Keith Urban is reprising his duties from last year as host of the Academy of Country Music Awards, but he’ll share the role on the 2021 telecast, as Mickey Guyton has been drafted to join him in fronting the show, set to air April 18 from Nashville on CBS.
Guyton is enjoying a high profile on CBS this season. The network also has her slotted for a performance slot on this Sunday’s Grammy Awards. She’s up for a Grammy for best country solo performance for “Black Like Me,” the timely song she’ll be singing on the telecast.
Guyton and Urban have history together on the ACMs — they appeared together on the 2020 show last September (which was delayed by five months due to the pandemic), with Urban sitting down at the piano in the Grand Ole Opry House to back Guyton as she sang another riveting, socially conscious anthem, “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?”
“I’m beyond thrilled to be co-hosting with my friend Mickey,” Urban said in a statement. “I love that finally everyone will get to see her infectious energy and uber-creative spirit in full light.”
Said Guyton, “As I’ve said before, ‘If you can see it, you can be it,’ and it’s such an honor to step onto the ACM stage as the first ever Black woman to host the show. Over the years, the Academy of Country Music has always been a home for me through opportunities both onstage and throughout their work on diversity and inclusion. This is a moment of great significance for me, and I am so thrilled to share it with all the fans.”
Complementing the duo’s formal statements was a short video the ACM released in conjunction with Thursday morning’s announcement, in which Urban “asked” a presumably already signed-up Guyton if she’d join him on the show via FaceTime. “Do I have a pulse? Of course,” said an exultant Guyton. “You may be in for even less sleep,” said Urban, referring to another first-time experience for Guyton this year, being a new mother. “Motherhood is the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” she declared. “Nothing else matters. You’re on the phone with me right now, but nothing else matters.”
It’s safe to say that Guyton has become one of the most celebrated figures in the Nashville music community, even without the top 10 radio hit that has long eluded her. For years her personality and vocal chops have elicited predictions that she could have a Carrie Underwood-style appeal. But although country music has a number of Black men succeeding in the format recently, the genre has still lacked for a Black woman as a true star in the format. After years of not looking to emphasize what made her different from others making it in country, Guyton has recently become more outspoken about gender and racial issues, with “Black Like Me” being the rare song in the mainstream wing of the genre to directly address the Black experience.
The ACM Awards were previously announced to be coming from the same three Nashville locations that hosted the telecast’s performances last year: the Grand Ole Opry House (where the awards will be handed out — most likely with some kind of live audience, unlike last fall’s show), the Ryman Auditorium and Bluebird Cafe. Prior to the pandemic precipitating a switch, the ACMs had long had an annual April berth in Las Vegas.
To read Guyton’s interview with Variety about “Black Like Me” last year, click here.