Golden Hour: Why 2019 Belongs To Kacey Musgraves
This year belongs to Kacey Musgraves. As Nashville’s music wunderkind enjoys the most exhilarating time of her career, the award-winning artist takes a step back to reflect on what’s been happening. Having just scooped two awards in the categories of Album Of The Year’ and Female Artist Of The Year at the recent Academy Of Country Music Awards, this adds to her Grammy and Country Music Association Awards. Receiving accolades is one thing, but the singer-songwriter likes to be her own boss and have creative freedom.
Backstage at the ACM ceremony, Musgraves talked about her creativity, about pushing buttons, not to accept categorising of genre and the importance of diversity in country music. ‘Golden Hour’, her most rounded and accomplished album to date, has transformed her reputation on a global scale and it carries a lot of personal meaning. “It’s been quite a hoot I’d say", Musgraves tells Clash. “I mean writing this album and putting it out. It’s almost indescribable; the amount of memories I’ve made, the feeling of positivity and love that’s come my way. It’s been overwhelming, I should stop and try to take it all in.”
She is aware of politics in the industry but she isn’t one for letting herself feel entrapped by it. “I just do my own thing, and I take it all with a grain of salt”, she declares. Earning the respect and recognition for the infectious quality of her songwriting, her popular take on country music combined with an honest approach to tackling tricky issues within a traditional genre, is brave and a breath of fresh air.
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Prior to releasing this album things were somewhat different. Feeling intimidated, she puts some of that down to not being happy in her personal life, outside music, “When you have the proper foundation, you can be more fearless, make moves and put yourself out there. I’ve always had a very strong core about myself, when you have had a normal upbringing, there’s not anything to be scared of.”
For all this, she doesn’t view herself as a role model to others. “I don’t know if I’m in any position to give advice”, she says, “If it’s just me following my intuition as to what’s right, then that’s the only method that works for me. You can tell me that a certain chess move would make me more money or make me more popular, but if it doesn’t fit, then I can’t do it. There are people out there that probably would but that’s their call, they may have bigger fan bases, but I am fine with what I have.”
The scale of Musgraves’ achievements makes you consider to what extent her current artistic self is reinvented from her early country music songwriting days around Nashville, she was only 19 when she moved there. “I learnt a lot from the writers and the creative minds”, she says. “I grew as a person and as a writer, I still feel connected to that, it made an impression on me. If I ever wanted to get out of the spotlight and get back to focusing on creating songs, I’ll go back to being a songwriter. I feel connected to that side of Nashville.”
‘Golden Hour’ is born out of finding the love of her life, it is a certain mindset and an emphasis on “feeling rather than thinking – leading heart first”. Personal, intimate and uplifting, it is crammed full of variety, incorporating different genres. For example, the track ‘High Horse’ emerged from listening to a lot of Bee Gees in the build up to making the record, and the thought of adding a disco vibe to a country and western pop tune intrigued her. She was keen for the two worlds to come together and create a space where “spaghetti western meets disco”.
With an increasingly hectic calendar, Musgraves makes sure time is set aside for writing songs. “I should give myself more time for it because whenever I get myself into that mode I feel that it generates more”, she reflects. “You’ve just gotta exercise it like any other muscle, so sometimes it can feel tedious to get into it but once I’m there it’s my favourite place to be. I always find a new energy with a new spark of inspiration, I feel like it’s the one thing that I really live for.”
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Being healthy and relaxed is paramount to producing great work, and Musgraves knows what she likes do with her spare time. “I love a good massage”, she says, “I carry a lot of tension in my back, my neck and my shoulders, I think that’s probably to do with playing my guitar, my body just gets tense from a lot of travel. I get ideas because the endorphins are flowing, circulation is going, it’s a therapeutic thing and I feel refreshed. I have a horse at home, it’s one of the things that truly makes my soul really happy, or get to try out new things or see new places.”
Following a prolific and diverse string of collaborations, she is not allowing her music to be defined by one style. Taking songs she is not associated with, she endeavours to give them the “KM treatment”. Asked about potential future collaborators, she has Sade, Sufjan Stevens, The Shins and Tame Impala on her eclectic wish list. “One other ultimate for me would be Daft Punk”, she confides. “Working with Chris Martin has also been great. I enjoy his music and to have him come into my world and play piano with me on my song ‘Rainbow’ has been fun.”
“I enjoy collaborating and I don’t do a ton of writing on my own”, she explains. “It’s mostly because I enjoy another human’s perspective.” From Harry Styles and Chris Martin to Cee Lo Green, Hayley Williams of Paramore and Judah & the Lion, if she has an interest in working with someone, she will always try to pursue it. Adapting a version of Miguel’s song ‘Waves’ gave her a sense of creative freedom. “It was like, there are no rules, just pretend it’s one of yours”, she enthuses. “I turned it into something different.”
She is not ready to spill the beans about her next studio album. But she is enthusiastic about her upcoming live shows and touring, and the idea of returning to the UK and Europe in due course is one of excitement, “I can’t wait to come back across over there”, she says. “Just take a second to thank all the fans over there, they have been wonderful, just keep spreading the love, I really appreciate it and I’ll always make it priority to come back.”
“I’m still involved with ‘Golden Hour’, but I do have some things that are intriguing that I’m working with in my creative hemisphere and I’m excited about them. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but it will be fun to see when it unfolds.”
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'Golden Hour' is out now.
Words: Susan Hansen // @SusanHansen3
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