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Mickey Guyton & Tayla Parx Hope Beyoncé Changes Country

The two friends and industry forces talk their new song “Woman,” and watching country evolve in real time.

When country singer Mickey Guyton and songwriter Tayla Parx meet up on a recent Zoom, they’re immediately kiki-ing. Greetings turn into asks about Guyton’s family and invitations to visit Parx’s work-in-progress ranch and recording-studio compound in Nashville, where she’s calling in from today. It’s been a minute since they’ve seen each other, which explains the festive exchange — that and the release of “Woman” on International Women’s Day, two years after they wrote the song together in 2021. “Two different people [heard] that song, and the woman understands it, the man doesn’t,” Guyton says.

Even after a seemingly pivotal year for women at the Grammys, Guyton (and recent reports) say things haven’t changed much behind the scenes. Below, she and Parx share their experiences as prominent Black women singers and songwriters, the hypocrisy of country radio, and how they relate to the renewed visibility of Black women artists in the genre as Beyoncé prepares to release her new album.

Was your song “Woman” the first time you two got in the studio together?

Mickey Guyton: That was our second time. I was a fresh mom. And “Woman,” that was Tayla, man, she brought that idea.

Tayla Parx: I've always really respected working with artists who are mothers because I'm like, "You are giving Superwoman down because it's not easy.”

MG: Tayla was like, "Why don't we release this song? International Women's Day is coming up." This was in 2021. It took two years for it to finally come out. And we started the song ... Your Tesla was driving you from New York?

TP: I do these little cross-country trips with my dogs and everything. We were on Zoom, and literally we had one person Zooming in from Stockholm, one person Zooming in from Brazil, and I was in my car, and then Mickey. I'll never forget this session because of that.

MG: I think my favorite part of that was when you said [the lyric], “Make the pain a superpower.”

When you were singing that line, Mickey, what kind of pain were you drawing on?

MG: I'd been going through a lot in my life personally, artistically. At the time, I had two male managers that were just really dimming my light, that were trying to interpret who I was and who I am, and that was extremely painful. On top of that, I had just gone through a really traumatic experience with my son, he almost died. He got really, really sick, and I'm still healing from that trauma. And we're talking about that, and the strength that can come out of you even in the darkest times of your life. I think that's where Tayla [got that line] from.

TP: It’s not easy to say, "I'm going to be really vulnerable and real with you," and that's the only way it's possible for me to do my part of the job.

MG: There's a reason it took two years to even get this song out. I sent it to the people on my team, the people that are supposed to support me, and they didn't get it. I went around them and I played it for the head of my label, who is a woman, and she was like, "This is so powerful." Once I got a female manager, [it became] the first song on the docket to release. If a man came out with this song and let it be a country song, they're going to freaking shoot that straight up to the top of country radio and capitalize off that.

I don't like to harp on this because I'm over that topic of conversation, but one thing I noticed on country radio, you see a bunch of men start singing songs about women and loving women, and those songs are going straight to the top — but they still [aren’t] playing women. So you can sing about us, you can talk about us, you can put us in a video, and put us in some shorts and, “Country girl, shake it for me,” but still not give us the same opportunities?

TP: As a young Black woman from the South, going to L.A. and writing pop music, or coming to Nashville and writing country music, I've literally had people tell me after numerous [Billboard Hot 100] No. 1s that I was lucky to be in the room. I'm like, "What?" It had been so long since I'd experienced this outwardly ... just telling me what you think about me, and it's not much. We know that as women there is just the extra thing you have to do, especially [as] women of color, period.

MG: Women of color, period.

TP: Over the years, writing these female anthems has been a huge part of my career. I want to write music with women, and even when I'm writing with men, [I want to write music that] empowers women. I think every songwriter has to have their idea of what is success to you. Mine is making people understand that, hey, women can do this too.

MG: [“Woman”] was written by a woman, produced by a woman, my female manager pushed for it, the chairman of my label is a woman.

“Beyoncé didn't need welcoming into country music. Beyoncé is country music.”

What's interesting is this year’s Grammys, from the outside looking in, it looked like there was a huge industry shift of women finally getting recognized. But from what I'm hearing, these all-women teams and creations are still quite rare.

TP: I think [that] goes into another thing of women doing what they have to do and saying, "OK, do you know what? If you're not going to make space for me, I'm going to create space for me that also allows more women to feel safe." I was very happy to see, and I'm very happy to see we've made a lot of progress. But I think, again, making something from nothing.

MG: I also think that this new generation is the find-out generation. They are not about this life. This new generation is very much like ... I don't care, [and they’re] also helping move this conversation forward. We're just not about that life anymore. We're tired.

Speaking of women creating space, Beyoncé's upcoming album has renewed this discussion about the visibility of Black artists and Black women in country music. Mickey, how do you relate to this conversation considering you've been in the industry for years?

MG: I think it's very exciting Beyoncé is making her record. I saw online a lot of people saying, “Welcome to country music,” and in my eyes, Beyoncé didn't need welcoming into country music. Beyoncé is country music. I hope when she’s here for this album, it not only continues the conversation, but continues giving artists, people of color, to have a career in country music, and that it's not a fad.

TP: Country music over the past few years, it's pulled a lot from pop and urban and all these different things. It sounds a particular way. I think Beyoncé coming into country music, who's able to add, “OK, this is my little sprinkle,” that's what helps music evolve. I think 10 years from now, we're going to be looking at a very new Nashville and new Tennessee as far as the business goes. It's become something that's like, "Oh, now you're touching different people," and that's really exciting for any genre.

What would you say to people who might be resistant to this new Nashville that’s being made?

MG: You better get on the train because it ain't waiting for you.

TP: Get on it or get ran over by it. We want country music to be around for a very long time, and genres only stick around for a long time when they are evolving. Luckily, country music is about the song, about great music. So let's focus on what makes music touch people, and not the rest of the things, because that's what a song is supposed to do.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.