Musgraves has won over fans and critics alike with her sharp-as-nails stage presence and poignant lyrical content, hearkening back to an era dominated by Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. Her tone is a concoction of Kitty Wells heartache, Dolly Parton determination, and the hard knock wisdom and snark of James McMurtry.
Musgrave entered the spotlight as a competitor on the singing program “Nashville Star” in 2007. She has since risen to the top of the Nashville scene, co-writing Miranda Lambert’s 2013 hit “Mama’s Broken Heart,” and winning two Grammy Awards this year for Best Country Album (“Same Trailer Different Park”) and Best County Song (“Merry Go ‘Round”). This summer, she’ll be opening for Katy Perry on the pop singer’s Prismatic World Tour.
It’s not so much that Musgraves is doing something new, she’s holding on to something time-tested and aged to perfection. She represents gritty sincerity and a keen sense of vulnerability, something missing all too often from modern country music.
Smoky Mountain News: What inspires your songwriting?
Kacey Musgraves: Everything inspires my songwriting. Living life and messing up, and seeing other people live life and mess up. Conversations, relationships, signs, colors, emotions — all of it.
SMN: Being labeled a “country singer” can sometimes pigeonhole an artist. How do you avoid that, and how would you describe your music?
KM: I am undeniably and proudly a country music singer. But above all, I want to make good music, no matter the genre. I would describe my music as a conglomeration of the roots of simple, traditional country music and sprinklings of other kinds of genres that I’m inspired by. Hopefully, what forms is a modern-classic vibe.
SMN: Your melodies conjure the golden age of country, an age many today feel is long gone, and, at the same time, greatly missed. What are your hopes for your impact on modern country music?
KM: I hope to have a long, happy career in music and always make sure that my lyrics are of the utmost importance. Also, I want to always have the respect of people who aren’t only looking for the “in” thing of the moment.
SMN: What do you say to people that say “real” country music is dead, and that what’s on the radio today isn’t country, but pop music?
KM: There’s a lot of great music being made out there that hasn’t been heard yet, so seek it out yourself. The radio doesn’t always represent every genre in its entirety.
SMN: Listening to your music, I definitely feel you’re taking a different path than other female country singers, a path I haven’t heard from others in years.
KM: I’m a songwriter, and I just write about the things that inspire me, which is a very wide variety of things. People want to talk about parts of my songs like they’re wild ideas, but really I’m just being a songwriter.
SMN: What’s the future hold for you? How are you handling the attention and award nominations?
KM: People ask me all the time about the future and where I want to be. All I can say is that I want to be happy and continue being a songwriter. I’m learning how to be present and thankful in this current moment, and that’s really all I can do.
Editor’s Note: Kacey Musgraves will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, in the Ramsey Regional Activity Center at Western Carolina University. Arena seats are $15 for WCU students and $20 for the general public. Floor seats are $20 for WCU students and $25 for the general public. Day-of-show tickets are $20 for arena, $25 for floor.
www.ramsey.wcu.edu or 828.227.7677.
1: Country star Kacey Musgraves performs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, in the Ramsey Regional Activity Center at WCU.
2: The Mélange of the Mountains culinary celebration gala will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, at Laurel Ridge Country Club in Waynesville.
3: Legendary drummer Jeff Sipe will join the Spontaneous CombustJam at 8 p.m. Monday, April 7, at Bear Waters Brewing in Waynesville.
4: Art After Dark downtown gallery stroll returns at 6 p.m. Friday, April 4, in Waynesville.
5: Smoke Rise (April 4) and the Joe Lasher Jr. Band (April 5) will perform at 9 p.m. at O’Malley’s Pub and Grill in Sylva.