Kacey Musgraves is not your average country artist. In a sea of arguably formulaic songs about trucks, beer, and scorned ex-lovers, the singer-songwriter has transcended genre by melding her classic country croon with modern social issues like toxic masculinity, cannabis, casual sex, and LGBTQ+ acceptance. She’s as comfortable walking the CMA Awards red carpet — and taking home a handful of prizes — as she is jumping around on stage with rock singers like Paramore’s Hayley Williams. Plus, the girl’s got style.
Musgraves’ fresh attitude has landed her six Grammy Awards, including one for Album of the Year, which went to 2018’s Golden Hour. The LP — which is heralded as her first genuine, mainstream crossover — garnered a rare 8.7 score on Pitchfork. This is especially poignant when you consider the fact that the Chicks, who are largely considered the pioneers of rebellious, female-led country, only got a 7.0 for Gaslighter, their first album in 14 years.
Still, Musgraves wouldn’t consider herself a “rebel” or “outlaw,” as she’s frequently labeled (via Vanity Fair). “These are just songs about real s**t,” she told the magazine. But what actually is Kacey Musgraves’ “real s**t”? Here’s some stuff you might not know about the Nashville-based artist.
She was voted most likely to be famous
Ever wonder what happens to people who win high school superlatives? Sometimes they actually become what everyone thinks they’ll become — and Musgraves apparently had star power from the start. According to The Guardian, she was voted “Most Likely to Become Famous” in high school, and we all know how that turned out, but it didn’t happen overnight. The singer-songwriter also held a number of odd jobs when she was trying to make it in music and lived in a shared house with two roommates, one of which she found on Craigslist.
In an interview with CMT, the Texas-bred singer revealed that her first technical job in Nashville was “singing demos for writers,” but she also entertained at children’s birthday parties before quitting when her bosses asked her to dress up like a French maid and “sit on the birthday boy’s lap.”
“I only did it once or twice,” she told CMT. “I signed up because I thought I could be Cinderella or Ariel or something like that. But I ended up having to be Hannah Montana. They’d be like, ‘This is the party, this is the time, this is the character they’re requesting.’ The kids would be trying to pull my wig off.”
Kacey Musgraves is a champion yodeler
Move over, Mason Ramsey. Kacey Musgraves is the original yodel boy (or yodel girl). According to One Country, the singer is a champion yodeler. The star was part of a duo called Texas Two Bits, which led her to perform on The Today Show during the 2002 Olympic Games. In fact, she was such a prolific yodeler that she was honored by the Texas House of Representatives with a bill called H.R. No. 2843, where they sang her highest praises.
According to the bill, Musgraves won a number of “well-deserved honors” for her yodeling, including the 2001 International Youth Yodeling Championship and the 2002 Patsy Montana National Yodeling Championship. She also became “the youngest person ever to win the Yodeler of the Year Award at the Will Rogers Cowboy awards.”
Unfortunately, most evidence of the country star’s yodeling chops have been scrubbed from the internet, but the singer did post a throwback video on Instagram, and you can listen to one of her early yodel-filled albums, Wanted: One Good Cowboy, on YouTube. It’s not quite Ramsey’s “Famous,” but it sure is something.
Kacey Musgraves had a failed run on reality TV
Many music industry greats got their start on reality TV — Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, Cardi B, and even DJ Pauly D, who actually became one of the highest-paid DJs in the world after starring on Jersey Shore – despite being best-known for popularizing the phrase “gym, tan, laundry.” Kacey Musgraves was no different, although there were admittedly fewer blowouts on her path to stardom.
After Musgraves was done with the yodeling circuit, the singer moved into the world of reality. According to Taste of Country, she competed in a fairly disastrous season of Nashville Star, which was essentially American Idol for country music. It launched Miranda Lambert’s career, but Musgraves didn’t get as far. She was the fourth person cut from the show, which meant she clocked in at seventh place.
“It’s probably a good thing that people don’t remember me from that time period,” she told Yahoo! “I was very young and figuring myself out musically and personally. It was a great platform to get myself kind of accustomed to being in the industry and seeing what it was like being away from my tiny little hometown in Texas. Being in an environment like [that] kind of thickens your skin, but I also don’t think it’s very realistic, because music wasn’t made to be judged by three people.”
