“I had never seen myself as an activist-artist,” Mickey Guyton tells Apple Music. “I was just trying to be like every other woman in country music: I just can write and sing cool songs and get recognized for it and move forward.” Since the early 2010s, the Texas-bred country-pop performer had been striving to build a Nashville career as an expressive vocalist and the sole Black woman signed to a major country label, in an industry that she came to recognize offered little room for either. “Seeing that it's still so hard for women in country music—you can look at the charts now—it's just been that much more important for me to write with women, push for women, push for what is right, and to sing about what is right,” she says. By early 2020, Guyton had found trusted collaborators, like her co-writers Victoria Banks and Emma-Lee and writer-producer Karen Kosowski, and figured out how she wanted to put her voice to use. “I was on my way to putting out this material,” she explains, “but the crazy thing is, with the turn of events and the social unrest and the pandemic, it actually inspired me that much more. I was already writing on social issues and life issues, and this just helped continue that conversation.” Guyton wrote and recorded the remainder of her six-song EP virtually, while holed up with her husband in their LA home, and here she tells the stories behind each track on Bridges.
Heaven Down Here “I had watched the video of George Floyd. Then I saw the video of Ahmaud Arbery running in the streets and these men hunting him down. Just treating them so inhumanely and like they don't matter, like they're disposable. And Breonna Taylor. I'm a very empathetic person. I didn't even want to write that day because I was so emotional. I was writing with some of the most amazing songwriters in Nashville—Josh Kear, Gordie Sampson, and Hillary Lindsey. We wrote the song on Zoom. I looked at these sweet faces that were taking the time to write with me, and I just started sobbing. Being in country music, I didn't feel like I mattered. We were like, ‘How do we write this in a way that's not just devastating? How do we make this to where people can hear it and receive it?’ We were like, ‘What if we're asking God, "If you're listening, if you hear anything we're saying, can you help us out?"'”
Bridges “That is Karen Kosowski and Emma-Lee and Victoria Banks, the magic of those women. I came up with the concept: ‘Y'all, instead of tearing everything down, what if we built bridges and started reaching out for the other side?’ Oh my god, it gets so frustrating watching the news. I can't even. But that was the motivation for me, because I was watching all of this. I wanted to sing a song like ‘Build That Bridge.’ I said, ‘It needs to be tempo, and there needs to be angst.’”
What Are You Gonna Tell Her? “I had a conversation on Instagram with a girl from the Philippines. She was trying to decide if she wanted to actually sing or if she wanted to work in the music industry. She asked me, ‘Is there anything I have to look forward to? Do you think I have a shot?’ I just had to be honest. I didn't have anything really too great to tell her about the industry. Then she told me that her musical director in one of the school plays that she was in told her that she needed to get whiter makeup so she would look whiter on stage. How do you tell that to somebody, to a girl with hopes? It reminded me of myself, what I've gone through and how I've tried to alter myself to make other people comfortable with me being present and making sure I can fit in and they can see me. It was like PTSD. I'm being dramatic, but I felt that I instantly wanted to fight for her.”
Rosé “I wrote that song two and a half years ago because I was like, ‘Women don't really have drinking country songs. Well then, why don't we have our own?’ I cannot believe that nobody had ever written a drinking country song called ‘Rosé All Day.’”
Salt “There's always male-bashing songs, but I wanted it to be like a cautionary tale to men. Like, ‘Look, there's a lot of pretty women out there, but you got to remember what you got at home.’ I think that's something that so many women relate to. We're sitting at home, and I trust my man, but I can't imagine being a wife of a lot of these producers that are around all these cute women all the time. That would drive me nuts.”
Black Like Me “I had been in this town for a long time. I've felt overlooked for a long time. I felt unconsidered for a long time. I was showing up for other artists, but nobody would ever show up for me. It was really hard. That reminded me of my life growing up. I was always the only Black girl in spaces. I always felt a little like I didn't fit in. I was called the N-word, as a child. I wanted to save that song for last, because that is the song that is the most important to me. Telling my experience through country storytelling, I think, was one of the most beautiful things. Country music started with Black people, and this song, to me, bridged that gap.”
Heaven Down Here
What Are You Gonna Tell Her?
Black Like Me
6 SONGS, 19 MINUTES
SEPTEMBER 11, 2020
A CAPITOL RECORDS NASHVILLE RELEASE; ℗ 2020 UMG RECORDINGS, INC.