Two decades ago — long before Same Trailer Different Park turned her into a Grammy-winning country star with sold-out tours and Top 10 hits — Kacey Musgraves participated in her first (and only) beauty pageant.
“My hometown is pretty famous for its sweet potatoes,” she says, “and every year, they hold the Golden Sweet Potato Festival. They crown a Sweet Potato Queen and a Little Miss Tater Tot for little girls. I only competed for Little Miss Tater Tot once, when I was about three, and lost miserably to a girl in a sparklier dress.”
The pageant world, with its fake smiles and sky-high hairdos, wasn’t the best match for Musgraves. She was more interested in songwriting, finishing her very first tune at 9 years old and learning her first instrument, the mandolin, as a pre-teen. Years later, though, the peculiarities of daily life in a small town — along with the places she’s visited (and people she’s met) since moving away— are back on her mind.
It’s been years since Musgraves lived in Golden, Texas, her childhood home of roughly 600 people, but the whirlwind that followed Same Trailer Different Park — a debut album that topped the country charts, took home two Grammy Awards (including Country Album of the Year) and sent Musgraves halfway across the world on tour — made her think hard about where she came from. Pageant Material, her second album, pays tribute to those Bible Belt roots, shining a light on a hometown girl who’s grown up, expanded her worldview and done a lot of livin’ since skipping town. It’s an album about where she’s from and where she’s going, full of autobiographical details that are humorous one minute and heartwarming the next.
“I really wanted this album to have a classic feel, like a lot of the records I know and love,” says Musgraves, who name-checks artists like Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell and Ronnie Milsap as influences on Pageant Material‘s easygoing stride. “I intended on it having a laid-back yet lush, slightly kitschy, western vibe. And most of all, I wanted it to feel like me.”
Appropriately, all thirteen of the album’s songs were co-written by Musgraves, who teamed up with the same group of songwriters who’d helped bring Same Trailer Different Park to life several years earlier. Those names may be familiar — Brandy Clark, Luke Laird, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, along with additions like Natalie Hemby and Ashley Arrison — but the songs are new, dreamt up during a songwriter’s retreat in West Texas as well a handful of sessions back home in Nashville.
During the gorgeous “Late to the Party,” Musgraves lingers with her boyfriend before a big get-together, knowing that he, not the party, is the real destination. She kicks back and enjoys life at a slower speed with “High Time,” whose twangy chorus — punctuated by a whistled riff worthy of a high-lonesome cowboy — doubles as a nod to the childhood years Musgraves spent performing western swing music. On “Dimestore Cowgirl,” she breezes through some of the more surreal highlights of her days on the road, from an early-morning European boat ride that took her band past the White Cliffs of Dover to a night spent in the same middle-of-nowhere motel where Gram Parsons spent his final hours. “I’m still the girl from Golden,” she admits during the song’s chorus, a reminder that no matter how big her career gets, she’ll always be a small-town native. Later, with “This Town,” she stresses the importance of staying pleasant in a cozy town where everyone knows you, and during “Biscuits” — a song inspired by her mother’s advice to “kill ‘em with kindness” — she explains some simple, yet important, things she’s learned her 26 years.
Musgraves recorded Pageant Material in a unique way, capturing the songs during a series of live studio sessions. The goal was to harness the energy of her concerts, rather than build a record track-by-track and overdub-by-overdub. To lighten the mood, she decorated Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A with fluorescent, life-size cacti and served fresh biscuits during breaks. She also brought a handful of plastic beauty pageant crowns into the studio and handed them out to her band, which included members of her touring lineup as well as pedal steel player Paul Franklin, drummer Fred Eltringham, and other top-tier players from the Nashville community. Musgraves pulled triple duty during the recording sessions, serving as singer, songwriter and co-producer on every track.
Since Pageant Material is such a personal project, it’s only appropriate that several family members contributed to the album’s creation. “This Town” begins with the voice of Musgraves’ beloved Memaw — grandmother Barbara Taylor — who worked as an ER nurse in Texas until her passing in December 2013.
