Kacey Musgraves tells it like it is.
Kacey grew up in Golden, Texas, a town of 600 about 80 miles east of Dallas that Kacey admits is “kind of out in the middle of nowhere.” She grew up in a household that was creative, though not necessarily musical. Kacey’s mother is a visual artist; together, her parents run a print shop in nearby Mineola – “a little mom-and-pop Kinko’s kind of thing.”
Music came naturally to Kacey, a precocious kid who wrote her first song well before her elementary school graduation. (“It was called ‘Notice Me,’” she remembers. “I can’t help but wonder now what the hell a nine-year-old would’ve had to write about!”) Kacey made her public singing debut at church when she was around eight years old. From there, she hit the regional opry circuit. “In Texas, every few towns have an opry house,” she explains. “Performers come up on stage and sing old country songs with a live band. I did that every weekend. It got me familiar with being in front of people and working with musicians.”
To make money, she sang on other artists’ demos. The work allowed her to pay the bills and introduced the industry to her voice and songs. “I went around to all the publishing companies with little EP type things,” she says. “I was, like, ‘Hey, you might need a new voice for demos…and also, these happen to be my songs.’” Kacey soon had a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell. “I developed a real passion for the construction of songs and probably wrote a couple hundred during that time, putting aside the ones that felt the most like me.”
There was some early label interest, and Kacey was booked on a few sessions with some well-known producers but it wasn’t really her thing. “What we did sounded like them, not me,” she explains. “It just wasn’t the right time yet. If you only get one shot to say something, it better be exactly what you want to say from the beginning, you know?” She stepped back. “I spent time developing my own mindset, writing more songs and honing in on how I wanted to sound. As that became more apparent, I ran with it.”
During this formidable time, Kacey met Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, two like-minded writers who quickly became her good friends and later co-producers on Same Trailer Different Park. By 2011, the three had laid the foundation for what would become Kacey’s debut. With McAnally and Laird as her co-pilots, Kacey cut four tracks and shopped them around. Several labels were interested; she chose Lost Highway, which is now defunct. “I'm sad it’s not around anymore,” she says. “When I met (founder) Luke Lewis, he told me, ‘I dig what you do. I'll never try to get you to change what you're doing. Even if it fails, you’ll know that at least you got to do what you wanted.’ That spoke volumes to me.”
Kacey, who co-wrote every song on the album, enjoys a collaborative songwriting process. “When a co-write is going well, and all brains are working in the right way, it's like a good volley in a volleyball game - boom, boom, boom, boom,” she says. “‘Merry Go Round’ was written in a few hours. It went really fast.” The lyrics to the song, which boasts a chorus that goes Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay/ Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane/ And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down, came from a conversation the writers had about the uneasy complacency and day-in deceptions that take place in even the most placid-seeming communities. “We started talking about how towns have secrets and how people everywhere are guilty of filling their parent’s expectations, settling, and never leaving their comfort zones,” Kacey says.
Kacey spent the summer of 2012 touring. “I opened some shows for Willie Nelson in Texas,” she says. “Down there, that’s like Jesus coming back, you know? It was amazing.” In the fall, she did a stint in the U.S. with Alison Krauss before heading to Europe with Lady Antebellum. She returned in time for the September 10th release of “Merry Go ‘Round.” It was a hit – and a big one at that.
“Merry Go ‘Round” garnered quick airplay and critical acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone (the magazine later placed the song in its vaunted list of the top 50 singles of the year); NPR, which named her their 2012 Best New Artist (all genre); and Slate, where the headline above a rave review of Kacey’s work read “Is This the Future of Country Music?” Billboard took a different track, looking to the past to qualify its praise: “Had Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton arrived on the scene in 2012 instead of the 1960s, some of their compositions could very well have ended up sounding like this.”
Same Trailer Different Park