The Greening of Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves, the new queen among the kings in Nashville.

This article was originally posted on Feb. 4, 2014 after Kacey Musgraves picked up Grammys for Best Country Album (Same Trailer Different Park) and Best Country Song ("Merry Go 'Round"). Nearly five years later, on Feb. 10, 2019, she won four more Grammys, including Album of the Year for Golden Hour, at the 2019 award show.

After viewing the 2014 Grammy awards, you might be wondering what all the hubbub is over the country chick wearing the lampshade dress with the light-up boots. Well, she's Celebstoner Kacey Musgraves and it appears that Taylor Swift needs to move it on over because Musgraves is the new "Golden Gal" in the country music community. The east Texas native is flying high after taking 2013 by storm and now making big waves early in 2014 by picking up two Grammy awards. 

Before Musgraves blossomed into a country starlet, she was just a normal Texan with big dreams of becoming a country music star. Born on August 21, 1988, she spent her first couple of years living in a bright yellow trailer with sticker burrows all over the yard in the small town of Golden, located about 80 miles east of Dallas. Musgraves' parents ran a print shop in nearby Mineola and encouraged her to follow her dreams. By age eight, she was singing in public. Musgraves wrote her first song when she was only nine, at 10 picked up the mandolin and at 12 started taking guitar lessons from local musician John DeFoore (he taught Miranda Lambert how to play guitar as well). Starting in junior high, Musgraves would cut her teeth on the weekends playing Western Swing tunes on the Texas Opry circuit, dressing in the typical Dale Evans cowgirl regalia. 

In high school, Musgraves was the quiet rebel, donning a short haircut and embracing the emo lifestyle. "Old-school country can be hard to relate to at that age," she says. "That's when I stumbled into knowing that I could have music that came from somewhere inside of me instead of singing someone else's story, and that seemed so much more appealing." This epiphany compelled her to write songs she could relate to.

Upon graduating from high school, Musgraves headed southwest to plant her roots in Austin, where the stars would eventually align for Musgraves and she was first discovered by indie label, Triple Pop, for whom she recorded two songs, "Apologize" and "See You Again." She became a staff writer for the label, allowing her to really hone her writing skills. While living in the capitol city, Musgraves played solo acoustic gigs around town and, at times, sang back-up vocals for Radney Foster.

Kacey Musgraves on "Follow Your Arrow": "Roll up a joint/ I would."

By 2007, Musgraves had independently released three full-length albums - Movin' On on CD Baby and Wanted: One Good Cowboy and Kacey Musgraves on Independent - coupled with a three-week stint on USA Networks' singing competition, Nashville Star. In 2008, she left Austin for Nashville to fully pursue songwriting. Arriving in Music City at the age of 19, Musgraves cut demos to pay the rent. The songs floated around Music Row, soon earned her a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell and she became friends with country crooners Shane McAnally and Luke Laird, who would co-produce her fourth album. With McAnally and Laird as her co-pilots, she cut four tracks and shopped them around. Several labels were interested; she chose Lost Highway, which is now defunct.

In the winter of 2011, Musgraves went to a songwriters' retreat in Strawn, TX, which produced what would become the lead single, "Merry Go Round," for Same Trailer Different Park. A high tune about the stigmas of small town USA, the song's chorus goes:

"Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay/ Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane/ And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down."

By the spring of 2012, recording of the album was complete and that summer she did a long string of Texas dates with Willie Nelson. In the fall, she went out on the road with Alison Krauss and even managed to squeeze in a few European dates with Lady Antebellum. On Sept. 10, "Merry Go Round" was released to country radio. It was her first song to chart on Billboard, reaching No. 14 on the Hot Country Singles chart. Musgraves was now an artist to be taken seriously. With the single gaining ground, she prepared for the album’s release on the Mercury Nashville major label on March 19, 2013. Same Trailer Different Park debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, selling 42,000 copies in its first week. It also entered at No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart.

She hit the road with Little Big Town, did a stadium tour with Kenny Chesney and finished the year by headlining her own tour that included dates abroad. Two more singles followed: "Blowin' Smoke" and another high tune, "Follow Your Arrow," which is about being a free spirit when she sings:

"Roll up a joint, I would."

To top it all off, Musgraves was nominated for three ACMs, six CMAs, four ACAs and four Grammys. Even though she lost most of the country award nominations, Musgraves shocked the country-music establishment by winning two Grammy Awards, one for Best Country Song and then beating out Taylor Swift for Best Country Album.

Musgraves is doing it her way and so far that's worked. In a genre that's full of cookie-cutter sell-outs, she's stuck to her guns. Somewhere along the way, Musgraves started experimenting with marijuana. "Well, I don't want to make any incriminating statements," she says. "But I'm all for people doing what they want to do… Those things aren't controversial in my world but they are in the world controversial." These statements, plus the fact that in her song “John Prine” her idea of heaven "is to burn one with John Prine" indicates that does indeed use cannabis. Either way, Kacey Musgraves is here to stay; she's the new queen among the kings.

Patrick Hall

Patrick Hall

Hosts the afternoon show on Z-107.5 in Ruston, LA and 'The Patrick and Mountain Man Show' on Monday afternoons.