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Kacey Musgraves started playing the mandolin as her first instrument before she was a teenager. It wasn't because she was hell-bent on a bluegrass or folk music career. It was just because her hands were little. "The mandolin was just a better fit because it's small and the fretboard is small. And when I was 10, my little hands couldn't really reach around a guitar yet," Musgraves told me last week after her rehearsal at the 2013 CMT Music Awards.
"A family down the road from my house in Texas had five kids, and they all played a million different instruments. So their youngest one, she was 16, started giving me lessons." Now Musgraves says she feels most comfortable behind a guitar. "I switched to the guitar when I was 12, and now I'm 24," she said. "So I've been playing half my life."
And at just 24, Musgraves has been able to reach so many of the dreams she had as a kid. Which kind of scares her.
"It's insane. I've gotten to check so many big things off my bucket list," she said. "But I want to be around for a long time, so it's a little scary to be checking these things off my bucket list already. I'm like, 'Wait, wait, wait. I'm cool with doing that in five years. I'm willing to work for it.'"
But everything that's been happening to Musgraves -- as a kid in Texas and now a singer-songwriter in Nashville -- has found its way into her songs.
"I draw inspiration from everywhere. So a lot of what I write is what's happened to me, but I get ideas from observing others, too," she told me, admitting that right now, she is very much in love. "Lately, it's funny because I almost need to be depressed sometimes to get good material. So I'm like, 'Goddamn it, I'm in love right now.' It's hard to write when you're really happy, so I'll ask a co-writer, 'Please tell me about the terrible parts of your relationship.'"
Musgraves' other songwriting alternative is to think back to her own rough spots, before all this love and success came her way.
"I try to go back to times when I wasn't real happy -- and draw from that," she said.