton’s love affair with country music started when she was 5 or 6 years old, singing in the choir at Mount Olive Baptist Church. She credits her father with discovering her singing abilities.

“There’s a song that my church sang called ‘Fully Committed,’ and it was a duet. My dad would make me sing the girl part, and he would sing the guy part. I just happened to be good at it,” Guyton continued, “I’m very, very private with myself, so singing outwardly, I was really embarrassed by it, but I loved it alone. I would practice ‘I Will Always Love You,’ the Whitney Houston version, over and over and over again, and I would drive my family crazy.”

“I was told to not even focus on the Black part of me, but that’s who I am. It’s not a pigeonhole at all to me, and I am trying to normalize it as much as possible. How I normalize it is by opening the door for other Black women, especially in country music.”

– Mickey Guyton on carving a path for Black women in country music

At the same time she was listening to the Spice Girls, Guyton was also tuned in to LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain and Dolly Parton, thanks to her grandmother, “a huge Dolly fan.” Whenever Guyton would visit her house, a small shack in Riesel, Texas, on the outskirts of Waco, she’d find VHS tapes of movies such as “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Steel Magnolias,” and the “Roots” collection along, with Kenny Rogers duet videos.

Guyton’s love for country wasn’t so much about the genre alone, but rather about the powerful voices she heard while listening to it.

“So many women had so many powerful voices,” Guyton said. “You had Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, then came Carrie Underwood. It wasn’t one or the other. I just liked good music, and that was good music to me. I liked R&B, I liked it all.”

However, as Guyton’s singing career progressed, she found that many people would attempt to silo her, calling her an R&B artist rather than acknowledge her legitimacy as a country musician.

Guyton said of her debut album, "That really was important for me, to write country music just from my perspective. It wasn’t for anybody else, but for someone that understands my walk — and hopefully, help other people understand it as well.”
Guyton said of her debut album, This was extremely important to me. It allowed me to create country music only from my viewpoint. It wasn’t for anybody else, but for someone that understands my walk — and hopefully, help other people understand it as well.”
Paul Morigi via Getty Images

“I remember I was sitting at a bar in a restaurant, and a white family was sitting next to us. They’re like, ‘What kind of music do you sing?’ I said, ‘Country music,’ and they were taken aback by it,” Guyton said. So, she proceeded to play them “Better Than You Left Me” before its release, and the family was impressed.

“With Black women, we’re supposed to be just R&B,” she said. “That is where everybody’s comfortable putting us in.”

In 2018, Guyton sang “Caught Up in Your Storm” for the film “Forever My Girl.” She distinctly remembers a group of white men loudly yelling during her performance, “That’s R&B! That’s R&B!” She had to start over.

“There’s a video of me singing it, and that was the day that it happened,” Guyton said. “Because I was a girl and because I was Black, they felt that they could do that, say that, and they were very, very rude about it. But I don’t care. I’m here. Sorry, not sorry.”

Not only is Guyton here to stay, but she is one in a long line of Black women in country, from the Pointer Sisters and Tina Turner’s solo debut studio album “Tina Turns the Country On!” to Rhiannon Giddens and Rissi Palmer.

In 2007, Palmer was the first Black woman since 1987 to chart a country song with her single “Country Girl.” The singer and songwriter hosts a podcast called “Color Me Country,” which shares the same name as Linda Martell’s 1970 album. The podcast amplifies the country genre’s Black, Latinx and Indigenous roots and highlights new talent such as Guyton, Camille Parker, Yola Other.

With the exception of Turner, the aforementioned legends were often regarded as soul and R&B artists. Meanwhile, men in country — from Jason Aldean to Florida Georgia Line, Blanco Brown, Breland and others — have been afforded the ability to float between genres, fusing trap beats and collaborating with artists such as Ludacris and Nelly without fear of backlash.

Singer and songwriter Rissi Palmer made history in 2007 with her song "Country Girl" and uses her podcast "Color Me Country" to give voice to young country musicians of color.
Rissi Palmer, singer and songwriter made history with “Country Girl”, and she uses her podcast “Color Me Country”, to help young country artists of color.
Ethan Miller via Getty Images

“It’s funny how differently I’m treated … just look at the comments on any of those platforms,” said Guyton, citing the inexplicable vitriol she receives online. “I have no answers for it. We’ve always been at the bottom of the totem pole, but we truly have the voice and the ability to affect the most change. It’s a heavy cross to bear, but Black women bear it every single day. We get the brunt of it, but then we have to be the protectors.”

