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.”
Kacey Musgraves really appreciates homemade gifts that come from the heart. Two of her favorite presents have come from her mother, who is a gifted artist and painter.
“I’ve gotten several really great handmade presents from her that really touched me and you know I still really appreciate. One of them was a portrait of my dog, Pearl, my 3-legged dog, and it was just the most realistic, beautiful painting of her, and then another one was this beautiful guitar,” says Kacey. “It’s a guitar made completely out of found objects, and so like the tuning keys are skeleton keys, old skeleton keys…It’s just there’s something about someone using their hands and their brain to like come up with something that like no one can buy. It’s really special to me.”
Kacey has a couple of favorite Christmas traditions that her family does every year.
“My grandpa has a scavenger hunt puzzle that he does every year. Even though I’m like too old for the puzzle, he’s like, ‘You’re still gonna do it.’ So, every year we do that, and it’s funny ‘cause sometimes you’ll find your present in the bathroom or in a tree or out behind the shed,” says Kacey. “He does a little trail of like either corn or a string to it. It’s very imaginative, and it’s something I look forward to every year.”
Another one of her beloved traditions is the Christmas stocking. “They’re kinda my favorite, ‘cause it’s like all the little goodies in there just are fun.”
Last year, Kacey released her first holiday collection, A Very Kacey Christmas, which includes several classics and a few originals, including “Present Without a Bow,” featuring Leon Bridges.
Kacey Musgraves (favorite Christmas gifts) OC: …special to me. :55
“I always really appreciate homemade gifts and my mom is a wonderful visual artist and painter and she just kind of works her magic with all different kinds of mediums and anything that she comes up with is really special and I’ve gotten several really great handmade presents from her that really touched me and you know I still really appreciate. One of them was a portrait of my dog, Pearl, my 3-legged dog, and it was just the most realistic, beautiful painting of her, and then another one was this beautiful guitar. I actually have it upstairs. It’s a guitar made completely out of found objects, and so like the tuning keys are skeleton keys, old skeleton keys. You know, the neck is an old vintage-like level. There’s like parts of fans and stuff in there, but it looks like a beautiful old guitar and it’s just really cool. She put like a special message in there and I don’t know. It’s just there’s something about someone using their hands and their brain to like come up with something that like no one can buy. It’s really special to me.”
Kacey Musgraves (Christmas puzzle tradition) OC: …a little tradition. :28
“My grandpa has a scavenger hunt puzzle that he does every year. Even though I’m like too old for the puzzle, he’s like, ‘You’re still gonna do it.’ So, every year we do that, and it’s funny ‘cause sometimes you’ll find your present in the bathroom or in a tree or out behind the shed. He does a little trail of like either corn or a string to it. It’s very imaginative, and it’s something I look forward to every year. It’s a little tradition.”
Kacey Musgraves (Christmas stockings) OC: …are fun. :07
“Stockings. I love stockings. They’re kinda my favorite, ‘cause it’s like all the little goodies in there just are fun.”
Chris Stapleton is making the media rounds this week. He’s scheduled to appear on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday (December 4th) along with superfan/actor Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Recreation, Jurassic World) and actress Margot Robbie (The Suicide Squad). Stapleton is also scheduled to perform on the Ellen DeGeneres Show on Wednesday (December 6th).
OF NOTE: Pratt appeared on Popcorn with Peter Travers where he talked about how Chris Stapleton was on his own mixtape (a reference to Guardians) and sang part of “Tennessee Whiskey.” Then, Chris sent him a mixtape of his From A Room: Volume 1 along with a walkman, so he could listen to it properly. When Stapleton performed during the second of a two-night stand at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena earlier this year, Pratt came out wearing a jean jacket embossed with Stapleton’s image. They proceeded to sing “Tennessee Whiskey” together.
Luke Bryan will perform on the Ellen DeGeneres Show on December 12th.
Darius Rucker, as well as Dolly Parton and Brad Paisley, will honor the late Glen Campbell during ABC’s The Year in Memoriam 2017 television special airing December 18th at 10pm ET. A companion special, The Year: 2017, will air the following night (December 19th) and will highlight major events that took place over the past year. Both specials will be hosted by Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts.
