After making history as the first black solo artist to earn a Grammy nomination in a country music category, the Mickey Guyton star is about to rise even higher.
On Sunday, Guyton will once again make history as the first black woman to host the Academy of Country Music Awards, alongside Keith Urban, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
“My hopes are to bring positive light, love and acceptance to this work,” Guyton told NBC News.
Although Sunday will mark the first time Guyton has hosted an awards show, it promises a good performance and several outfit changes. He noted that having the support of co-host Urban while preparing for the show has proven to be fun and valuable.
“You know, Keith Urban is from Australia and he had an affinity for country music,” he said. “I’m sure when it started, it wasn’t getting the most welcoming arms and now it’s here. He’s using his platform to cheer me on, and that means a lot. “
Lately, country music has seen a cultural shift in terms of representation. With artists like Rissi Palmer, Jimmie Allen, Willie Jones, and Kane Brown, a lot of people are seeing that country artists don’t have to fit a certain mold.
When Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” began to gain traction in 2019, the song peaked at number 19 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Billboard later removed the single from Hot Country Songs because it didn’t fit the genre, according to Rolling Stone. Eventually, Billy Ray Cyrus joined Lil Nas X on the remix of “Old Town Road,” and it hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Old Town Road” never made the country music chart again.
This showed that country music, like the rest of the world, has a long way to go to fully embrace what it means to be inclusive.
“Well, a lot of people, especially nowadays, just watch Lil Nas X or think country music is just white boys, beers and trucks, and that’s not the case,” Guyton said. “There is all kinds of country music. There have been a lot of blacks in country music hitting the pavement for a long time. “
Historically, black artists have been expelled from traditionally white music spaces, even if they had a significant role in creating the music. Before Guyton, there was Linda Martell. Though her contributions went largely unnoticed, Martell succeeded with the 1969 release of “Color Him Father,” paving the way for the black country artists to come after her.
Guyton wants to continue dispelling outdated stereotypes and misconceptions by showing other aspiring black artists that they can “sing country, chase it, and love it too.”
Despite the barriers and discrimination she faces from critics, Guyton remains the sweet southern girl she has always been.
Guyton sings as if he is speaking directly to those who have felt marginalized, specifically black women.
“Very often, we have grown up, especially black girls who grew up not loving themselves because we didn’t see each other at all. Now we see ourselves, ”he said.
Her passion for country music began in Texas when she was a little girl listening to LeAnn Rimes, Whitney Houston, CeCe Winans, and her all-time favorite, Dolly Parton.
Guyton said his admiration for Parton has only grown in recent years, particularly after the star asked Tennessee lawmakers in February not to erect a statue of her after they showed support for doing so. Parton said the pandemic and current social justice movements were more important.
“I mean, Dolly Parton is a national treasure, an international treasure in my personal opinion, and she has been preaching love and acceptance long before it was the best,” Guyton said. “She loved her big boobs, and as much as people talked about it, she would say, ‘I am who I am and you will take it or leave it,’ and she is that person to this day.”
“She really stands up for her truth, and believes that black lives matter, and she is great and I love her,” he added.
Guyton carries the same weight of responsibility, serving as an inspiration to the young fans who look up to her and will see her presenting the ACM Awards on Sunday.
The message you want to convey to those fans, and everyone else, when you grace the stage? In short, he said, “We are here.”
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