When Kacey Musgraves’ fourth album, Golden Hour, dropped in 2018, the country-pop star solidified her place in music history.
With an abundance of gushing reviews (via The Guardian) and a number one position on Billboard‘s Country Album chart and its Americana/ Folk Album list, it was clear from the start that Musgrave’s newest album was special. While the album put the country star on the map, she was hardly new to the music industry. In fact, for country fans, Musgraves was already a household name – thanks to her crystal clear, silken voice and her hits like “Follow Your Arrow” and “It Is What It Is.”
Listening to Musgraves’ Golden Hour, you would think that the golden-voiced star was always destined to take the music industry by storm. However, as it turns out, the so-called country “rebel” has had quite the journey to get to where she is now. If you’re itching to know where the singer got her start, we have the answer. Here’s a look at the stunning transformation of Kacey Musgraves.
Kacey Musgraves had a pretty normal '90s childhood
Kacey Musgraves was born in the small town of Golden, Texas in 1988. According to Glamour, the town was tiny, and the young Musgraves grew up surrounded by wide open spaces, and her parents ran their own graphic design business in a nearby town.
As Musgraves explained to Billboard in 2018, her childhood home was “in the sticks,” far away from shopping and movie theatres. When she got bored, Musgraves said her mom always had a solution. “My mom would be like, ‘You’re bored, okay, well, make something, ride your bike, write a song, write a poem,'” Musgraves revealed. As she explained to Billboard, her rural upbringing got her excited about creating art from a young age.
Despite her small town origins, Musgraves had a pretty standard childhood for a girl growing up in the ’90s. Like other children her age, she was immersed in ’90s music and culture. She explained to The Guardian how her Walkman shuffled between Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Shania Twain, and Sheryl Crow. Plus, Musgraves said there was a “plethora of female perspective” in country music at the time.” That’s definitely a win!
Kacey Musgraves started singing country in concert halls when she was still young, urged on by her family
Kacey Musgraves might have had a relatively normal childhood, but she was introduced to country music and the art of performing at a young age. According to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Musgraves learned to yodel at eight years old — and a few years later, the youngster picked up the guitar and the mandolin. At age nine, Musgraves wrote her first song, “Notice Me,” which she sang at her school’s graduation.
According to The Guardian, Musgraves (known to loved ones as Kacey Lee), spent her childhood singing Western swing on the weekends in various country halls in Texas. Like a true young country star, she was always decked out in “boots and rhinestones.”
Musgraves recalled how her whole family supported her musician ambitions. According to the star, her parents printed promotional flyers in their print shop, her sister took her promotional photos, and her grandmother booked her gigs. Later, her grandmother even paid for her first self-released album. Hey, it takes a village!
Kacey Musgraves worked at her parents' print shop as a kid, which gave her an appreciation for small business owners
Kacey Musgraves’ parents both worked at their own graphic design shop while she was growing up. As Musgraves joked to Glamour, her mother was always “covered in paint, or creating, like a giant horse sculpture out of sticks.”
As a teenager, Musgraves helped out in the shop in her spare time. She joked to The Evening Standard that her family “agreed unanimously I was their worst f***ing employee ever.” Still, her parents’ shop gave her a lasting appreciation for small business owners. Once, when Musgraves was in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, she and her sister used a local photo shop to print some photos.
As Musgraves told Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, she helped the business set up an Instagram account and get back on its feet (via The Rolling Stone). “I know firsthand what it’s like when people choose to put their money [in a small business] versus a place that might be more convenient or bigger,” she said.
From 12 to 16, Kacey Musgraves took guitar lessons from John DeFoore
Throughout Kacey Musgraves’ early teen years, the up-and-coming musician got formal music training from a Texas guitar teaching legend called John DeFoore — who was also responsible for teaching Miranda Lambert and Michelle Shocked.
DeFoore taught Musgraves in his studio in Mineola, Texas, which was located in the town’s atmospheric abandoned railway hotel. As Musgraves recalled, DeFoore thought the place was “full of spirits.”
As Musgraves explained to The Guardian, DeFoore’s teaching technique was different for every student. “Right away he knew I wasn’t a kid who was going to learn by repetition and scales,” she said. Apparently, his unorthodox method consisted of asking Musgraves to write a song between each class. He would instruct her to tape her songs and listen closely to her chord choices and question them. Musgraves told The Guardian that she believes that this unusual guitar education is what gave her the confidence and skill to begin a songwriting career of her own.
Kacey Musgraves moved to Austin and later Nashville and self-released three albums after graduating high school
After Kacey Musgraves graduated from high school, she packed her bags and moved to Austin in 2006.
