Michi Lynn Guess
Gig Seeker Pro

Michi Lynn Guess

Mantachie, Mississippi, United States | SELF

Mantachie, Mississippi, United States | SELF
Band Country Country


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Itawamba County woman is celebrating her citizenship"

MANTACHIE - Michi Guess is about as Southern American as they come.

Her thick, Southern accent has been refined on cornbread, pinto beans and turnip greens. Despite having been born in South Korea, the blood pumping from her heart through her veins is as red, white and blue as the flag itself.

At the Fireworks Festival last weekend, it was Guess' voice that capped off the night with an emotional rendition of the National Anthem. It came from deep down, deeper than many suspect, a voice pulled from years of private turmoil suddenly released in triumphant song. And with fireworks no less.

When she sang, it was the voice of America in its purest form. She knows what it's like to have her freedom questioned, nearly stripped away, and be told that she couldn't sing the anthem of the land she called home.

It all started 11 years ago with an attempt to visit her mother in Japan. Planning to travel with her husband, Guess learned when she attempted to secure her passport there was a problem with her citizenship. Turns out, she wasn't one, at least not legally.

Guess and her brother, both natives of South Korea, were brought to the U.S. at young ages and raised by their biological grandmother, Itawamba County's Exie Lesley. They were the products of the U.S. school system, raised and befriended by the people of Itawamba County. Since Guess was 4 years old, she called Itawamba County her home. The government didn't see things the same way.

The Guesses received a phone call asking them to visit the Memphis office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to fill out some paperwork.

"They called it a 'formality,'" husband Shay Guess said. "That 'formality' ended up being an arrest document for deportation."

The U.S. government immediately tried to arrest and deport her, despite the fact that she had lived in Mississippi since the age of 4, worked and paid taxes since she was old enough to do so and had been married to a U.S. citizen for more than four years. They wanted to send her "home."

"I was scared, terrified," she said of the moment. "In that building where we were, you saw all of these people of different ethnicities in chains. I was just sitting there wondering if they were going to arrest me. I didn't even know if I was going to be able to go home with my husband."

Since she had been in the United States for so long, the USCIS decided she wasn't a flight risk and let her go home.

She was forbidden by threat of arrest from singing the National Anthem or repeating the Pledge of Allegiance or from participating in any patriotic events.

Fight, not flight

First and foremost, the Guesses had to fight the deportation process. Michi Guess was to be sent back to South Korea, a country which, despite being her birthplace, was completely foreign to her. She didn't even speak a word of the language. It was a terrifying prospect.

The couple hired a Memphis lawyer to help fight the process. It took years and drained the Guesses of every dollar they had.

"The process emptied our entire life savings," she said. "It took everything we had."

After beating deportation, Michi Guess had to apply for her citizenship, prior to which she had to keep a green card for three years. Before receiving her citizenship, she was tested thoroughly, having to answer questions about the U.S. government that the average born-and-raised citizen likely couldn't answer.

"The thing that aggravates me is that I have been living here since I was 4 years old. I've been working since I was 15 years old, a hard worker, paying taxes, and then I was slapped with this," she said.

"We were mad at the government for a while," Shay Guess admitted, his wife nodding in agreement. "But you come to a point where you stop worrying about what you can't change. Your greatest victories come from your greatest battles. Faith had a lot to do with carrying us through it."

On Dec. 5, 2008, 10 years and buckets of tears later, Michi Guess was nationalized, an official U.S. citizen after years of being just that.

Since being told it was illegal, Michi Guess hadn't sung note one of the "Star Spangled Banner," keeping her patriotism tucked deep away in her chest. On July 3, she raised her voice in tribute to the country that cost her 10 years of her life, setting free that love of the United States she had every right to deny. The day before she sang, she smiled, and said that the song would be "coming from the heart."

"After getting my certificate of approval and actually becoming a United States citizen, it means everything to me," she said.

Contact Adam Armour at (662) 862-3141 or adam.armour@itawamba360.com. - North Ms Daily Journal / Itawamba County Times

"Mantachie songwriter takes home prize in Nashville contest"

Mantachie's Shay Guess has been writing songs since he was a kid.

