Mickey Guyton is not blind to the racial inequality within the country music community.
The singer-songwriter exclusively tells E! News she's well aware of how Black people are treated by fellow artists, record label executives and even listeners. But she feels it's her duty to pave a way for the Black girls and boys who aspire to be a country musician one day.
"There's so many people: women, Black women, indigenous, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, that have a unique story that's important to be heard and when you're not giving people that platform, that is just flat out wrong in my personal opinion," she explains. "That's why representation matters, because there's a little 7 year old girl out there that looks like me that has these dreams and when she doesn't see herself, she doesn't get to pursue that and she doesn't get to live a life that could have been destined for her."
But representing the Black community poses it challenges for Mickey too, who recalls the racism she's faced in recent years.
"I've opened up for major artists on major tours where I was singing in front of the Confederate flag," the Grammy nominee recalls. "And I've been called the N-word after a show, as I was signing autographs in a line full of people, and nobody stood up for me. I was there by myself and dealing with that."
More often than not, Mickey's been subject to microaggressions, such as record executives' insisting that she be more country, even as other musicians introduce R&B influences to their music. "There's so many times that I would send a song to my label and they would tell me, 'You've got to make sure your song sounds really country because people are going to think you are disingenuous,'" Mickey shares. "Meanwhile, I was listening to all of these white men release these songs with trap beats in their songs, with R&B melodies in their songs, with R&B cadence in their songs and I was just held to a different standard."
Even so, the 37 year old says those comments don't discourage her. If anything, she says it's made her "want to fight so much harder so that women, other Black women, don't go through that."
Mickey adds that she's felt like she didn't belong in the country community, explaining how her struggles are so different from those of other artists. She shares, "There's so many times that especially in my genre where I was looking at the world falling apart before me; witnessing racism and it hurt and my world was feeling like it was burning down around me and I could go on Instagram, all of my country music peers were living their lives like everything is great. That was really, really hard for me to watch and to see."
The "Black Like Me" singer, whose EP Bridges is out now, adds that if she's learned anything from this experience, it's that she can't give up on her dream of being a chart-topping country artist. "I want my legacy to be that I'm a door-opener for other people, for other women, for other Black women," she says. "I want to be a door-opener more than anything else."
To hear more from Mickey, check out our video above!