Mickey Guyton on almost quitting country music before releasing 'Black Like Me'

Mickey Guyton almost gave up on her dreams of country music stardom.

The "Black Like Me" singer, 36, said she nearly nixed pursuing a professional music career before releasing her Grammy-nominated hit "Black Like Me." The song, released last June after George Floyd's murder, resulted in her first Grammy nomination for Best Country Solo Performance. She was the first Black woman to ever be nominated in that category.

"I had been trying to pursue a country music career for, at the time, eight years," Guyton explained. "Constantly we were told — not only as a Black woman but as a woman — why we will fail in this industry. I was just ready to give it up."

She said things changed when her husband, Grant Savoy, told her that she wasn't finding success because she was "running away from everything that makes me different."

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - APRIL 18: In this image released on April 18, Mickey Guyton performs onstage at the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry on April 18, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ACM)
Mickey Guyton performs at the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry on April 18, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ACM) (Kevin Mazur via Getty Images)

That conversation "changed everything for me," she said. "Then I wrote 'Black Like Me.'"

She said she saw the "horrific video" of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, noting, "I couldn't even finish it." (Chauvin was found guilty of murder on Tuesday.) "And this was after I saw the horrific video of Ahmaud Arbery being hunted down — and this is also after I read all the horrible things that happened to Breonna Taylor.

"I had this song that I wrote almost two years ago and I was like, 'I've got to put this song out. Not because I'm trying to make it about me but trying to help people heal during this horrible time."

She said as her star grow brighter, it doesn't mean she's now immune to racism.

"The other day I was called an effing N-word on Twitter," she said. "It's just a constant fight. So I hope this song can give people hope."

Guyton admits the constant fight has made her question: "Why I'm still doing this?" But she's pushed forward by people she's inspired. "That's when I get a message from a Black girl telling me that I've given her courage to want to pursue a career in country music. Or someone in the LGBTQA+ community telling me: 'You gave me the strength to live my truth in this genre.' And there are country music artists who are now coming out — and that is such a big deal, especially in this genre."

And while she has the spotlight on her, she's going to continue pushing for inclusivity in the country music industry.

"We're making strides," she said. "It's not exactly where I want it to be," saying she wishes there was a Latin presence within country. "So I'm working hard."

Over the weekend, Guyton hosted the ACM Awards — as the first Black woman to host that show.

Guyton welcomed her first child with Savoy in January, a son named Grayson.

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