Charese Fruge’ Talks To Mickey Guyton
This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on June 23, 2020
“They say Country music is three chords and the truth, so I’m going to write my truth,” says Mickey Guyton, one of the few Black women in Country music. She’s been on the scene since before 2015, was nominated for an Academy of Country Music Award for New Female Vocalist in 2016 and she is planning to release an album this summer which will include the honest and unapologetic “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” and the song that has everyone buzzing right now, “Black Like Me.”
The story is, the song was written by Mickey about a year ago about her struggles in Country music as a Black woman, but it wasn’t released until George Floyd was tragically killed in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers. That incident was captured on video and the world relived the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of his killing over and over again in anger and shock. This, after the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, and the universe had had enough of the senseless killing of African Americans at the hands of aggressive police officers. Mickey posted the song on her Instagram page in honor of George, Breonna, Ahmaud and all of the other victims who had died under the same unjust circumstances.
When Americans took to the streets to demonstrate on behalf of George Floyd, Spotify caught on to the song on her account and requested a release from Mickey’s label. The song went viral, fans went crazy and the world began to have a better understanding of what it’s like to be Black in America. “It has been one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen,” says Guyton. “I have had responses from people saying they are feeling seen and heard. That is my goal with my music. I want people to feel that someone out there understands them and their pain.”
And while Mickey is quite modest and feels like her contribution to the racial justice movement is small, she doesn’t realize the influence she has, not only because of her deep honesty in her song writing, but also because in the last few weeks she’s been brave enough to have contributed to several industry Zoom panels and magazines educating executives (in a mainly all-white business) as well as her fans on the race issues she faces in America and Country music. She’s become more comfortable with who she is in her genre now, and is a very powerful voice, but she also feels there are others out there that need to be heard. “Honestly, there are so many people that are out there on the front lines of the movement inspiring change that are not given the platform or the notoriety,” she says. “My contribution is nothing compared to what they have been actively doing for years. All I did was write a song about my pain.”
The lesson she wants people to take away from what’s going on in our country right now with regard to racial injustice is an important one. “We need to know that love will always win,” says Guyton. “We need to know that there is more good than bad. Americans need to know that this isn’t a right or a left issue. This is a heart issue. We need to look within and step out of ourselves and consider other people,” she says.
Mickey is also very aware of what’s going on with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Black community. And while she’s frustrated about being stuck at home and unable to promote her new music, she understands the bigger picture. “Everyone has been impacted so I can’t complain,” she says. “There are people unable to buy food right now. There are people without jobs. There is so much suffering. My little problems of not being able to promote music are minuscule,” says Guyton. And while she’s unable to perform and connect in person with her fans, she’s at least able to share her music digitally with them, and according to her, she’s never had quite the outreach like she has after releasing “Black Like Me.” “One of the greatest achievements in my career is getting the chance to be played on Country radio with a song talking about my experiences being Black.”
“Country radio is important to me because I grew up in Arlington, TX listening to Country music. It’s also important to me because I want women of color to be able to feel seen. If I’m there, then they are seen,” says Guyton. “My strength comes from knowing that there is a little girl that looks like me right now wanting to sing Country music and feeling like she cannot. I am in this space so that she knows that she can achieve it.” Mickey is also very passionate about the oppression of women in general. “We are not always protected and that needs to change,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of unfortunate events happen in my life because I am a woman. I don’t want anyone to have to go through that.”
I have watched Mickey through social media over the last few years and have admired her journey so much. She’s been a big part of trying to “change the conversation” with regard to the injustice of women in the Country format. She’s not afraid to speak up. She’s not afraid to speak her truth. And she’s not asking for preferential treatment, only for the chance to be heard, and she has the songs to back it up. So her advice to young women looking to get into the Country music business is solid. “Stay strong. Believe in yourself. Your ideas are important,” she says. “Most importantly, remember YOUR VOICE MATTERS. Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you believe and what you want out of your career. Set goals and follow through with them. I got you and I stand with you,” says Guyton. “My biggest fear is disappointing my fans, saying the wrong things, and knowing that there might be someone out there that has no one to have their back. My biggest commitment to my fans besides my music, is my commitment to having their backs.”
Mickey’s new album is expected to come out this summer pending the pandemic. Follow her on Instagram and twitter @mickeyguyton for announcements and updates.