DIARY - 9 JULY 2013 - KACEY MUSGRAVES FEATURE
MUSGRAVES - SMALL TOWN TALES HIT BIG TIME
hooked on Mary Kay/ brother's hooked on Mary Jane/ and Daddy's hooked
on Mary two doors down/ if you ain't got two kids by twenty-one/ you're
probably gonna die alone." - Merry Go Round - Kacey Musgraves-Josh
Kacey Musgraves is riding in the same posse as The Pistol Annies and other
hard riding divas fanning the storms of change.
She may be 53 years younger than Tom T Hall but she broke into mainstream
radio with a song that shares sentiments with the latter day bluegrass
maestro's classic Harper Valley PTA.
Musgraves, 24, charted with her debut single Merry Go 'Round -
a riveting reflection of licentious life not behind closed doors in a
The video debuts on Nu Country TV this Saturday - July 13.
Her debut album Same Trailer Different Park topped the Billboard
country charts in its first week and was #2 on the all genre Top 200 behind
It was a huge catapult for the singer who grew up in Golden - a sweet-potato-growing
country town of about 600 people due east of Dallas.
That's 20 miles northwest of Lindale - hometown of Miranda Lambert with
whom she wrote recent Lambert hit Mama's Broken Heart.
She also shared a Nashville Star reality show pit-stop with Lambert.
"I talk about Merry Go 'Round being inspired by growing up
in a small town, but really it's like, the cycle of life, that inspired
it," Musgraves revealed.
"I guess it's more see-through in a small town, just because there's
less to do and all you have to do is focus on yours and everyone else's
problems, mainly everyone else's. It always starts with something autobiographical.
Some piece of it is something that struck something in me or something
that I thought would make a cool subject matter for a song. But I feel
like there is a character somehow - like all of my songs are coming from
the point of view of the same girl. So that may be me as a character,
or that may be the mindset of the young lady that I am now. It could be
totally different a year from now, I think.
You don't have to be from a small town to relate to it because it's not
just about that. It's also about life and fulfilling your parents' expectations
and leaving your own on the back burner. Some people unfortunately have
to do that, then later regret it. It's like this whole cycle - their kids
learn that from them. But it is what it is. I'm just observing. I don't
ever want people to think I'm preaching at them or wearing them out. It's
just something that I observed and that I'm pointing out. And it's not
coming from an outside or inside viewpoint. I'm just saying, this is how
it is. And if that's you, cool. If not, cool. Whatever."
you save yourself for marriage you're a bore/ if you don't save yourself
for marriage/ you're a whore-able person/ if you won't have a drink/ then
you're a prude/ but they'll call you a drunk/ as soon as you down the
first one." - Follow Your Arrow - Kacey Musgraves-Brandy Clark-Shane
playing mandolin as her first instrument before she was a teenager - because
of the size of her hands.
"The mandolin was just a better fit because it's small and the fret
board is small," Musgraves recalled.
"And when I was 10 my little hands couldn't really reach around a
guitar yet. A family down the road from my house in Texas had five kids,
and they all played a million different instruments. So their youngest
one, she was 16, started giving me lessons. I switched to the guitar when
I was 12, and now I'm 24 so I've been playing half my life."
Musgraves newfound fame is the ultimate leap of faith from travelling
across Texas in her grandparents' minivan.
"They were huge pieces of that puzzle, helping me, paying for guitar
lessons, putting rhinestones on shirts or driving me 14 hours to a show.
It was never a burden."
She made her public singing debut in church at 8, wrote her first song
at 9 and while in junior school became a regular on the Texas Opry circuit.
One of 10 acts on Saturday nights, she'd take the stage in a fringed cowgirl
get-up to sing a couple of classics - I Want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart
and Your Cheating Heart.
Then she'd sign pictures for the senior citizens who made up most of the
"All through sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth grade," she says.
"I'd be doing this on weekends while my friends were going to dances."
She also took lessons from John Defoore, who taught at the old Beckam
Hotel in Mineola, Texas, and also tutored Lambert and Michelle Shocked.
Musgraves credits him with introducing her to the art of song craft.
"I didn't know how useful that would be down the road, but it totally
set me up for what I'm doing now," Musgraves recalled.
"I think he knew I wasn't the kind of student who was going to go
home and shred on scales. Instead, I wrote a new song every week and brought
it back to him. Four years of that really helped me find my voice."
Musgraves graduated from high school at 17 and headed for Austin and roomed
with Lambert's younger brother, Luke.
The Lambert and Musgraves families have known each other for years.
She released three albums independently before she was 18 and finished
seventh on Nashville Star.
"I knew that Nashville was going to happen sometime but that it couldn't
be right away," Musgraves revealed of her talent quest challenge.
"I had to move away in pieces to get on my own feet. I'm glad that
I did it, and I'm also glad that I didn't get further than I did, because
that can really brand you, or stain you.
