At 24, Kacey Musgraves has arrived. Already this year, the Golden, Texas, native has secured two ACM nominations, a gold single for “Merry Go ’Round” and an opening slot on Kenny Chesney ’s No Shoes Nation tour. Plus, critics have praised her brand new debut album, Same Trailer, Different Park, for its sharp wit and live-and-let-live perspective.
During a recent backstage interview in Knoxville, Tenn., this savvy singer-songwriter chatted with CMT.com about the characters in her songs, her diverse musical influences and her affection for trailers.
Why do you think Same Trailer, Different Park fits so well as an album title?
Musgraves: I didn’t ever want it to be too obvious of a title. I like to make people think a little bit. I thought the title of Merry Go ’Round was a little too one-dimensional, and I obviously didn’t want it to be Kacey Musgraves. I just liked that line: “Same hurt in every heart/Same trailer, different park.” It kind of means “same shit, different day.” We’re all the same, though we may look different or live in different places. But we’re all driven by the same emotions.
It may mean something different to different people, but I just like the trailer theme. I ended up having a couple of songs referencing trailers, so it just kind of fit.
What is it about trailers that appeals to you so much?
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it’s the first house I lived in when my parents brought me home from the hospital. I didn’t necessarily grow up in a trailer park, but there is a brief part of that in my life. So I can make fun of it a little bit. I’m not too much of an outsider, where I’m just making fun of someone.
That culture is interesting to me. It’s pretty transient. There are people always moving in and out. There’s always drama, just like any other neighborhood. I like the fact that it’s a big metal box that people can move around. It’s pretty wild. That’s really an American thing. They don’t have that in other countries.
As a new artist, how do you write a set list that engages the audience?
Yeah, it’s hard because I have to remember that the only song they even might know — or not even know — is “Merry Go ’Round.” So I try, even though it’s a short set, to throw a cover in that people might know. It’s up-tempo, since a lot of my songs are mid-tempo and down, so I throw that in there. And it’s a Ryan Adams song, so I figure if they don’t know it, they might think I wrote it — and I’ll take that idea! Or they might know it by listening to Ryan Adams, and that would be a cool shout-out.
Do you ever switch up the Ryan Adams song?
We’ve just been practicing one for this set, but I think we’re going to switch it up this summer and throw in a Weezer song.
Do you write a lot of autobiographical songs? Or do you like to create characters and tell their story?
It always starts with something autobiographical. Some piece of it is something that struck something in me or something that I thought would make a cool subject matter for a song. But I feel like there is a character somehow — like all of my songs are coming from the point of view of the same girl. So that may be me as a character, or that may be the mindset of the young lady that I am now. It could be totally different a year from now, I think.
Not being a young lady myself, I can still relate to the message in “Merry Go ’Round.”
Cool, yeah, you don’t have to be from a small town to relate to it because it’s not just about that. It’s also about life and fulfilling your parents’ expectations and leaving your own on the back burner. Some people unfortunately have to do that, then later regret it. It’s like this whole cycle — their kids learn that from them.
But it is what it is. I’m just observing. I don’t ever want people to think I’m preaching at them or wearing them out. It’s just something that I observed and that I’m pointing out. And it’s not coming from an outside or inside viewpoint. I’m just saying, “This is how it is. And if that’s you, cool. If not, cool. Whatever.” (laughs)
As a musician, what do you hope fans will take away from your music?
I hope that they feel something. I’m all for catchy songs. I love it — something to have in the background that you can sing along to. But hopefully they take the time to actually listen to the lyrics to make them think a little bit or open some minds up. I hope that they see that I’m influenced by a huge range of things. Not just country. So I hope that people who don’t like country might appreciate it, too.
What are some of your other influences?
I mentioned Weezer earlier — bands like that — and Cake. And I love ELO and their harmonies. The Beach Boys. I love Lee Ann Womack and John Prine . That’s kind of my ideal cross point. If I can sing it like Lee Ann would and say it like John would, then I feel like I’ve gotten somewhere.