Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Country Star Mickey Guyton on Why She ‘Ran Away From My Blackness’

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Mickey Guyton – Getty Images North America

*Last year, Mickey Guyton become the first Black female solo artist to earn a Grammy nomination in a country music category. 

The singer’s “Black Like Me” song was nominated for Best Country Solo Performance. The Pointer Sisters previously made history with the song, “Live Your Life Before You Die,” when it was nominated in 1976 for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. 

Country, 37, is also the first Black female artist to perform at the Academy of Country Music Awards, and the first Black woman to host the ACM Awards ceremony. As she prepares to release her debut full-length album, “Remember Her Name,” the “Black Like Me” singer admits that when she first moved to Nashville in 2011, “I ran away from my Blackness,” Guyton said in a interview with Yahoo Music.

READ MORE: Mickey Guyton Talks Country Music Awards & Bringing Diversity To The Show

“I ran away from everything that makes me different. Because I was trying so hard to fit into this tiny box that I just did not fit. I just didn’t. And in doing all the events in Nashville and me trying to prove that I’m this girl-next-door, great-time kind of a person, that was a very toxic environment,” she continued. “And what do you do when you cope with things? For me, it was drinking. It was me drinking wine. That was definitely something that helped cope with where I was. And for a long time, I was in a pretty dark space, in that sense.” Guyton realizes now that if her mainstream success had happened sooner, she would not have handled it well. “I might be strung out somewhere unwell, to be honest. … I think I could have been under a lot of influences.”

As recently as two years ago, Guyton considered quitting music for good.

“It has been a long time coming. Like, the fact that I’m here is a miracle,” says Guyton. “Like in 2019, I was ready to stop it all. Really, 100 percent, sometimes on a daily, I was like, ‘Why did I choose to do this? Like, this makes no sense.’ I remember crying to my husband, mad at him because he would never let me quit. … And he kept saying, ‘Because you need to be here. If you’re not out there, then for every Black girl that wants to sing country music, that dream has gone if you’re not there.’ Then I was like, ‘OK, fine.’ And I’m so glad I didn’t stop.”

Guyton recalls one specific “extremely honest conversation” about her music career with her husband, attorney Grant Savoy, and changed her perspective.

“I just asked him, ‘Why do you think country music isn’t working for me?’ And he said, ‘Because you’re running away from everything that makes you different. Why aren’t you singing country songs from your perspective? Why are you trying to write somebody else’s perspective of country music?’ … And I was like, ‘Wow. Why am I not doing that?’ And so I really started writing my honest-to-God’s truth, whether it was going to make someone feel uncomfortable or not. I was just going to write about that, because I felt like it was important. It was kind of cathartic and therapy for me.”

The revelation ultimately motivated the songstress to pen several deeply personal tracks on “Remember Her Name.” One of which is the ballad “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” which Guyton performed at Nashville’s Country Radio Seminar. 

“It was a song about the oppression of women, and I sang it in front of a bunch of country radio program directors — the majority men,” she says. “And to sing that song in that moment, that was a moment where I was either going to make my career or kill my career. And I was prepared to kill my career, knowing that. And the fact that it didn’t, and that it elevated it — that was a moment.”

Guyton says another track on the album, “I Love My Hair” was “inspired by two different situations.”

She recalled: “There was one situation where I saw a video on YouTube of this little girl, this little Black girl, being sent home from school because the school said that her hair was ‘distracting.’ And for me, that was just so triggering within my own world and how I felt about my own hair. … There’s so many complex [feelings] that [Black women] have, growing up self-hating because society has made us feel like we don’t belong. And that was something that I really wanted to write about: a love song to our hair, no matter what it looks like, and no matter what you choose to do with your hair, that you love it. And I think it’s really touched a lot of people so far and it speaks to a lot of women, and I’m just so glad that I stuck with my guns.”

Read her full conversation with Yahoo Music here.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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