In a clear example of the ever quickening passage of time, it’s been more than two years since country singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves released her album Pageant Material, the hotly anticipated follow-up to her 2013 breakthrough, Same Trailer Different Park.
This month Musgraves is joining the legendary Willie Nelson on a short West Coast run. “Any time [he] asks, I always want to play shows with him,” she says in a telephone interview from Nashville.
But otherwise, she’s keeping a relatively low profile this summer. That doesn’t mean she gets to be lazy, though: “I’m writing new songs, planning a wedding, renovating a house,” she says, her voice trailing off. “Nobody needs to worry that I don’t have enough on my plate.”
Planning a wedding can be stressful. Renovating a house is exhausting. Fortunately for Musgraves, nothing refills her tank like songwriting—her bread and butter for years, way back before she was one of country music’s brightest young stars.
“I’ll perform as long as people want to come see me, but it’s not what feeds me and my soul,” she says. “I leave a songwriting session with a great song and my soul is soaring. I feel on top of the world. I listen to it 700 times and I send it to everyone I know and I get so excited about it. There’s nothing else that does that for me.”
Like most artists, Musgraves is hesitant to talk about her new material during the creative process, but she does admit she’s writing more love songs. It’s a direct result of her relationship with fiancé Ruston Kelly, but also the natural evolution of her songwriting, which has matured as Musgraves has navigated her late 20s in the public eye.
“I still care very much about turning a phrase and witty lines, I just think that doesn’t necessarily make or break a good song,” she says. “I love those kinds of songs till the day I die. But I think I’m just shifting a little bit [about] what that means. And I think that for me, it’s more about heart and less about brains.”
Another certainty about Musgraves is that she’s unwilling to sit still, artistically. On both Same Trailer and Pageant Material, she showcased her East Texas country roots, rolling out a seemingly endless supply of tunefully twangy songs packed with clever lyrics and a social perspective that hasn’t always found a voice in country music.
In her biggest hit to date, “Follow Your Arrow,” Musgraves famously encourages listeners to “kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of girls, if that’s what you’re into.” Later, she sings, “when the straight and narrow gets a little too straight, roll up a joint (or don’t).” Four of those words—you can guess which ones—were censored during Musgraves’ performance at the 47th CMA Awards. At the 48th CMAs, “Follow Your Arrow” won the Song of the Year award.
Musgraves has never done things by someone else’s book. Don’t expect that to change any time soon.
“I think I’ve proven that I can make some country-ass music, and I love that,” she says with a laugh. “But I don’t think it would be doing my creative self or my fans a favor if I just stayed in that lane just to say that I did. So I’m not going to.”