Kacey Musgraves will join Josh Groban for the Home for the Holidays special December 19th at 8pm ET on CBS. Kelly Clarkson and Kane Brown will also appear during the one-hour show which will feature performances alongside inspirational stories of families whose lives have been changed by adoption.
Vince Gill was honored with the CMA Foundation Humanitarian Award last week at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
Dierks Bentley has been booked as one of the headliners for the fourth annual Country LakeShake Festival, being held June 22nd – 24th in Chicago. He’ll be joined by Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line, Billy Currington, Lee Brice, Tracy Lawrence, Cole Swindell and many more.
Holiday liners from UMG Nashville artists, including Alan Jackson, Billy Currington, Brandon Lay, Brothers Osborne, Canaan Smith, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, Easton Corbin, Eric Church, Eric Paslay, Gary Allan, George Strait, Jon Pardi, Jordan Davis, Keith Urban, Kip Moore, Lady Antebellum, Lauren Alaina, Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt and more!
LINER AJ (Christmas)
“Hi! This is Alan Jackson, and I’m wishing y’all a very Merry Christmas.”
LINER Billy Currington (Happy Holiday Season)
“Hi! Billy Currington here, wishing you and your family a safe and Happy Holiday Season.”
LINER Brothers Osborne (Christmas)
“Hey! This is T.J., and I’m John, and we are Brothers Osborne, wishing you a very Merry Christmas.”
LINER Canaan Smith (Christmas)
“Hey! What’s up guys? I’m Canaan Smith, wishing you a very Merry Christmas.”
LINER Darius Rucker (Christmas)
“Hey y’all! What’s up? This is Darius Rucker, wishing you a Merry Christmas.”
LINER Dierks Bentley (Christmas)
“Hey! This is Dierks Bentley, wishing you a very Merry Christmas.”
LINER Easton Corbin (Merry Christmas)
“Hey everybody! This is Easton Corbin, wishing you a Merry Christmas.”
LINER Easton Corbin (Happy Holidays)
“Hey everybody! This is Easton Corbin, wishing you and your family a Happy Holidays.”
LINER Eric Church (Christmas)
“Hey everybody! It’s Eric Church, wishing you a very Merry Christmas.”
LINER Eric Paslay (Christmas)
“Hi! I’m Eric Paslay. Hope you have a Merry Christmas.”
LINER Eric Paslay (Holiday Season)
“Hi! I’m Eric Paslay, wishing you a very Happy Holiday Season.”
LINER Gary Allan (MerryChristmas)
“Hey! This is Gary Allan. Merry Christmas.”
LINER George Strait (Happy Holidays)
““Hey everybody! This is George Strait, wishing you and your family a Happy Holiday season.”
LINER Jon Pardi (Merry Christmas)
“Hey! This is Jon Pardi, wishing you a Merry Christmas!”
LINER Kacey Musgraves (Christmas)
“Hey! This is Kacey Musgraves, wishing you a very Merry Christmas.”
LINER Keith Urban (Christmas)
“Hi folks, this is Keith Urban, wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.”
LINER Keith Urban (Holiday season)
“Hi everyone, this is Keith Urban, wishing you and all your family the very best this holiday season.”
LINER Kip Moore (Christmas)
“Hey guys, this is Kip Moore, wishing you a Merry Christmas.”
LINER Kip Moore (Happy Holidays)
“Hey y’all, it’s Kip Moore. Happy Holidays!”
LINER Lady A (Christmas)
“Hey everybody! We’re Lady Antebellum, wishing you a very Merry Christmas.”
LINER Lady A (Happy Holidays)
“Hey everybody! We are Lady Antebellum. Happy Holidays.”
LINER Lauren Alaina (Christmas)
“Hey! This is Lauren Alaina, wishing you a Merry Christmas.”
LINER George Strait (Happy Holidays)
““Hey everybody! This is George Strait, wishing you and your family a Happy Holiday season.”
LINER LBT (Christmas)
“Hey! We’re Little Big Town, wishing you a very Merry Christmas.”