The country music world is excited for the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards hosted by veteran artist Keith Urban and groundbreaking newcomer Mickey Guyton.
The show, which will air on Sunday April 18, will be broadcast from three historic Nashville music venues – the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium, and the Bluebird Cafe.
“Everything has its own set of challenges right now, which are new,” Urban told CBS News’ Vladimir Duthiers of hosting during the pandemic. “We practice a lot when we’re not playing in front of anyone.”
Unlike last year’s show, however, this year’s show will take place in front of a small group of vaccinated health care workers.
Urban won his first ACM award for Top New Male Vocalist two decades ago and is up for three more this year – after winning a total of 14.
He said he enlisted Guyton’s help after performing together last year.
“I got on so well with her,” he said. “So I called her and asked if she would come and host with me. So I’m glad we can do it together.”
Guyton herself is nominated as New Artist of the Year.
The singer-songwriter previously made history as the first black solo artist to be nominated for a Grammy in a country category, and will make it again as the first black presenter of the ACMs – and the second black presenter in her 56-year history.
When Urban called and asked if she would like to host next to him, Guyton replied excitedly: “Yes! Do I have a pulse? Of course!”
She remembered the moment Gayle King co-hosted CBS This Morning.
“You know, I wanted to do the praise dance and the hallelujah and all that. I still can’t believe it,” said Guyton.
Guyton is no stranger to adversity – when she achieved her dream of being a country artist, she had to grapple with the harsh reality of being a black woman in a largely white and male-dominated industry.
“I’ve been doing a lot of difficult things on the street and trying to get along in country music, you know? I was called the N-word on a show. And that was devastating for me,” she said.
Guyton’s hit “Black Like Me” caused waves in the country music community at a time of racist reckoning in the US – and according to her, not everyone reacted well.
“After we released it, I got some pretty nasty messages on my social media,” she said. “I try to act like I’m strong, but I’m not always strong.”
However, she said that “so much support” came to her even after the song was released.
“There are so many loving messages from people who have shown me that I did the right thing,” she said. “As weak as I felt, I still feel strong because I know that I stand up for people who don’t necessarily have this ability.”
Guyton won’t be the only one to make history at the event – she’s one of four nominated black artists, more than any other previous ACM Awards show.
“Country music is a community, and the communities today are really diverse,” said Urban. “And country music reflects that and is a step in the right direction. I am grateful that it is moving with the times as it should.”
In addition to Guyton, Jimmie Allen, John Legend and Kane Brown are at the door on Sunday.
Brown, who spoke to CBS This Morning on Wednesday, was informed on the air that he was the first black solo artist to win an ACM Music Video of the Year award for his song Worldwide Beautiful.
“It was like, man, it would be a good day where everyone can only see the beautiful in the world and how everyone is beautiful people together. We’re all a little different,” Brown said. “I couldn’t ask it to come out better than it.”
Although the song was written a year before the summer 2020 riots that began with George Floyd’s death, Brown said he chose to release it because he “felt it was time”.
Brown was also inspired by his own life experiences.
“I’ve lived it as an adult, so I just said that everyone should just love everyone. And all this hate and everything should just stop,” he said.
Brown is also the first Black Country artist to be nominated for Album of the Year by the ACMs for his Mixtape Volume One collection.
The 56th Academy of Country Music Awards will air at 8 p.m. Eastern on Sunday April 18 on CBS and Paramount +.