Kacey Musgraves moved to Nashville as a teenager
Kacey Musgraves was just nine years old when she wrote her first song. It was called “Notice Me,” but the singer told ABC News that she doesn’t remember “how good it was or what it could have been about.” Little did she know that 10 years later, she’d be headed to Nashville to pursue her dream for real.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Musgraves revealed that she first followed her arrow to Austin, where she learned “how to live on [her] own, write songs, do [her] own shows.” Shortly after, she high-tailed it Music City, USA, at the ripe age of 19. “When I got to Nashville, I jumped right in. I didn’t have a backup plan; I was super fearless,” she said.
As it turns out, Musgraves didn’t actually need that much of a backup plan, anyway. According to her 2019 Glamour cover story, the singer-songwriter ended up co-writing Miranda Lambert’s song “Mama’s Broken Heart.” It was a true full-circle moment. The pair shared a guitar teacher when they were children, and Lambert also got her start on Nashville Star.
In the early days, her grandmother was her booking agent
We all get by with a little help from our friends — and sometimes also a little help from our grandmothers. Kacey Musgraves’ grandmother was instrumental in launching her career as a country star, which began when she started singing publicly at the age of eight. At one point near the beginning, her grandmother even served as her booking agent. Whether grams got a 10% commission is still to be seen, but according to ABC News, her parents and grandparents would help her hawk CDs and chauffeur her around to shows (specifically, in her grandparents’ minivan). Her sister was and is her photographer, and her parents would print headshots and merchandise in their print shop. Musgraves’ career was truly a family-run operation.
“I just had one of those families that was like, ‘OK, you want to be a singer, you want to be a performer, or whatever? OK, let’s get you guitar lessons, let’s load up the minivan, let’s go to shows,'” she told ABC News. “Just really lucky that we had really nurturing parents and grandparents that really encouraged us to just be who we wanted to be.”
Kacey Musgraves self-released her first three albums
Kacey Musgraves released her debut album, Same Trailer Different Park, in 2013. According to Glamour, it went on to win a Grammy for Best Country Album. That’s not half bad, but it’s also not technically the singer’s debut by any means. Before Musgraves signed to Mercury Nashville, a label under Universal Music Group’s umbrella, she rose through the ranks of the music industry with her D.I.Y spirit.
According to her profile in AllMusic, she began self-releasing music with Texas Two Bits, who put out an album called Little Bit of Texas in 2000. She later self-released three of her own albums: 2002’s Movin’ On, 2003’s Wanted: One Good Cowboy, and 2007’s Kacey Musgraves. Today, most of these albums are extremely difficult to find online. The singer didn’t really attract attention from major labels until after her appearance on Nashville Star. Once she signed her deal in 2012, she hit the road with Lady Antebellum, geared up for her major-label debut, and the rest is history.
'Follow Your Arrow' almost went to Katy Perry
“Follow Your Arrow” was a big song for Kacey Musgraves. It may not have seen the same success as the highly-acclaimed Golden Hour or her Grammy-winning debut single “Merry Go Round,” but it did open a lot of doors and set the tone for the rest of her career. According to Rolling Stone, “Follow Your Arrow” was a rare “inclusive [rally] cry” that pushed through and won a CMA Award for Song of the Year despite its references to country music taboos like smoking weed and same-sex relationships. This almost never happened — at least under Musgraves’ name because “Follow Your Arrow” was nearly someone else’s song.
In an episode of Reese Witherspoon’s DIRECTV series Shine On with Reese (via Billboard), the singer revealed that she almost gave the song to Katy Perry because of label pressures about its unconventional message. “[My label was] like ‘People are going to hate it. You’re going to go down in flames in the country world.’ And I was like, ‘Look, I’m fine with that. This is something I want to say, and there’s all kinds of country people out there,’ you know?” she said.
Musgraves’ risk was worth it. According to Wide Open Country, the song, which was co-written with openly gay songwriters Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, soared into the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart despite its lack of country radio play.
She wrote some of 'Golden Hour' on LSD
Kacey Musgraves hasn’t been shy about her drug use. After all, the girl is “good on green.” As it turns out, the singer’s penchant for illicit substances stems beyond cannabis. Following in the footsteps of classic songwriters like the Beatles, the star actually used LSD to aid her in the writing process. She didn’t pen an entire Revolver, but she did ultimately write the shortest song on Golden Hour.
In an Instagram post, Musgraves revealed that she wrote “Mother,” which she claimed is “maybe the most meaningful” song on her Grammy-winning album, while tripping on acid. “One summer night, surfing waves of LSD and feeling nostalgic for everywhere and everyone all at once, I got a text from my mom. It made me miss her,” she wrote. ” … And I found the thought of this cycle overwhelming, sad, and beautiful; me sitting there in Tennessee missing my mom in Texas who’s sitting there missing her mother who passed away several years ago. And it will go on and on. The tears were flowing. Wrote these words down and finished it the next day.”