I wanted a fresh start."
Not long after hitting Music City she took a gig playing children's birthday
She'd dress as Cinderella or Ariel, sing a song, paint some faces, and
Kacey borrowed from David Allan Coe and told her employers to take this
job and shove it when they asked her to dress as a French maid to deliver
balloons to a birthday party at a fancy downtown steakhouse.
"This sounded sketchy," she recalled.
"A week later I found out the gig was Blake Shelton's birthday. Everybody
I'd worked with, or would have hoped to work with one day, would have
been there. I would have never lived it down."
Janie got divorced again/ her ex-husband's in the Pen/ with 2 to 5 or
5 to 10 or longer, yea/ and Brenda's trading smokes for cake/ still hadn't
lost that baby weight/ and that baby's bout to graduate from college."
- Blowing Smoke - Kacey Musgrave-Luke Laird-Shane McAnally.
second single Blowing Smoke, accompanied by a video that we
feature on Nu Country TV in August, is written from the perspective
of a group of waitresses on a smoke break talking trash.
Although Kacey hasn't been a waitress like the one she plays in the
video she knows a thing or two about exhaustion after shooting the
Besides taking all day to film, Kacey took a side trip to tape an
appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that day, too.
"I got to set at 6 a.m. and shot until about noon," Musgraves
I went over to Ellen, sang Blowin' Smoke on Ellen. I actually went
to Ellen in my waitress uniform. And then I left after that and came right
back to the video set and shot until about 9 at night. It was such a long
day, I was so worn out I couldn't even think straight. I'm so happy with
how it turned out!"
Musgraves says a narrative thread from her Texas roots runs through much
of her writing.
"I came from that, but I also moved away from it," she added.
"So I see both sides and I can appreciate both. And I'm not dogging
people that still feel that way. It's just time for somebody to be a realist
Musgraves writing preceded her recording - she wrote Lambert's hit Mama's
Broken Heart, Undermine from ABC TV show Nashville soundtrack,
When You Love a Sinner for Martina McBride and There's a Person
There for fellow Texan Lee Ann Womack.
Universal gave Kacey plenty of creative control - she worked with her
younger sister on album art and wrote every track on her debut.
Musgraves admits she doesn't have a lot of straight love songs and admits
it's more difficult to write now that she's in a happy relationship.
"It hurts a little when you get thrown in the angry Southern chick
singer box," Musgraves says.
"I'm not angry. Really, I'm not. I draw inspiration from everywhere.
So a lot of what I write is what's happened to me, but I get ideas from
observing others, too. Lately, it's funny because I almost need to be
depressed sometimes to get good material. It's hard to write when you're
really happy so I'll ask a co-writer, 'Please tell me about the terrible
parts of your relationship.' I draw inspiration from everywhere. I try
to go back to times when I wasn't real happy - and draw from that."
lots of noise / kiss lots of boys / or kiss lots of girls / if that's
something you're into / when the straight and narrow gets a little too
straight / roll up a joint or don't / and follow your arrow wherever it
points." - Follow Your Arrow - Kacey Musgraves -Brandy Clark-Shane
is a realist about diverse topics in her writing and believes the genre
is ready for her kind of honesty, especially in Follow Your Arrow
- one of nine songs penned with prolific gay Nashville songwriter and
co-producer Shane McAnally.
talks about pot, it talks about homosexuality, and obviously for country
music that's a very taboo subject," Musgrave says.
"I'm going to ruffle some feathers, but I would almost rather
weed out the people who are not going to be my fans because of that,
in the beginning, than give them some rosy idea of who I'm not, and
then release that later."
< Shane McAnally
acclaimed by Rolling Stone in the new millennia vanguard with the Pistol
Annies - especially Ashley Monroe and Lambert - believes she has age and
culture on her side.
"There are some older people in there," Musgraves concedes.
"But I think the majority is younger, and they're outspoken. I think
Whatever they're feeling when they hear my music, they're liking enough
to be really loud about it. At first, I was like, there's going to be
backlash. I know a lot of people don't really agree with those things,
especially in the South. But there's actually a lot less criticism towards
that song than I imagined. I'll play it at shows where there's a huge
age range of people and even the older people are getting into it. More
than anything, even if they don't agree with the girls kissing girls thing
or even the drug reference, I would hope that they would agree that no
matter what we all should be able to love who we want to love and live
how we want to live."
The song focuses primarily on hypocrisy of society, opening with, "If
you save yourself for marriage you're a bore/if you don't save yourself
for marriage you're a horrible person."
