At the last Grammy Awards in March, country singer Mickey Guyton performed “Black Like Me,” a song that made her the first black woman ever to be nominated for a solo country performance and ultimately changed the course. of her career. Still, the trophy went to Vince Gill.
This time, Guyton is back and she’s upped her chances.
When the nominations for the 64th annual Grammys, which will take place Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, were announced Tuesday, the Texas-born singer and songwriter was recognized in three categories: Best Country Album, Best Country Song and Best Performance. country solo. – for his first feature film, “Remember Her Name” and his title song. This places an album with largely unprecedented tracks like “Different” and “Love My Hair” alongside some of the genre’s biggest hitters, including Miranda Lambert and Chris Stapleton.
Fresh off a flight Tuesday night, Guyton, who has also made a name for himself as an outspoken activist in the notoriously island region of Nashville, explained over the phone how his second batch of nominations differed from the first. and what exactly makes something country. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
How are you?
Of course, I discovered it on an airplane. I had to deal with a sick child so I couldn’t treat anything. I didn’t even know the nominations were going to come out until this morning. I was on the plane and texting my husband, like “Can you hear something?” “Nope.” Then all of a sudden I got all these text messages.
I just feel very – what’s the word? Grateful. Relieved? Because I followed my instincts. This whole album came from me and what I thought I had to put out, and it’s something that I never did. I have always relied on everyone to make these decisions for me. This time it was my decisions. It shows: I was right.
It must seem to validate.
This is the word – I feel valid. Like, ugh, thank goodness. Because there was a doubt about this project before I published it. So now to see the answer, I just feel relieved.
At the last Grammys, you became the first black woman nominated for Best Country Solo Performance and played “Black Like Me” on the series. This time you’re back in the same category, plus two more country nominations. Is it different the second time around?
It does. All of my songs are pretty socially conscious, and this one was too, but it was actually my own story. The other song [“Black Like Me”] was my story, but it was the story of so many other people. This time it’s all up to me. It’s so personal. “Remember Her Name” – people tried to talk me out of even titling my album like that. Normally, I would have nodded. But I said no, it’s called “Remember his name” for a reason.
You have also been at the forefront of this growing movement in Nashville regarding equality and respect for black artists, black women artists and black women artists. Do you think there has been any progress?
I do. I really, really do. I get messages not only from black women, but from women, period, who feel encouraged – and from men! To feel encouraged to be 100 percent who they are. For so long there was only this formula, this box that we are all supposed to fit into. And the reality is that the box never existed. You don’t need to bend your knee in front of the system to be successful.
How do you balance the idea of personal progress – the successes you’ve found – and the larger institutional progress? Is it ever difficult to try to disentangle the two?
Sometimes it does and I suffer from it because I have two different feet in the two areas. But looking at the way things have been done in the past, I realized that it’s not enough for a country artist, a person of color, to do it every once in a while – every 25 years, every 5 years, every 10 years. This is not going to be sustained. There is the power of numbers.
In addition to the Grammys, you’ve performed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, co-hosted and ACM nominated, been nominated for CMAs, perform at the Thanksgiving Parade and Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony . Sometimes it feels like you’re everywhere except on country radio. Why haven’t they caught up?
You know, you should ask them. You should go ahead and call them. It’s really unfortunate, but I can’t spend my nights worrying about it. It is their decision. I’ll just keep moving. There are other ways for people to listen to me, and they find me – and thank goodness for that.
Is this something that you, your team, and your label are still clamoring for – a breakthrough there?
No, that would be wonderful. I would absolutely agree if they chose to want to support me. But I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Absolutely not.
There was a slight controversy regarding the country album category this year when it was decided by the Recording Academy’s genre selection committees that Kacey Musgraves’ new album, “Star-Crossed,” did not qualify and belonged to pop. As someone whose validity in the genre has been questioned, do you have any feelings about what makes an album quite country?
I don’t think it’s our job to define what is and what is not in a genre. If the artist tells you that’s the case, I feel like that’s enough and we have to accept it. Music is relative and art is art. Country music has developed so much. The lines are blurry. Hopefully in the future we will not be forced to make these decisions. If an artist tells you, “I’m country,” you should take it at face value.
Morgan Wallen has been completely excluded from Grammy nominations, even with one of the best-selling releases of the year and after a nod to the CMA’s Album of the Year. You were one of the first people to take a stand after he was seen using a racial insult, asking, “What exactly are you going to do about this?” The crickets will not work this time. Do you think this sends a message, or has the industry’s response been too mixed?
The industry has been very mixed for me. But that’s all on them. Hope Morgan is on the road to recovery and work. I find no satisfaction in the suffering of an artist. I hope people feel the weight of their actions, but I never want to see anyone fail.
Do you have any favorite albums among the nominees outside of country music? Who are you looking forward to seeing at the show, whether on stage or backstage?
I really liked Olivia Rodrigo’s album. I was in the air when all the nominees arrived, so I don’t even know everyone yet. But I’m just guessing Olivia Rodrigo.