As one of country music’s only Black female stars, Mickey Guyton is determined to sing out against racial and gender inequality.
The Texas-born singer-songwriter appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” just days after co-hosting the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards with Keith Urban. In her interview, she revealed that she’d contemplated quitting music altogether prior to the success of her Grammy-nominated song, “Black Like Me.”
“I had been trying to pursue a country career for like eight years, and constantly we were told — not only as a Black woman but as a woman — why we would fail in this industry,” Guyton said. “I was ready to give it up. It wasn’t until my husband [Grant Savoy] told me that the reason I wasn’t making it in this industry was because I was running away from everything that makes me different, and that changed everything for me. And then I wrote ‘Black Like Me.’”
Released in June 2020, “Black Like Me” is a reflection on the racism and biases Guyton had experienced throughout her life. “It’s a hard life on easy street, just white painted picket fences far as you can see,” she sings on the track. “If you think we live in the land of the free, you should try to be Black like me.”
The song drew raves from critics, and its release just days after the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers made it especially timely. Last November, the song nabbed a Grammy nomination for Best Country Solo Performance, making Guyton the first Black woman to be nominated in that category.
The success of “Black Like Me,” which appears on Guyton’s six-song EP “Bridges,” is noteworthy given that country is still seen as a conservative, mostly white genre. As happy as Guyton is about her success thus far, she believes there’s a lot more work to be done. In particular, she’d like to see a greater Latinx presence in her genre.
“There’s plenty of times where I question, on a daily basis, why I’m still doing this,” she told DeGeneres. “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 LGBTQIA+ community that are telling me, ’You gave me the strength to live my truth in this genre.’”
“We’re making strides,” she added. “It’s not exactly where I want it to be. ... so I’m working hard.”
Catch Mickey Guyton’s interview with Ellen DeGeneres below.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.