Highwomen Admit Mickey Guyton Left Out of Video Shoot

Country artist Mickey Guyton has been receiving a lot of attention lately by the media as one of the only black women music performers in the mainstream of country. It’s a shame that it’s taken massive protests and riots, and a man dying for her to find the attention she deserves. Saving Country Music has been touting her since early 2015 as an artist that could help bridge the classic and contemporary divide, along with adding some diversity to the mainstream ranks. However over five years later she still doesn’t have a debut album.

Earlier this week, Guyton was asked to write an op/ed for Billboard about her experiences in country music, and how the country music community could improve to help artists of color. In the well-written piece, Guyton spells out numerous frustrations she’s experienced, but one of the most shocking revelations of the article was not on the systemic racism she’s suffered from in the country music industry, it was how she was snubbed by her fellow women in the genre.

“I’ve gone to all the girl parties full of wine, ring light selfie booths, white female country singers and writers talking about ongoing projects and music they are putting out,” Mickey Guyton writes. “On one occasion, I left my ailing husband, who almost died from sepsis, in California just four days after his life-saving surgery because I had been invited to be a part of a female empowerment music video full of these same women. I arrived at the airport exhausted but excited. I checked my itinerary only to find that the entry had been deleted; I had been disinvited. The song was about supporting women in country, yet they disinvited the only charting African American woman in country music. Do they know? Don’t they see that I support them? Do they care? Do they want to see me? The answer is no. Let that sink in.”

This seemed like a pretty shocking accusation. Getting snubbed by major labels, and being forced into endless delays for her debut album is what we would expect from Music Row. But to have her fellow women snub her seemed scandalous. So who could be the culprits? Unfortunately, one of the reasons that women continue to be mistreated in the industry is a reluctance to name names. It’s not always their fault. If you speak out, you could have your career ended. But leaving an accusation open-ended like this could do even more damage as people assume who the guilty party is.

Was Mickey Guyton talking about a Song Suffragettes shoot? A CMT Next Women of Country event? As fans tried to put two and two together, a timeline of who might have been responsible began to emerge. Mapping out roughly when Mickey Guyton’s husband had sepsis and surgery, and a “female empowerment music video” was being shot, it seemed to coincide with the shooting of The Highwomen’s “Redesigning Women” video—the one where the country supergroup of Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, and Natalie Hemby dressed up like firefighters.

But we had no confirmation this was the particular video shoot Mickey had been disinvited from, and making that accusation unverified would be irresponsible. Saving Country Music poked around a bit, but was unable to corroborate anything. However on Thursday (6-11), Maren Morris acknowledged that it was indeed the Highwomen’s “Redesigning Women” photo shoot that disinvited Mickey Guyton from participating.

“I’ve known Mickey Guyton since I moved to Nashville and she’s always had a heart of gold and a voice with such conviction,” Maren Morris first said on Twitter. “She released her single ‘Black Like Me’ recently and I hope our friends at country radio give it the air time it deserves.”

Then when Maren was asked by a fan to comment about the Mickey Guyton situation specifically, Morris responded, “We were notified of this yesterday + were completely mortified that such a giant miscommunication occurred under our watch at the shoot that day & have each reached out to Mickey privately with the utmost respect & apologies. It shouldn’t have happened & isn’t what we stand for.”

First off, good on Maren Morris for acknowledging what is a very embarrassing and disappointing development. She could have very easily swept this under-the-rug, or thrown someone else under the bus instead of taking a level of responsibility, even though it may have not been her fault specifically. But the next question is, who, how, or why was this allowed to happen? Clearly, the women of The Highwomen themselves weren’t being overtly racist, if they had even known about Mickey Guyton’s involvement in the production plans in the first place. The Highwomen collaborated with black British singer Yola on their “Highwomen” theme song, and Yola also performed with them at Newport Folk Fest in 2019.

But what makes Mickey Guyton’s situation especially disappointing is the whole point of The Highwomen was to raise all women’s voices in country music, and here was one of the few black voices who was supposed to be part of the moment being disinvited.

There’s really no winners or moral to this story unfortunately, though it does feel important to acknowledge what happened and lay in all the details with the significance of Mickey Guyton’s account from her op/ed. It does sound like the air was eventually cleared, and it’s not that The Highwomen themselves deserve to be vilified when the cancellation could have been due to a simple logistical snafu. But hopefully all parties and the country music community can learn from this unfortunate experience suffered by one of the few black and female voices in the mainstream, and make sure a similar instance doesn’t happen again.

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