Keith Urban will host the Academy of Country Music Awards for the second year in a row, but this time he’ll have a co-host, Mickey Guyton. Guyton will be only the second Black host of the show, following Charley Pride, who co-hosted in 1984 with Mac Davis and Crystal Gayle and in 1980 with Loretta Lynn and Claude Akins.
The April 18 show will air from three iconic Nashville venues — the Grand Ole Opry House, Ryman Auditorium and the Bluebird Café — for the second year in a row.
According to Damon Whiteside, the ACM’s CEO, the idea for the co-hosting arrangement was hatched at least year’s ACM Awards, when Urban backed Guyton on piano while she performed “What Are You Gonna Tell Her,” a track from her EP, Bridges.
“I’m sitting with the executive producer team at dick clark productions and we were watching that live performance and we literally had goosebumps watching her just blossom on stage like that,” Whiteside remembers. “It was so powerful watching Keith play piano for her. We were so moved by it. Literally right after that, we were like, ‘We’ve got to ask her to host with Keith next year.’ We let the show cool and gave it a little time to breathe, but we were thinking about it from then.”
Guyton, 37, is nominated for best new female artist of the year for the second time. She was first nominated in that category five years ago – a sign of how long she has been in the breaking artist phase. Guyton has released three EPs, but has yet to release a full-length album.
Guyton first performed on the ACM Awards two years ago. She sang “I’m Standing With You” from the film Breakthrough alongside the film’s star Chrissy Metz as well as Carrie Underwood, Lauren Alaina and Maddie & Tae.
Guyton is nominated for a Grammy on Sunday (March 14) for best country solo performance for her thought-provoking “Black Like Me,” which she will perform on the show. Guyton is the first Black female solo artist to receive a Grammy nod in a country category. The ACM team no doubt hopes she wins the Grammy because the combination of a strong performance and a memorable acceptance speech on that show could boost her profile and make more people want to check her out on the ACM Awards.
The CMAs also had a white/Black hosting pairing in November, when Reba McEntire co-hosted with Darius Rucker. Rucker was only the second Black host of that show, again following Pride, who co-hosted the 1975 show with Glen Campbell.
Thus, Guyton is only the third Black person – and the first Black woman — to host either the ACMs or the CMAs.
In a statement, Guyton alluded to the history-making aspect of her hosting gig. “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.”
Urban is a triple ACM nominee this year. The New Zealand native has two nods in the music event of the year category for “One Too Many,” his collaboration with P!nk. In addition, he received a nod for his featured role on Thomas Rhett’s “Be a Light,” which also features McEntire, Hillary Scott and Chris Tomlin. Urban has won 15 ACM Awards, including the award two years ago for entertainer of the year.
“I’m beyond thrilled to be co-hosting with my friend Mickey,” said Urban. “I love that finally everyone will get to see her infectious energy and uber creative spirit in full light.”
The ACMs released a promotional video in which Urban ostensibly asks Guyton to be his hosting partner. The clips ends with Guyton dancing for joy and exclaiming, “I am co-hosting the ACMs with Keith Freakin’ Urban!”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 55th annual ACM Awards were postponed from April 5 to Sept. 16, 2020. This year’s ceremony will return to the show’s customary spring timetable but that means these two shows will be separated by just seven months.
In a statement, the ACM made clear that safety considerations remain top-of-mind. “The health and safety of the artists, fans, industry, staff and partners involved in the ACM Awards is the number one priority. All guidelines set forth by national, state and local health officials will be closely followed and implemented during the production along with additional safety measures to be instated by dick clark productions and the Academy of Country Music.”
The 56th annual ACM Awards will air April 18 from 8-11 p.m. (live ET/delayed PT) on CBS, and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
Assistance in preparing this story provided by Melinda Newman.
The ACM Awards are produced by dick clark productions, which is owned by P-MRC Media, the parent company of Billboard.