There’s no denying this past year has been a turbulent one for us all, but for Mickey Guyton it’s been memorable for more than the pandemic, politics and civil unrest. It’s the year she began the journey toward motherhood and really blossomed as an artist by releasing some of the most thought-provoking songs of 2020.
“I get that kind of push back that people want to hear something light and fluffy and I don’t think that that is true,” Guyton tells Sounds Like Nashville. “Not a single person’s life is light and fluffy right now. It’s just not. We’re in a pandemic. It’s affecting everybody in the entire world… I fell in love with country music that says something. In the ’90s there was some of the most beautiful music that I’d ever heard. For some reason, people are making it seem like nobody wants to hear that and I’m here to say we do.”
In that spirit, Guyton has written some of the most compelling songs of her career and brought them to life with one of the most powerful, passionate voices in any genre of music. Her current EP Bridges features the poignant “Black Like Me,” chronicling her experience as an African American and “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” tackling gender inequality.
“All I wanted to do when I came into this industry was just write really cool, meaningful country songs. That’s it. That is all I ever wanted to do and it’s just taken on this different life,” she says. “It’s something I didn’t have any intentions in doing. I was just writing my feelings and to know that these songs can change the world, it’s such a responsibility that I take so seriously because there are advocates and activists actively out there on the frontlines every day fighting for equality that are doing the hard work that will never get the attention that they deserve. I’m not a hero. I was just writing my feelings.”
The Texas native delivered a stunning performance of “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” on the Academy of Country Music Awards with Keith Urban accompanying her on piano, and made history as the only black female artist to ever perform solo on the show. Shortly after she got off stage at the Grand Ole Opry house, she had 150 text messages and her performance became one of the most celebrated moments of the show. When she wrote the song, she had no idea it would strike such a chord. “I was in the room with a mother of two daughters when I wrote that song,” says Guyton, who co-wrote “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” with Victoria Banks, Karen Kosowski and Emma-Lee. “I remember asking Victoria at the time we wrote the song, ‘What are you going to tell your daughters when they get older about this world?’ And she was like, ‘I don’t know because I’m still dealing with it. It’s still not getting better for me. I don’t know what I’ll tell my daughters.’”
Guyton is expecting a baby boy in February and impending motherhood has added another dimension to her emotions. “What’s so heavy for me is now, not only do I have a son, I have a black son,” she says candidly. “There’s a whole other list of fears that I have now knowing that I’m going to have a black son and knowing that I’m going to have to have conversations with him when he starts driving and if he’s ever pulled over by police. I have to have conversations about how he needs to act in those situations and that’s scary.”
After nearly a decade of seeking country radio airplay and recognition in the Nashville community, Guyton has found her true voice as an artist and it’s showcased on Bridges in such soul-stirring songs as her current single, “Heaven Down Here,” and even such playful tracks as “Rosé.” “I hope that the listeners can really hear my heart and hear what I’ve been dealing with and going through for the last eight years in Nashville and watching the world and seeing where we are,” she says. “My heart really does want equality and love. At the end of the day, I hope that that is what people see and hear in this EP as well as hear the lighter side of me. Every song has a message. Every song has a lesson. I hope they hear that growth in that and hear my heart and feel the hope.”
Guyton’s 2015 debut single, “Better Than You Left Me,” only reached No.34 and though she’s a critic’s darling, acceptance at radio has long been a struggle. When asked if she would have written such outspoken message songs as “Black Like Me” and “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” if she had a string of number one hits and therefore more to jeopardize by being so bold, she admits she might not. “I honestly don’t think had I made it right away and had I not had time to reflect and watch what was going on would I be able to write these songs,” she says.
“All I want is love, equality and acceptance period—for everyone to feel love and for everyone to feel accepted. That’s what I want people to take away from my music and that’s what I want people to take away from me as a human being because that’s really truly what is important to me.”
Even though “Black Like Me” and “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” have not been hits at country radio, there’s no denying the impact they have had on listeners and Guyton has become one of the most respected artists in country music. People can’t quit talking about her ACM performance or the moment she debuted “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” during the annual Country Radio Seminar earlier this year. She’s become a media darling with glowing coverage in numerous outlets.
Needless to say, Guyton is grateful, yet it all pales in comparison her biggest news in 2020. “I’m pregnant now and every other accomplishment that I’ve had just doesn’t even compare to be honest,” she sighs. “You could win a 100 Grammys. You could make millions of dollars. You could win a Nobel Peace prize, but it still would never compare to a life and feeling that life move in your stomach and knowing that there’s this soul that is being created by you in your body that was God’s will to be here. Nothing else really compares to be honest.”
As excited as she is about motherhood, the 37-year-old admits the first trimester of her pregnancy was so difficult it has even made her avoid a certain hairstyle. “I never threw up, but I was nauseous. There are even hair styles that I associate with how I felt when I was pregnant that I can’t even wear right now because I think about how nauseous I was—just a pony-tail, a low tight pony-tail,” she says with a laugh. “Nothing tasted good to me. I didn’t want anything. It was just rough. Now I’m feeling a lot better, but I have gone through periods of feeling really tired. I would take two-hour naps, which is something I didn’t do.”
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Even in times of darkness, like the ones we as a society find ourselves in today, God always finds a way to shine His light on the beautiful side of life, like the miracle of life itself. I’m so excited to announce that I’m having a baby! My life completely changed in an instant. Literally nothing else matters. I’m so excited and terrified all at the same time. I have no idea what I am doing but am so thankful that God chose me to be this baby’s mom 😭👶🏽🤰🏾
Guyton and her husband have decided to name their son Grayson Clark. “My husband’s name is Grant and his best friend’s name is Tyson,” she says of her attorney spouse Grant Savoy. “He lost his best friend Tyson to a horrible car accident. He passed away at Thanksgiving of last year and so we combined their names Grant and Tyson, so Grayson. And Clark is his dad’s name, who passed away about 14 years ago, so Grayson Clark. I feel like it’s so regal.
“Because his name is so stately, I want him to have a very sophisticated room,” she says of decorating the nursery at their home in Los Angeles. “I want him to feel like a man so I’m trying to do his room kind of vintage a little bit. It’s whites and grays with a cool color rug and maybe a cool accent wall. I’m trying to make him feel adult-like. I think he’s going to be a sweet baby. I don’t know if you can tell their personality within the womb, but just the way he moves around, he just seems pretty chill.”
As she reflects back on 2020, Guyton acknowledges it will always be a year she’ll remember. “It was a really huge transitional year for me,” she says. “I had been working so hard to be heard and I finally have been heard. That is something that I’m always going to remember.”