“We always loved to get her going, telling stories about the crazy stuff she’d seen lately at work,” Musgraves remembers. “One night a couple years ago, we were all sittin’ around her in the living room and made her tell stories. I secretly pressed record on my phone. I just thought for some reason I should, never thinking I’d end up using it. This particular part of the record has been a source of sadness and happiness at the same time. I really miss her, but it makes me smile knowing that her voice has literally become embedded in my musical legacy.”
Likewise, Musgraves’ little sister, Kelly Christine Sutton, shot the photographs for the album, including the throwback cover art. On a record that deals so heavily with Musgraves’ roots — where she came from, how she grew up, and what her small hometown looks like from afar — the presence of her relatives adds an authentic touch.
“Pageant Material lives in a western-tinged world, and the songs are like little stories,” Musgraves says. “They set a vibe and a tone, and all make sense living in the same space. I think I’ll always be affected by growing up in a small town, so it still inspires a lot of my writing. But there are some viewpoints on this record that I hadn’t written from yet. More than anything, it’s life and society, making mistakes and my relationships that continue to inspire me.”
The nominations for 2019’s GRAMMY Awards have been announced, and Kacey Musgraves leads the list of UMG Nashville’s artists with four, including overall Album of the Year for Golden Hour, as well as Best Country Album. Her song “Butterflies” picks up a nomination for Best Country Solo Performance, while “Space Cowboy” earns a nod for Best Country Song.
Chris Stapleton is nominated for three awards, including Best Country Solo Performance (“Millionaire”); Best Country Album (From A Room: Volume 2) and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with Justin Timberlake for “Say Something.”
Brothers Osborne has a pair of noms for Best Country Duo/Group Performance (“Shoot Me Straight”) and Best Country Album (Port St. Joe).
Little Big Town competes for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their song “When Someone Stops Loving You” – the song is also nominated for Best Country Song (award goes to the songwriters).
Keith Urban grabs a nod for Best Country Solo Performance for “Parallel Line,” which is from his latest album, Graffiti U.
Vince Gill gains a Grammy nomination in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance category for the duet “Dear Hate” with Maren Morris.
And Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin captures a nomination for Best Country Solo Performance for Maren Morris’ version of “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.”
The 2019 Grammys will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles February 10th on CBS.
Album of the Year
Invasion of Privacy — Cardi B
By the Way I Forgive You — Brandi Carlile
Scorpion — Drake
beerbongs & bentleys — Post Malone
H.E.R. — H.E.R.
Dirty Computer — Janelle Monae
Golden Hour — Kacey Musgraves
Black Panther: The Album — Kendrick Lamar
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
“Fall In Line” — Christina Aguilera Featuring Demi Lovato
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” — Backstreet Boys
“‘S Wonderful” — Tony Bennett & Diana Krall
“Shallow” — Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
“Girls I Like You” — Maroon 5 Featuring Cardi B
“Say Something” — Justin Timberlake Featuring Chris Stapleton
“The Middle” — Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey
Best Country Solo Performance
“Wouldn’t It Be Great?” — Loretta Lynn
“Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” — Maren Morris
“Butterflies” — Kacey Musgraves
“Millionaire” — Chris Stapleton
“Parallel Line” — Keith Urban
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
“Shoot Me Straight” — Brothers Osborne
“Tequila” — Dan + Shay
”When Someone Stops Loving You” — Little Big Town
“Dear Hate” — Maren Morris Featuring Vince Gill
“Meant to Be” — Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line
Best Country Song
“Break Up in the End” — Jessie Jo Dillon, Chase McGill & Jon Nite, songwriters (Cole Swindell)
“Dear Hate” — Tom Douglas, David Hodges & Maren Morris, songwriters (Maren Morris Featuring Vince Gill)
“Space Cowboy” — Luke Laird, Shane McAnally & Kacey Musgraves, songwriters (Kacey Musgraves)
“Tequila” — Nicolle Galyon, Jordan Reynolds & Dan Smyers, songwriters (Dan + Shay)
“When Someone Stops Loving You” — Hillary Lindsey, Chase McGill & Lori McKenna, songwriters (Little Big Town)
Best Country Album
Unapologetically — Kelsea Ballerini
Port Saint Joe — Brothers Osborne
Girl Going Nowhere — Ashley McBryde
Golden Hour — Kacey Musgraves
From A Room: Volume 2 — Chris Stapleton
Kacey Musgraves’ CMA Album of the Year, Golden Hour, has been named Apple Music’s Album of the Year, as well.