As Musgraves explained to Vanity Fair, living in Austin on her own helped her to grow up. “I went to Austin first, figured out how to live on my own, write songs, do my own shows,” she said. Musgraves went on to explain that she then moved to Nashville where she pursued her singing career in earnest. “I jumped right in,” Musgraves explained. She continued, saying, “I didn’t have a backup plan; I was super fearless.”
It was during this period that she self-released three albums in an effort to get her career going. In 2013, Musgraves explained to The Evening Standard that she wasn’t particularly proud of these first three albums as time went on. Apparently, these were her cowboy hat, fringed jacket days. Even though Kacey Musgraves’ early work may have been a little juvenile in comparison to her later music, it’s clear that she worked hard to make a name for herself during her early days in Austin and Nashville.
Kacey Musgraves' first big break came when she was on Nashville Star
After Kacey Musgraves released her first three albums independently, she finally got her big break in 2007 on the show Nashville Star – the country music sister to American Idol (via Glamour).
On the show, Musgraves was definitely an emblem of Texan country music, with her solo guitar and her Texan twang – a far cry from her more glamorous look seen in recent years. According to Nashville Lifestyles, the singer placed seventh on the show — but this didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams.
In 2014, seven years after her stint on the show, Musgraves spoke to Yahoo! about her time on the show. “It’s probably a good thing that people don’t remember me from that time period,” she confessed. Musgraves continued, saying, “I was very young and figuring myself out musically and personally.” The star explained that while her performances on the show weren’t exemplary of the singer she’d eventually become, the show itself helped to shape her as an artist. Apparently, receiving criticism on the show gave her a thicker skin and encouraged her to take more time to develop as an artist.
Kacey Musgraves met her husband when they were both song writing for the show Nashville
As Kacey Musgraves’ career progressed, she eventually landed a role as one of the songwriters on the television show Nashville. The show was about the country music industry in Nashville. As Musgraves explained to The Guardian, “As someone in the industry, seeing people singing songs written by my friends and me, it was really f***ing weird.”
While writing for the popular show was definitely a huge step in her career, it also marked an important moment in her personal life. It was on this show that Musgraves met her future husband, fellow singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly. She explained their connection to Vanity Fair — “We had a writing date, and it sounds cliche, but we had an instant connection and we’ve been inseparable ever since.”
Musgraves went on to explain that the happy relationship that followed actually inspired her to be even more creative. As she told Coup de Main, her song “Oh, What A World” is actually partially inspired by how grateful she is to have met the man who eventually became her fiancé-turned-husband. It sounds like Musgraves truly found her match in Kelly.
Kacey Musgraves' debut album gave her the label of "rebel"
Ever since Kacey Musgraves’ released her first album, Same Trailer Different Park, she has been labelled as a “rebel” by the media — and the music industry.
Vanity Fair pointed out that this label was thanks to her lyrics that centered around LGBT rights, drug use, and the problematic side of small town life. Musgraves explained that she thinks the label is a little misplaced. “I have gotten that ‘rebel’ or ‘outlaw’ card, and I think partly it’s because I’m a woman,” she said. “But it’s pretty inaccurate if you look at the roots of country music storytelling,” she went on. As she explained, her raw lyrics are just “about real s***,” just like famous country stars that came before her.
Even though Musgraves believes that the “rebel” label isn’t really warranted, it’s definitely shaped her career. Countless articles refer to her “rebellious spirit” or her “rebel twang.” Whether she really is a rebel, or she’s simply brave enough to write about “real s***,” it’s clear that there has always been something different about Musgraves.
While Kacey Musgraves used to go all out with the country girl look, she eventually started to go for more of a '70s disco look
In terms of style, Kacey Musgraves has always had a distinctive “look.”
Back in her earlier days, her album covers featured lots of the commonly recognized symbols of country music — think big hair, cowboy boots, and fringed jackets. However, with her fourth album in 2018, Golden Hour, the star’s style made a clear shift towards a glam ’70s look.
In 2020, Teen Vogue spoke to Musgraves’ stylist, Erica Cloud. Cloud explained that she was brought onto the team to help Musgraves change directions stylistically with her 2018 album. Cloud explained that because the album had such a different sound, a different look was required. “It feels a little more elevated, in the way that she’s maturing, so hopefully her fashion is too,” Cloud explained. They decided upon fashions inspired by the ’60s and ’70s because it seemed both modern and nostalgic, which Cloud thought was the perfect mixture for Musgraves. We have to say, Musgraves’ makeover definitely has our approval!
