With "Merry Go 'Round," Kacey Musgraves Starts Writing the Future of Country
In that environment, she wrote the song that would change her career. An account of small-town ennui unlike anything else on the radio, "Merry Go 'Round" opens bleak--"If you ain't got two kids by 21 / Then you're probably gonna die alone / At least that's what tradition told you"--and never recovers. Different characters in the song seek different fixes--Mary J for the son, Mary Kay for the mom--but every heart has the same hurt, and everyone has resigned themselves to the way things are.
Although not involved in the song's writing, Nashville vet Luke Laird came along for the retreat and heard the result before nearly anyone else. "I got chills all over my body," he remembers. "I was sitting there thinking, 'Is that as good as I think it was?' And so they played it again, and I was just like, 'Oh my gosh, that's amazing.' "
"We felt like we had something special," says Musgraves of the song's popularity. "But I wasn't sure how the country genre would take to having, not necessarily fingers pointed at it, but a blanket pulled away."
Same Trailer pulls that blanket even further. "Blowin' Smoke," for instance, is something of a counterpart to "Merry Go 'Round," an account of a woman ditching her waitress gig midshift and catching a bus out of town, told from the perspective of the coworkers who are never going to make their own break, no matter how much they talk about it.
Still, the record isn't entirely grim. "My House," a tribute to mobile homes, is as light as a Moldy Peaches song, and "It Is What It Is"--the one her grandma refers to as "the slut song"--falls somewhere in between, a track about a hook-up whose title reflects the deflationary, no-pretense sentiment that registers across the record.
"Every song that she writes, that I've heard, is really good, especially for her age, just the way that she can observe things," says Laird, who contributed to both "Smoke" and "What It Is."
Whether or not she becomes, as a few ambitious critics have predicted, the future of country music remains to be seen. But Same Trailer Different Park looks to be one the highlights of the present, the product of an artist whose songs about small-town life have seen her grow bigger than her native Golden.
Kacey Musgraves performs at Irving Plaza Tues., Feb. 12.