If you’re visiting downtown Nashville and stop by Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink, Dierks Bentley’s “Whiskey Row,” Alan Jackson’s AJ’s Goodtime Bar and Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, among others, you’ll be helping out the local Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The country stars and other businesses are taking part in the Jingle All the Broadway initiative to help raise money and awareness for the hospital. It continues through Christmas Day.
Lauren Alaina will make her late-night TV debut with her latest song, “Ladies in the ‘90s,” on NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers on February 19th.
Esquire magazine released its list of the Top 10 Best Country Albums of 2018, and UMG Nashville has several on the list including Brothers Osborne’s Port Saint Joe (No. 7), Dierks Bentley’s The Mountain (No. 5), Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour (No. 4) and Eric Church’s Desperate Man (No. 2). Ashley McBryde’s Girl Going Nowhere, John Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness and Pistol Annies’ Interstate Gospel were also on the list.
Kacey’s CMA Album of the Year, Golden Hour, summed up the last chapter of her life. “The title Golden Hour just seemed to sum up this chapter of my life perfectly. I mean not only am I from a town called Golden, Texas, but leading up to making this record, there’s been a lot of beauty in my atmosphere and in my world. I love the picture that pops in my head when I hear that title. It’s also an actual song on the record, but it’s just this warm, golden feeling that I’m really happy to have in my life, and I found it to be the perfect title for this record.”
Dierks took to the Rocky Mountain resort town of Telluride, Colorado, which every summer plays host to a celebrated bluegrass festival. Owing to his well-documented love of the genre, Bentley has attended the festival multiple times over the years, always making a point to slow down and tune back in to the world around him. But after performing on the festival’s main stage in 2017, the beautiful surroundings became more than a much-needed getaway, it reflected where he is in life; his past, present and future and the album reflected the happiness he felt.
“I think the unifying thread that runs through The Mountain would be just happiness and positivity, just a real kind of vibe of being grateful in the moment that you’re in, you know? The album really started off just as a tiny idea of something to do with the West,” says Dierks. “The album kind of wrote itself to be that story of just songs like ‘Living,’ ‘Can’t Bring Me Down’ and ‘The Mountain,’ just the vibe of just being really grateful and inspired by your surroundings and not just the mountain vibe, but the surroundings on the road too. The people that I meet on the road that are climbing their own personal mountains and the stuff they’re trying to overcome. I hear so many stories backstage at the Meet-and-Greets, and I was unknowingly inspired by those stories, and I think that gives the whole Mountain [album] a great metaphor between the actual mountains and the mountains people are pursuing in their own lives.”
Dierks Bentley (unifying thread in The Mountain) OC: …their own lives. 1:22
“I think the unifying thread that runs through The Mountain would be just happiness and positivity, just a real kind of vibe of being grateful in the moment that you’re in, you know? The album really started off just as a tiny idea of something to do with the West. I wasn’t sure if it was a sonic idea or some sort of lyric or an overall vibe, and I didn’t really know where to go. I just put it on the backburner and kept just doing what we were doing which was touring nonstop. I had some shows up there. I played a show, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June (2017) and it was just so inspiring and so fun, and I kinda had the idea to come back and write there and I did. I came back in August, then I came back and recorded there. That initial little idea I had, I thought I wasn’t going to work on that all, but it turns out I was just kind of in a back door way. And the album kind of wrote itself to be that story of just songs like ‘Living,’ ‘Can’t Bring Me Down’ and ‘The Mountain,’ just the vibe of just being really grateful and inspired by your surroundings and not just the mountain vibe, but the surroundings on the road too. The people that I meet on the road that are climbing their own personal mountains and the stuff they’re trying to overcome. I hear so many stories backstage at the Meet-and-Greets, and I was unknowingly inspired by those stories, and I think that gives the whole Mountain [album] a great metaphor between the actual mountains and the mountains people are pursuing in their own lives.”