Mickey, once you stopped trying to please people, you felt like your music became more authentic?
GUYTON Yes. I wrote a drinking song called “Rosé” about three years ago. And I was just like, “What girl doesn’t love rosé? If there’s a song that country radio will finally accept from me, it would be this one.”
I played it for the label. Crickets. Some white radio promo guy said, “Yeah, but I don’t know if this song is going to bring back Mickey,” and derailed everything. It put me into the deepest, darkest, scariest depression that I’ve ever felt in my entire life, because I realized that no matter what I did, it was never going to be enough. Because surely if a white girl presented this song, they would have had a music video and a pink hotel with drinks and the whole thing.
At that point I was just so done trying to please these people. I heard of a woman at Capitol Records, and I was going to talk to her about this. We were at a restaurant around the corner from the record label, and the hostess said, “Would you like to sit in our rosé lounge today?” I was like, “As a matter of fact, I sure [expletive] would.” We sat there, and I made up my mind. I’m going to write my truth. And not only that, I’m going to find every Black female country singer that there is, and open that door too, because the only way that this will ever work is if we find each other and we bring each other up.
I released “Black Like Me” myself. And I only did it because I saw unjust deaths happen, just like everyone on this call did. I put it out there for no other reason than to maybe make a couple of people feel hope. And it took on its own life.
And now you have a Grammy nomination.
GUYTON Right. It’s our Grammy nomination, by the way.
Here’s where it gets complicated: Hopefully, the day will come where we can’t name all the Black country artists because there are so many. But you also don’t want to lose that powerful element of identity that informs a song like “Black Like Me.” How do you balance making sure being Black is part of your music but not the only story?
SPENCER Well, I’m the new kid on the block. I’ve released an EP, and I wanted four songs that I felt talked about the whole me. I just write about anything, sing about everything. And hopefully that puzzle makes sense to people. But for me, it’s just been important to talk about the things that I want to talk about, and that does include being a Black woman. People will have to understand that no artist in general is just one thing.