Kacey Musgraves truly stretched the limitations of country music with her album Golden Hour
While Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour years saw her change her clothing style, they also saw her change her musical style, too. Rolling Stone commented on the album’s “sleepy” and “futuristic” feel, saying “Musgraves wasn’t concerned with genre rules […], incorporating vocoder alongside plenty of trippy-meets-traditional steel guitar.”
As Glamour noted, her previous album was filled with witticisms and wordplay. Apparently, “she was looking to change things up.” She told the magazine, “I was craving something different. If a painter used the exact same medium every time, they would probably get so bored.”
She went on to explain to the magazine how changes in her life made her rethink her musical style. When she was writing the album, she had just met her husband. “I started to see the world in a more fond, pretty light,” she explained. Plus, she was nearing her thirtieth birthday, which made her contemplate her future in more depth. It’s no wonder the album has such a thoughtful, sun-kissed feel!
Kacey Musgraves started taking self-care seriously after getting married
Kacey Musgraves married Ruston Kelly in 2017. And, according to an interview the singer gave to Glamour, Musgraves’ marriage to Kelly meant a big change in her lifestyle and career.
Musgraves got a new tour bus after writing Golden Hour, which she decorated herself, with colorful furniture and butterfly prints. Prior to this, however, Musgraves had shared a bus with her band for six years. While she had an amazing time living with them, Musgraves compared living with her bandmates to “summer camp,” and acknowledged that she had felt the need for a more grown-up setup. She called her new bus a “self-care space,” where she could get some much-needed me-time.
It’s clear that Musgraves thinks that spending time investing in your own self care is crucial. During the 2020 pandemic and lockdown, she created a self-care kit for her fans, spired by her song “Lonely Weekend.” With crafts, bath waters, socks, and a jigsaw puzzle, the kit gives us some idea of how Musgraves likes to unwind in her spare time.
Kacey Musgraves released a coloring book alongside her album Golden Hour, illustrated by her mom
As Kacey Musgraves told Billboard, her mom’s creativity was always an inspiration. In 2018, Musgraves actually got to work with her mother on an artistic project. As the singer told Coup de Main, she released a coloring book alongside her album Golden Hour.
Apparently, her mother did all of the illustrations in the book! “It’s got lyrics in it, and I was very involved with all the details and all the coloring pages, and there’s also some activity pages in there too,” Musgraves explained.
The country star continued, explaining to Coup de Main, “It was really fun, but it was a lot of work, and my mom’s really talented so I was really excited to put it out.” How sweet to think of Musgraves and her mom coming together for this joint artistic project! It’s clear that Musgraves still really looks up to her mother as one of her first (and most influential) inspirations.
Kacey Musgraves got divorced from her husband in 2020
Kacey Musgraves shocked fans in 2020 when she and her husband Ruston Kelly announced that they were ending their relationship. This came just two years after Musgraves released her album, which, as she told Pop Culture, was inspired by Kelly.
The couple made a joint statement to Today, saying that they wanted to stop any speculation about their divorce before it began. “We believe that we were put into each other’s lives for a divine reason and have both changed each other infinitely for the better,” the former couple said. They continued, “The love we have for each other goes far beyond the relationship we’ve shared as husband and wife.”
While they described their divorce as being an understanding, healthy parting, it’s always hard to end a meaningful relationship. In Musgraves’ first Instagram post after the divorce announcement, she posted an artistic promotional image of her crying glittery tears, with the caption, “It only tears were actually glittery.” While we know she’ll be just fine, it’s definitely sad to see Musgraves going through such a difficult, unexpected break up!
Kacey Musgraves is always looking for new inspiration
Even though Kacey Musgraves had a tough start to 2020 (considering her failed marriage and split from husband Ruston Kelly), the country star is set to experience plenty of good times and even more career success in the future.
Musgraves is the type of artist who is never satisfied — as she herself told The Guardian in 2019 — and she’s constantly seeking out new inspiration for her music. From her horse to her relationships to taking small doses of LSD, Musgraves says she is “inspired by anything that gives [her] more appreciation for this living rock we are on, floating in space.” Added Musgraves, “A change in perspective is a beautiful thing.” The country crooner also credited live music, fresh air, and reading as her inspirations.
While 2020 was definitely a tough year for Musgraves, we think it’s pretty clear that she has had a real “change in perspective.” We can’t wait to see what amazing new music the singer-songwriter produces in the future. One thing’s for sure: Knowing Musgraves, it’s bound to be another genre-bending, record-breaking sensation!
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