Ten years after signing her first recording contract, in a career that has seemed perpetually at the edge of major success, country artist and Texas native Mickey Guyton is finally having her hard-earned moment in the sun.
Last September, Guyton released her debut album, Remember Her Name, which was long awaited after three EPs, a handful of high-profile award nominations, and her hit 2020 single, “Black Like Me,” which chronicled her experiences as a Black woman in country music and how, despite the modicum of success she’d experienced, little had changed in her world.
“It’s a hard life on easy street,” says the song. “Just white painted picket fences far as you can see. If you think we live in the land of the free, you should try to be, oh, Black like me.”
For Guyton, who also welcomed her first child in February 2021, the past year has been a whirlwind. The entire world had the chance to watch her sing the National Anthem before this year’s Super Bowl, where she performed flanked by a ten-person choir that Guyton handpicked to represent a wide swath of Americans. And this Sunday, almost a year after co-hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards, Guyton is nominated for three Grammy Awards, including best country album for Remember Her Name and best country song for the album’s title track, an anthem of female strength and perseverance.
We caught up with Guyton to talk about her own journey, what she’s learned along the way, and where she sees herself now.
It’s been a long time since you first signed your record deal and the release of your debut. What’s different between the woman who signed that deal and the woman you are today?
I trust myself more. When I first signed my deal, I was just so insecure and such a people pleaser, and in that process of trying to please other people, I lost my artistry. And I just didn’t know who I was. Now, I trust my gut. I believe in myself.
Was that entire time spent making your record? Or was it more trying to find your place in the market, trying to find the right fit?
It was a process of both. For years, I was writing and sending songs, and it was trial and error. I was just constantly trying to write a quote-unquote country song that country radio would accept, because they were the gatekeepers.
And you’re still with the same label that originally signed you, correct?
Capitol, yes. Which is kind of unheard of. So many other labels would have dropped me a long time ago.
What was it like, after all these years working toward this moment, to find out your debut was nominated for three Grammy awards?
A part of me is like, “Are you sure? Is this for real?” And often, my publicist tells me that I’ve arrived, and I’m like, “Have I?!” I’m still in disbelief about it. I’m waiting to wake up from the dream and for them to tell me they were just kidding. Because that’s where I’ve been at in my life for so long. I was so used to hearing “no” for so long, it’s hard to believe a “yes.”
There must have been plenty of times over the last decade where you just assumed you were going to hear “no” forever.
Yeah! And right before everything started happening for me, I had completely made peace that it wasn’t going to happen for me. I thought that I might as well fight for the future artist, not just Black people, but women as well. And I thought, “How do I just use the little platform I have to spark change?” And then I just opened my mouth [to write and record “Black Like Me”] and everything changed for me.
Do you watch your Super Bowl performance and say, “Who is that person?”
I do. It’s still so wild. But I really wanted to show the world country music in a different light, and the choir was something I was really proud of. I had a Black trans woman in the choir, a cowboy, a woman with one leg. I just wanted everyone to be represented.
I’m actually walking into the studio right now. We’re already working on new stuff. I’m doing a lot of private shows now, but touring is hard and being a mother has definitely made me rethink how things are done. I’m a whole different woman after having a kid, and now my family always comes first. It’s made me wonder how the world has not centered on life around your family. We only get [to have our kids home] for eighteen years, and we should honor that.