"It's actually been really fun playing that one and seeing people's
reaction when they hear the first line," she admits, referring to
the assumption made after that long pause between the first and second
syllable in horrible.
you don't go to church/ you'll go to hell/ if you're the first one on
the front row/ you're self-righteous son of a-/ can't win for losing/
you'll just disappoint 'em/ just 'cause you can't beat 'em/ don't mean
you should join 'em." - Follow Your Arrow - Kacey Musgraves -Brandy
edgy lyrics earned her the rebel label.
"That makes me laugh," Kacey says.
"I've heard the word outlaw and stuff. I'm just me. I naturally
go against the grain of what's been out there previously. That's the
only word that they want to throw at it or something."
Kacey refuses to censor herself as a writer, having co-written every
song on her album.
"I feel like that's kind of what country music is lacking,"
we are wanting to progress and change as a genre, I don't think we should
be scared of taboo subjects. Every other genre gets to sing about them;
why can't we? I mean, if I listen to a record, I'm not seeing the person.
So it doesn't really matter to me what they look like. I mean, I guess
it does to other people," she revealed.
She admits she likes to dress up and look attractive, but adds, "Overall
I think that I'm not here just to look pretty. Or I don't wanna be. I
want the other side of it to come first, and then if people think I'm
hot, then awesome."
The songs belie her age and speak of precocious wisdom by tackling controversial
"It feels like it's the only way to do it, to make music. I would
much rather bring to light real, almost disturbing issues and have somebody
go, 'Damn, I'm not alone' than just skate over it."
SAME TRAILER DIFFERENT PARK
hurt in every heart/ same trailer, different park." - Merry Go
Round - Kacey Musgraves-Josh Osborne-Shane McAnally.
didn't have a problem with finding her album title.
"I didn't ever want it to be too obvious of a title," Musgraves
"I like to make people think a little bit. I thought the title of
Merry Go 'Round was a little too one-dimensional, and I obviously
didn't want it to be Kacey Musgraves. I just liked that line: "Same
hurt in every heart/ same trailer, different park."
"It kind of means "same shit, different day." We're all
the same, though we may look different or live in different places. But
we're all driven by the same emotions. It may mean something different
to different people, but I just like the trailer theme. I ended up having
a couple of songs referencing trailers, so it just kind of fit."
So why the fascination with trailers?
"Oh, I don't know," she says.
"Maybe it's because it's the first house I lived in when my parents
brought me home from the hospital. I didn't necessarily grow up in a trailer
park, but there is a brief part of that in my life. So I can make fun
of it a little bit. I'm not too much of an outsider, where I'm just making
fun of someone.
"That culture is interesting to me. It's pretty transient. There
are people always moving in and out. There's always drama, just like any
other neighborhood. I like the fact that it's a big metal box that people
can move around. It's pretty wild. That's really an American thing. They
don't have that in other countries."
IS WHAT IT IS
I ain't got no one sleeping with me/ and you ain't got nowhere that you
need to be/ maybe I love you, maybe I'm just kind of bored/ it is what
it is till it ain't anymore." - It Is What It Is - Kacey Musgraves-
Luke Laird- Brandy Clark.
Texan cites John Prine, Patty Griffin, Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack,
Ray Wylie Hubbard and Loretta Lynn among her primary influences.
"I like anyone with something to say," she explains.
"Loretta was writing stuff that was pretty ahead of its time,
like The Pill and Rated X. She pushed a lot of buttons and I love
that. I don't make music based on what radio would like. My favorite
kind of songs are clever without sounding like they're supposed to
be clever. Especially if they sound traditional but push the envelope
a little in the message they're conveying.""
Musgraves walks the line between tradition and insurgency in It Is
What It Is - a song that's both deeply felt and clever.
like an old-fashioned weeper in slow waltz time with a steel guitar accentuating
But the song is not a weeper - it's a love song about friends with benefits,
country music for the hookup generation.
"If the lyrics are something new, then maybe I want to give it a
more traditional form," she said, "or the other way around,
but not have all one or the other."
The singer said her grandmother, who served as her first booking agent
and sewed rhinestones on her cowgirl suits cried when Musgraves had her
nose pierced and sang about a casual relationship in the song.
Kacey said her grandmother called it "the Slut Song."
"She's like, 'my friends are gonna hear you say these things,' and
I'm like, 'Nana, it's my career to mess up,'" the singer explains.
"And not to be rude, but she's not my demographic."
It wasn't the choice for the next single, but It Is What It Is exemplifies
the new-order/old-school hybrid Musgraves tries to wed without resorting
to faux imagery.
"It's crazy to me that there are people that see the nose ring and
think it makes me a heathen," she says.
"I guess they think you have to look country to sing country music.
Well, I spent a whole childhood looking like country music."
needs a house up on a hill/ when you can have one on four wheels/ and
take it anywhere the wind might blow/ you don't ever have to mow the yard/
just hang a map and throw a dart/ and pray to God the engine starts and
go/ water and electric and a place to drain the septic." - My
House - Kacey Musgraves-Josh Osborne-Shane McAnally.
of Musgraves music has resonated as far afield as Australia.