"I've always made up songs, but at 12 years old I just started writing them down," Guess said, adding this initial step lead to countless others. "When I started writing them down, it just seemed like one song would lead right into another."

Now, more than two decades and dozens of songs later, Guess is finding some measure of success. In fact, his song, "They Think I'm Strong," was recently named second place winner in the eighth annual Nashville Songwriter's Festival. The song was played before a huge crowd of music lovers and studio executives on Music Row in Nashville and has earned its author a chance at a national prize.

Guess said it was his first attempt at submitting one of his song's for competition even though he's been penning and recording them for years.

"You can look around the county and find a lot of people who are gifted that nobody will ever know about," Guess said. "I was satisfied being one of them, but on a whim I just decided to see what will happen."

The songwriter said he was extremely surprised at the results of the contest.

"I really wasn't expecting much, to be honest," he said. "I've tried to shop this song to a couple of artists before entering it into the songwriting competition, and it just really wasn't in their mode of what they were doing."


"They Think I'm Strong," like most of Guess' songs, pulls its inspiration from real-life events. It's a mid-tempo, country/folk piece with a focus on piano and emotional vocals performed by the author himself.

Guess said the song was inspired by a family member's struggle.

"You've got people in your life who you know are strong; anything that hits them, they can pretty much take it. But, at some point they just reach a breaking point," Guess said, adding that a painful phone conversation with an uncle who was emotionally drained by a loved one's sickness inspired the piece.

"As soon as I hung up the phone, the only thing I could do to kind of gather myself was sit down at my keyboard. I wrote this song in about 25 minutes, word-for-word."

Guess said it actually took years to sit down and cut the vocals, however, because it was such a difficult, emotional song to sing. Personal and powerfully stated, the song is an important one to its author, even if it hadn't performed well at competition. Guess said he writes because he loves it not because of any lust for fame.

"Songwriting was just something I could do that seemed to come easy to me," Guess said. "Then people started taking notice and now here we are: second place in the first songwriting contest I've ever entered."

After Nashville

"You don't get paid too much in gospel," Guess said, shrugging. He claimed to have had some measure of success recently with some of his songs being featured on the albums of rising gospel and country groups. Guess said, in a way, this is payment enough.

"You just get your name out there," he said. "My songs used to be like babies to me. I was afraid if I let somebody listen to them, they would say something about them and make me mad. But, I've learned that a song is really not yours to keep; it's yours to share."

Sharing songs has provided Guess with innumerable rewards. He said there's something special about hearing someone else perform a song you wrote, a kind of spark that lights an internal fire.

"I've traveled with some of these groups who have recorded my music. You show up, don't know anyone from Adam, and they start singing a song you wrote and everybody in the building is singing along with them because they have the CD," Guess said. "You remember where you were and what you were thinking when you wrote the song, and to have this whole congregation singing along with you ... it's pretty awesome."

To hear Guess' prize-winning song "They Think I'm Strong," visit americansongspace.com/shayguess or itawamba360.com.

Read more: itawamba360.com - Mantachie songwriter takes home prize in Nashville contest
- Itawamba County Times





Michi's story is heart-wrenching but inspiring. At 2 she was placed in a Korean orphanage, adopted by an American Air Force Soldier and his Japanese wife; lost her dad at 4 and was sent to the U.S. to live with her grandmother. She learned to speak English singing Southern Gospel and church hymnals. When she was 6 years old recorded her very first LP with Tom T. Hall. She has traveled and sang every weekend since she was 6 years old. At 16 years old her grandmother died leaving her and her 13 year old brother to be separated. She maintained her spiritual life and sang gospel music and it shows by the passion in her tone. 1999 brought about another challenge in her life when she found out that she wasn't a citizen and a battle that lasted until 2008 to clear her from being deported back to Korea. Shay & Michi traveled to Japan in 2009 to visit Michi's mom after having not seen her in 30 years.

Michi's musical influences are the Judd's even though Michi started singing before they were famous she often states that something about them changed her. Michi's talent relates to that of both Naomi and Wynona rolled into one package.

Michi is married to singer/songwriter Shay Guess who wrote a winning song for the 8th annual Songwriters festival in Nashville. The couple are amazing together but Michi clearly shines brighter when taking the lyrics and melodies supplied by Shay - their marriage is truly a work of art.