Guyton finds comfort in her husband and 2-year-old boy, as well as her apartment in Los Angeles. As she mentions in her song “Do You Really Wanna Know?” going to therapy is a necessity and a constant for her, but she finds her strength in standing up for other women in the industry.

“I’m a fighter, and I stand up for other people and celebrate other people. That comes very naturally for me, more naturally than celebrating myself ever,” Guyton said.

Guyton helped her remember a moment in her life when a young, white country artist approached her after releasing her single. Guyton is the reason Guyton made it possible for her to feel comfortable making authentic and honest music, according to the artist.

Though aware of the vitriol she receives online, Guyton finds solace and strength in her husband, her son, and standing up for other women in the industry.
Guyton is well aware of all the online vitriol, but she finds strength and solace in her husband and her son. Guyton also supports other women working in the industry.
Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images

“She said that to me, and I was like, sobbing my eyes out,” Guyton said. “That’s how I take care of myself, seeing those messages, getting messages from little Black girls, and people finding out about Camille Parker and all these other amazing artists. Watching the fruits of my labor succeed in them is my therapy.”

Guyton places mentorship at the forefront of her support for artists in need. She knows how it can feel. Guyton aims to offer new artists tools and advice that she wishes she could have offered her younger self. Guyton will be taking Black women along on her journey to honor that mission.

Guyton, a 14-year-old girl will join Guyton on Wednesday at the 55th Annual CMA Awards Red Carpet Faith Fennidy, the inspiration behind her single “Love My Hair.” Later that evening, she’ll be performing the song on stage with country artists Madeline Edwards and Brittney Spencer.

“I’m bringing my sisters with me because I’m legitimately walking the walk. This isn’t lip service. I’m not saying, ‘Give Black people opportunity,’ then taking every opportunity for myself and not helping a single Black woman,” she said. “That is not what I’m doing. This moment is a moment for Black women.”

Guyton believes firmly in walking the walk and opening doors for Black women. After performing with Yola at the 2021 CMT Awards (above), she will be joined by Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards onstage at the 2021 CMA Awards.
Guyton is a firm believer in being a role model and helping Black women. Brittney Spencer, Madeline Edwards and Yola will perform with Guyton at the 2021 CMT Awards.
Jason Kempin via Getty Images

“I’m really excited to sing at the CMA Awards, especially what I’m singing and what is being represented here,” she continued. “I realized that God has given me this platform to use in a beautiful way, and that is to uplift other Black women in these spaces. I’m using the little bit of influence I have to hopefully change the trajectory for a lot of people in country music and show people that country music is more than just one way.”

Following last summer’s “racial reckoning,” Guyton has seen small moments of reflection and steps toward progress. Guyton said that while there were some good-intentioned individuals in the music industry, she noticed they are now working with Black songwriters and taking into consideration diversity representation within their bands. Notably, Guyton has seen aspiring Black country artists reaching out to her saying, “I sing country music — what do I need to do?”

Only time will tell whether the industry’s efforts are performative or longstanding, but Guyton hopes to push for even more change.

"I’m using the little bit of influence I have to hopefully change the trajectory for a lot of people in country music and show people that country music is more than just one way," Guyton said.
“I’m using the little bit of influence I have to hopefully change the trajectory for a lot of people in country music and show people that country music is more than just one way,” Guyton said.
Jason Kempin via Getty Images

“Certain people have been put into these boxes that don’t exist, and we have to stop allowing those boxes to exist. If you want to sing alternative music and you’re a Black girl, do it,” Guyton said. “There is no face of country music. It’s all of us. Black people are nation. I hope little Black girls know that; I hope they feel like there’s someone that really sees them.”

Guyton will perform the 2021 CMA Awards at 8 pm Eastern on Wednesday, November 10. On Tuesday, Nov 16 at 1 p.m. Eastern, tune in to HuffPost’s Twitter Spaces conversation: “Black Women & Country Music’s Future.” Sign up to be notified here.



Source: HuffPost.com.

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