Monday country music fans will watch Mickey Guyton team with Grammy-nominated psychedelic soul duo Black Pumas at the 2022 CMT Music Awards. And while the pairing may seem unexpected to some, Black Puma member Eric Burton said that it makes sense when one considers the band's origins.
He explained that he and his duo partner, Grammy Award-winning guitarist, producer Adrian Quesada, didn't consider genre when creating their sound. They just knew what they liked: retro, vintage soul and hip hop. Before the band, Burton busked on the Santa Monica pier before moving to Austin, Texas, and started playing on the corner of 6th and Congress. The music, he said, was "quite folk."
"I loved Bob Dylan and Neil Young and the Beatles," he said. "I think that at the bare bones of the music, the songs started with just me and the guitar. To my knowledge, that's how a lot of country music and grassroots like blues and folk music got started. It's the same stuff; it's just dressed in a different external aesthetic."
Hosted by Kelsea Ballerini and actor Anthony Mackie, the 2022 CMT Music Awards will air 8 p.m. (ET) Monday on CBS.
But it's far from Black Pumas' first awards show. The duo was nominated for Best New Artist alongside Lizzo, Billie Eilish, and Lil Nas X at the 2020 Grammy Awards. Their self-titled debut album was nominated for Album of the Year, and their song "Colors" was up for Record of the Year at the 2021 Grammy Awards. They performed "Colors" at President Biden's 2021 inauguration.
But the idea of playing for country music fans transports Burton to a place of nostalgia.
"The feeling is like I'm sitting on top of my rooftop again, just myself and my acoustic guitar," he said. "It feels almost stripped down. It feels pure. It feels American."
A few years ago, Burton said, no one knew he existed unless they passed him on the pier or in the Los Angeles subway. He feels honored to have had the opportunity to grow his career from those humble beginnings to where he is today. Burton moved to Austin, Texas, when his music didn't take root in California. A mutual friend heard Quesada was in search of a collaborator and told him Burton was the best singer he'd ever heard. Quesada reached out, but Burton took his time responding. When he finally did, Burton sang to him over the phone, and the deal was sealed.
Multiple Grammy nominations later, the men are set to make their debut at the CMT Music Awards with Guyton. They've worked with Guyton before, and Black Pumas are excited to rekindle the creativity.
"We had done something together, and I thought she was absolutely brilliant, beautiful," Burton said. "We might have gotten put together for the music and the content of the songs chosen to be presented therein. With the political climate, our management and CMT got together and decided the collaboration was something the public needed to hear. I'm honored to be a part of such an organization on such a stage to say such a message I think that Mickey and Black Pumas really stand for. That's just unity and humanity for all people."