I Miss You is a love song, Step Off is a tell-off tune,
Stupid is an anti-love song, and My House is a fun ditty
that shows her affinity for having a home on four wheels.
"I love words," Kacey says.
"I love how intricate they can get. Even in simple conversation,
I like it when language is colorful. When I was in school, one of my favorite
subjects was always creative writing."
Publisher Steve Markland teamed her with prolific hit writers Luke Laird
"The first time we got together, we wrote Blowin' Smoke,"
She felt the demos nailed the sound she was looking for so she produced
the album with them.
"We had been producing all our demos together and I loved the way
those came out," Kacey revealed.
"We seemed to be on the same page so Shane signed up to take on a
Laird soon followed.
"We just like being around each other and that's half the battle.
I'm really happy that it came together organically, not the label saying,
'Here, you need to work with this producer. He's well known, he's had
lots of hits.'"
Musgraves signed her original deal with Luke Lewis' imprint Lost Highway.
Lewis offered her a chance to be herself - if she failed at least she
knew she was being true.
"I had the free reign to completely be who I wanted to be creatively,"
"Unfortunately Lewis left. Mike Dungan came in and I was already
way down the road on my project, so it wasn't like he could come in and
start changing things. We already had the license to do that."
So what about her writing goals?
"A lot of what gets on the radio isn't saying anything other than
somebody wants to be famous and will do whatever they're told to get it,"
"I don't make music based on what radio would like. I'd rather have
100,000 people who really get what I'm doing and like it for what it is
than a million who can take it or leave it." When I pointed out that
she could have said 10 or 100, rather than 100,000, she laughed and said:
"Well, I do want to connect. That's what this is all about."
As a musician she hopes fans take away plenty from her songs.
"I hope that they feel something," Musgraves says.
"I'm all for catchy songs. I love it - something to have in the background
that you can sing along to. But hopefully they take the time to actually
listen to the lyrics to make them think a little bit or open some minds
up. I hope that they see that I'm influenced by a huge range of things.
Not just country. So I hope that people who don't like country might appreciate
up on the wrong side of rock bottom/ if you're ever gonna find a silver
lining/ it's gotta be a cloudy day" - Silver Lining - Kacey Musgraves-Josh
Lining is a realistic song about optimism.
It reflects her ability to reach, at just 24, so many dreams she
had as a kid.
Musgraves credits Taylor Swift with opening up the genre to younger
and more open-minded listeners.
Swift, she says, brings in "a huge group of people who are
gay, and loud and proud about it, and that hasn't been catered to
yet. Not that I just want to cater to it. I just want to show them
some love. Why can't we talk about you? You're a real person, you're
in a real relationship, and I'm tired of people acting like it's
not, just because of their religious beliefs. It's not fair."
her admiration for Swift she is realistic about the transience of
they're all looking for the next Taylor Swift," Musgraves said recently.
"Then someone else is gonna come along and create a new normal, when
in reality they should probably be looking for something different altogether."
Musgraves resisting the pressure to cut a record too soon after her arrival
"I'm so glad that I waited and didn't push anything, because I wouldn't
have the songs that I have now, and the point of view and the relationships
I have now," Musgraves explained.
"I did the right thing, I went by my gut. I try to make all my decisions
like that and it's never really steered me wrong. The making of this record
was such a fun and meaningful time for me. As a writer, singer and producer
I learned so much throughout the whole process. This album came from a
very real and inspired place in my brain and heart."
But she is already working on her challenges.
"It's insane. I've gotten to check so many big things off my bucket
list," she said.
"But I want to be around for a long time, so it's a little scary
to be checking these things off my bucket list already. I'm like, 'Wait,
wait, wait. I'm cool with doing that in five years. I'm willing to work
That includes opening for Little Big Town and now the stadium circuit
with Tennessean superstar Kenny Chesney.
The early days of flatbed stages and broken sound systems pale in faded
memory when she steps out into places like Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
"I always equate things to the size of my hometown," Musgrave
"I don't know why. I went to school down the road in Mineola, and
the population is five, almost six thousand, so when I picture a stadium
that has 70,000 people in it, I'm like, that is so many of my hometowns
squished into one place."
But despite the size of venues she still believes she will connect with
her story songs.
"My songs, I feel like you have to listen to every word to get what
I'm saying," she added.
"A full band is not something I feel like I had to have. I can get
my point across with just a guitar. It's going to be a challenge to take
what I do and not make it cheesy, but also reach the person in the back
of the stadium. I don't strut the stage, but I'm going to have to compromise
a little. You have to."
Musgraves is the only woman performing on Kenny Chesney's summer tour
but she credits Chesney for making her feel at home.
"There don't seem to be any weird walls around him that it seems
like a lot of famous people have."
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