*Mickey Guyton is bringing a new dimension to Country Music, bringing another person of color to an industry that has been largely dominated by white males.
”If you go on and look at the charts and kind of research the chart history of country music, it’s been predominately white male,” said Mickey Guyton. “Every now and then, there’s a woman that can get through, black, white, whatever. It’s extremely difficult and I just personally think that is wrong.”
The boundary shatterer, who released her single “Black Like Me,” a song she co-wrote in March 2019 at a cross-genre writing camp, has been blazing new trails in the realm of country music’s landscape. “Black Like Me” was named one of the Top 10 songs of 2020 by NPR, Billboard and The Associated Press. She released her EP Bridges in 2020, which included “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” hailed by Variety Magazine as “country music’s Song of the Year.”
Born in Arlington, Texas, Mickey Guyton grew up in Waco, Texas and began singing in church at an early age. Her early influences were CeCe Winans, Whitney Houston, LeAnn Rimes and one of her all-time favorites, Dolly Parton.
“My grandmother loved Dolly Parton,” she reflected. “So whenever I would go over her house, she would have Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers VHS tapes hanging on the back of her wall, she loved Southern movies like ‘Steel Magnolias’ and ‘Fried Green Tomatoes,’ and so that’s kind of where I’ve started.”
Her church attended a Texas Ranger baseball game and hearing a very popular singer inspired her.
“We were all the way up in the nose bleed section and we stood up for the national anthem, and it was LeAnn Rimes singing the national anthem,” she remembered. “I didn’t really think of whether it was country or anything, I just heard the voice. And anybody that had an incredible voice I loved, if it just happened to be LeeAnn Rimes, Whitney Houston, or Dolly Parton- they were the people I just loved, so that’s where it started for me.”
Her first appearance, after signing to Capitol Records, was an all-star concert at the White House captured by PBS. She released her self-titled EP in 2015, which featured her debut single “Better Than You Left Me.”
Nominated for her first Academy of Country Music Award for New Female Vocalist the following year, she returned to the ACM Awards in 2019, performing “I’m Standing With You” from the “Breakthrough” movie soundtrack alongside Chrissy Metz, Carrie Underwood, Lauren Alaina and Maddie & Tae.”
Her debut album, “Remember her Name,” address themes of social progress and social revolution- themes rarely heard in country music.
“When I first was writing, I didn’t even know I was writing for an album,” she said. “A lot of these songs were therapy for me. There were songs that I wrote that I’d never thought would see the light of day and were more for me to get off my chest and move forward. But as the doors started opening for me with ‘Black Like Me,’ more of these songs started getting a chance to be heard and really the album is about self-discovery.”
A student of history, Mickey read the book with the same name.
“I read the book in college,” she said. “It was a book that always sat with me. I just was so affected by the fact that someone literally darkened their skin to look like a Black person. People always say if you walk in someone else’s shoes, you have so much of a better understanding and this man actually did. He understood the horror that Black people experience on a regular basis. It changed my life when I read it.”
When asked how she feels the state of country music is currently, Mickey was candid. “Some people-they’ll have excuses saying ‘well people don’t want to hear women,’ and I’m like well that’s not true. It’s been very very difficult. I think the state of country music now is that people finding their own ways to have an outlet other than country radio. And for me that’s a great thing, because it gives people that might not necessarily listen to the radio different versions of country music and that is emerging. There is a Black resurgence of country artists coming into the format that are getting opportunities. It’s just a matter of time, before it breaks open and there’s all types of people that make it, but right now, it’s not in the best state. ”
However, addressing social issues in music, especially in country music, a genre not associated with social issues created quite a backlash. “I’ve gotten major backlash,” she explained. “Horrible backlash, so much so that I had to stop people from being about to comment that were following me, because it was very, very horrible. I had never been on the receiving end of that hate, and I’m like, hate for telling my truth? For telling my perspective? It was truly awful.”
Guest starring in Disney’s animated series Mickey Mouse Funhouse as Wanda Warbler, she plays the part of a singer … the best country-western singer around, that has a tendency to wander off before her shows, not unlike her real-life persona.
“It’s a Disney character that always wanders off and gets lost and they lose her,” she laughed. “Honestly, I’m really like that in real life. If my husband and I go anywhere, I always wander off and he’s left looking around the store for me. That’s very much who I am.”
She sings an original song titled “Won’t Go Wanderin’” in the episode which premieres October 15. So how did a voiceover role for a Disney character come about? She hasn’t the foggiest idea.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” she laughed. “I was sitting at home, very pregnant and I got a call, that Disney wanted me to do some voiceover work, and I’d never done that before. I was here for it, it was really awesome. I’d love to do it again.”
Mickey Guyton recently made history as the first Black female solo artist to earn a Grammy nomination in a country category (Best Country Solo Performance) for “Black Like Me” which she performed as part of the awards ceremony. She also was a co-host for the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS this past April. She is currently nominated for New Artist at the 55th CMA Awards on November 10, 2021.
“Artists of color are changing the game,” said Mickey. “They are also holding the door open for each other. And I think that is the true key for success.” Artists that have held the door open for her, include Rissi Palmer, Miko Marks, Jimmie Allen and Darius Rucker. “Darius Rucker has been very encouraging for me,” she said. “Jimmie Allen has given me opportunities that no one else has given me. Those are the ones that have held doors open for me.”
Country music is evolving. With Mickey Guyton blazing new trails, she sees a more inclusive version of the future of the genre.
“I see country music as colorful,” said Mickey Guyton. “I see women, I see indigenous, I see Black, I see White, I see LatinX, I see everybody that loves country music to be able to be a part of it. I see the genre expanding. I see the crowds at these concerts becoming more diverse, because people feel that they’re welcome there. That’s how I see country music is going to be.”
For more on Mickey Guyton, visit her website at www.mickeyguyton.com.