Kacey Musgraves will call you out
The thing everybody needs to know about Kacey Musgraves is that she calls it like she sees it. The country star isn’t afraid of running her mouth in the name of what’s right, and she won’t let the music industry bully her into being someone she’s not. This started as early as the singer’s first single. In her Glamour cover story, Musgraves revealed that she was initially told her debut single “Merry Go ‘Round” was “too depressing, especially for a female artist.” She fought for it, and the track ended up winning a Grammy for Best Country Song.
This happened again in 2018 when she called out the Country Music Association for its lack of female representation. The singer lamented to Billboard that Golden Hour was the only female album nominated for Album of the Year at the CMA Awards. She ended up crushing the competition, taking home the prize, and cementing herself along with the ranks of country icons like Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, and Tim McGraw.
Most recently, Musgraves slammed country music radio for underplaying women performers. According to Variety, the singer’s comments were ignited by a Michigan-based country music station who admitted they’re not allowed to play women artists back-to-back.“Smells like white male bulls**t and why LONG ago I decided they cannot stop me,” she tweeted. “And yet, they can play 18 dudes who sound exactly the same back to back. Makes total sense.”
She didn't just meet her heroes – she became one of them
Kacey Musgraves’ music career hit a major milestone when she didn’t just meet her idol — she ended up playing alongside him. Way back in 2012, prior to the release of her major-label debut, Musgraves revealed that the late folk singer John Prine was her favorite musician, largely because of his songwriting talent. She loved him so much that she failed to keep her cool when she spotted him in the wild.
“… I saw John Prine at a taco place one time. I like totally ghermed him,” she told CMT in 2018. “I was like, ‘Hi. Um, I’m a really big fan. Can I get a picture with you?’ I was that person.”
Clearly, Prine wasn’t phased by the singer’s fangirl behavior because he ended up enlisting Musgraves to play shows with him and sing on his album. In fact, he might have actually found her admiration endearing. According to Rolling Stone, Musgraves met Prine a second time before she hit it big. She approached him before his annual Christmas show, where she tried to get him to smoke weed with her in a parking lot. He declined, but she penned the song “Burn One With John Prine.” About five or six years later, the folk legend encouraged Musgraves to sing the song to him during a cruise ship performance. Following Prine’s death, Musgraves performed at his live-streamed tribute.
How Kacey Musgraves broke out of the breakup ballad
When Kacey Musgraves met her first husband, Ruston Kelly, it seemed like serendipity. In her 2018 Vanity Fair interview, she revealed that the pair first crossed paths during a songwriters’ showcase at the legendary Bluebird Cafe, and it mostly came down to good hair. In short: she didn’t want to waste a good hair day at home even though she didn’t typically “go out alone.” Kelly was playing that night, and Musgraves was immediately taken by his music and asked him to collaborate. “A few months later we had a writing date, and it sounds cliché, but we had an instant connection and we’ve been inseparable ever since,” she said.
Kelly had a major influence on Musgraves’ writing, which led her to write a more optimistic album, but she had to learn how to pen a song without being heartbroken, first. For a genre largely defined by its breakup ballads, that’s no easy task. “I used to justify my terrible relationships thinking I could get good songs out of them, but what kind of personal torture is that?” she told Vanity Fair. “When I met Ruston, I was like, ‘F**k, now that I’m happy, I’m not going to be able to be creative.’ But the opposite happened — I got inspired by it.”
Considering that the couple announced their divorce in July 2020, we’re expecting the next album to be breakup business as usual.
Kacey Musgraves is a dog person
You’re either a dog person or a cat person. Few people are both, and Kacey Musgraves happens to be the former with a penchant for rescues. According to ABC News, the singer rescued a three-legged dog named Pearl sometime before 2014. According to CountryFanCast, the puppy was hit by a car near the songwriter’s home, which led to the amputation. “She’s, I think, kind of a Jack Russell mix,” Musgraves said (via ABC News). “She’s all white and has one brown spot, and she’s a little human soul, I feel like.”
In January 2020, Musgraves added another rescue to her furry family. According to People, who caught the Instagram Story before it disappeared, the singer’s new pooch — who she adopted with her estranged husband Ruston Kelly — is a “spotted tri-colored puppy” named Pepper. “Our lil pound puppy,” she wrote. At the time of this writing, it’s unclear who’s getting the dogs in the divorce.
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