Kacey Musgraves

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Kacey Musgraves bends country tradition to her will, writing songs that evoke the sound of classic country but are infused with progressive ideas reflecting her millennial perspective. “Merry Go Round” and “Follow Your Arrow,” the big singles from her 2013 major-label debut, Same Trailer Different Park, crystallized this gift and established Musgraves as a major voice in country music who could cross over to a rock audience without playing pop. By the end of the decade, she expanded her musical horizons so they mirrored her expansive lyrical stance, a shift showcased on the critically acclaimed 2018 album Golden Hour, which was distinguished by how she blended retro-pop affectations with atmospheric modern electronics. Golden Hour unexpectedly won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2019, turning Musgraves into a cross-genre superstar in the process, a status she consolidated with its melancholy and stylish 2021 sequel, Star-Crossed. After a high-profile duet on Zach Bryan’s 2023 hit “I Remember Everything,” Musgraves returned early the next year with the folky and somewhat inward-looking Deeper Well. Born and raised in the East Texas town of Golden, Kacey Musgraves began writing songs when she was just eight years old, not long after she picked up a mandolin. By 12, she knew how to play guitar and began to write her own songs, teaming with Alina Tatum as Texas Two Bits for a self-released album called Little Bit of Texas in 2000. Throughout her adolescence, she’d write, sing, and play, performing at local festivals on occasion and releasing a series of independent albums — Movin' On (2002), Wanted: One Good Cowboy (2003), and Kacey Musgraves (2007) — along the way. After graduating high school, Musgraves moved to Austin, where she would sing on songwriting demos while working on music of her own. She also took a stab at the televised musical competition Nashville Star, appearing on the fifth installment of the CMT series; she was eliminated four weeks into the season, placing seventh overall. Her appearance, along with her independent recordings, eventually attracted the attention of major labels, and she signed with Mercury Nashville in 2012. By the end of the year, she had supported Lady Antebellum on tour and released a debut single, “Merry Go ’Round.” In March 2013, the song peaked at number ten on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, setting up the release of her full-length debut, Same Trailer Different Park — which also arrived that March — quite nicely. Produced by Shane McAnally, Luke Laird, and Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park debuted at number two on Billboard’s Top 200, earned positive reviews, and spawned two additional hit singles (“Blowin’ Smoke,” “Follow Your Arrow”) on its way to a gold certification. The album snagged the Academy of Country Music Award for Album of the Year, and Grammy Awards for Best Country Album and Best Country Song (“Merry Go ’Round”). The success of Same Trailer Different Park helped position Musgraves as one of the hottest stars in country music, raising expectations for her second album, Pageant Material. Arriving in June 2013, the album debuted at number three on the Top 200, but the record stalled out on the country charts; its lead single, “Biscuits,” peaked at number 41 on the Country Airplay chart, and “Dime Store Cowgirl” never made that chart. Musgraves released the cheerfully retro A Very Kacey Christmas in October 2016, then set to work on her third album of original material in 2017. Produced by Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, 2018′s Golden Hour boasted a sleek, modern sheen that sounded more contemporary than either of its predecessors, capturing fans in the pop and indie realms. The critically acclaimed crossover set went on to top numerous year-end lists and, in early 2019, won Album of the Year at the 61st Grammy Awards. In addition to that top honor, she also won for Best Country Album, Best Country Song (“Space Cowboy”), and Best Country Solo Performance (“Butterflies”). In the wake of her wins, “Rainbow” was pulled as the fifth single from Golden Hour; it made it to 33 on Country Airplay and 98 on the Billboard Hot 100. At the end of 2019, Musgraves celebrated the holiday season with The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show, a tongue-in-cheek television special for Amazon Prime that also had its audio track released as an album. The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show album peaked at 120 on Billboard. During 2020, Musgraves indulged in a number of cameos, appearing on American Head by the Flaming Lips and on Shape & Destroy, the second album by her husband, Ruston Kelly. The pair fell in love during the creation of Golden Hour and married in October 2017. By the time Shape & Destroy saw release in August 2020, the couple filed for divorce. Musgraves chronicled the dissolution of their marriage on Star-Crossed, the follow-up to Golden Hour. Released in September 2021, Star-Crossed found Musgraves reuniting with Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian, the co-producers of Golden Hour, for a contemplative, atmospheric record that expanded upon the genre-bending aesthetic of her Grammy-winning breakthrough. It topped the country charts and reached number three on the Billboard 200. Musgraves scored another hit in 2023, dueting with Zach Bryan on his platinum-selling hit “I Remember Everything.” She also collaborated with Noah Kahan on his single “She Calls Me Back” and in early 2024 contributed a cover of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” to the 2024 Marley biopic One Love. During this time, she had been recording at Electric Ladyland studios with Fitchuk and Tashian, working on songs that delved into folkier, more introspective territory than in the recent past while also making space for the occasional glittering moment of modern pop. Titled Deeper Well, the record was released in March of 2024, after which she embarked on a world tour that would last throughout the year. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine