Rebel With a Country Cause

When it comes to country music, tradition says you should be a narrow-minded churchgoer who condemns drugs, lesbian love and casual sex. And you should definitely never, ever release an album about any of those sinful deeds.

Kacey Musgraves missed that Bible school lesson.

The breakthrough artist’s stellar album Same Trailer Different Park shows not all country acts are bigoted meatheads who worship their trucks. If they’re like this 24-year-old, they also love the gay community – and sing about it – and occasionally puff a doobie.


What’re you up to, Kacey?

I’m just sitting here with a zit mask on my face. It’s hard to talk. It’s hardening and I can barely move my mouth.


What’s your reaction to all the buzz surrounding you and the album?

It’s overwhelming, but in a good way. It’s more than I ever asked for and more than I could ever expect. I’m really happy that people are just listening to the music – and that it’s finally out! I’m so thankful.


Tell me about growing up in a small town in Texas. Did you know many gay people when you were living there?

No, actually. My first roommate out of high school came out to me and it was a big deal, because he came from a really conservative family. I just knew how hard it was for him to come to terms with that; I was in the Bible Belt in a really small town where everybody knew everybody. It really opened my eyes to a lot when he came out to me and I could see how hard it was, you know? It really made an impact on me. Since then, several guys that I grew up with have come out, and I’m just so proud of them.

It just makes me sad that there are other kids who are struggling with that and parents are worried about whether their kids are gonna come out of the closet; in reality they should be worried about way scarier things.


So that friend was the first gay person you knew?

Yeah. It made a big impact on me. I absolutely love gay people.


I heard “Follow Your Arrow” and had a feeling you did; it’s rare the gay community be acknowledged in a country music song. It doesn’t happen very often, does it?

No. It never happens and I’m sick of it. It’s ridiculous. Whether or not you agree with gay marriage or the fact that people don’t choose to be gay, we share the same emotions, needs and wants. I just think that everyone should be included in that. It’s definitely time.


Would you like to see more change within the country music world as far as LGBT inclusively goes?

For sure. Have you ever seen an openly gay male country artist be successful? No. That would be badass. But guys get grossed out by guy-on-guy … but then if they see two chicks kissing at a party, they’re like, “Oh my god, I gotta videotape this.” I’m like, “That’s the same shit!” You can’t have a double standard.


Were you worried about releasing “Follow Your Arrow,” a song that advocates marijuana and homosexuality?

Well, I didn’t expect – sorry, I’m eating popcorn – country radio to play it. They’re not gonna. That’s OK, though. I think the song can be bigger than country radio. They wouldn’t know what to do with it, anyway!

As far as backlash goes, the reaction has been surprisingly positive, and when I sing it live people really like it and they really listen to the lyrics. Even older people that I wouldn’t think would be into it get a laugh out of it. I think even if you don’t agree with everything I’m saying, as a human, hopefully you can just recognize that people should be able to do what they want to do and love who they want to love.


Tell me about the line, “Kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into.” Was this based on personal experience?

(Laughs) I wrote the song with one of my producers, Shane McAnally, who’s gay, and Brandy Clarke, who’s an amazing writer and also gay. And I’m not gonna say it’s not from some personal experience, but we were writing it and with the “kiss lots of boys” I said, “I wish, because of the nature of the song, we could just say ‘ … or kiss lots of girls,’” and Shane was like, “Why can’t we?”


Did you worry the line would ruffle feathers?

I knew it would a little but surprisingly it didn’t as much as I thought. At the same time, I didn’t care.


Have you received feedback from the gay community?

Yeah! Perez Hilton did a cover contest for “Follow Your Arrow” where he challenged people to come up with covers for it. He’s been really supportive about it all. And my manager is gay. It’s kind of all around me.

I’ve had guys come up to me at shows and say, “Your song ‘Follow Your Arrow’ means so much to me.” I think people are thankful that they don’t have to be ashamed to be themselves and they can also listen to country music. Those don’t have to be two separate things.


Are you interested in being the Lady Gaga of contemporary country music?

(Laughs) Dolly Parton is the closest thing that we’ve had, right? Maybe Reba. But as far as being loud about it, yeah, I would love to take that position.

I guess because of the nature of country music, there’s deep-rooted tradition and there’s a lot of gospel influence in country, but people need to get on the right side of history. There used to be songs about black and white differences and that’s no longer an issue – and it shouldn’t be. And this shouldn’t be either. I would love to change that about country music.


Are equal rights important to you?

Yeah, absolutely. I don’t even think it has to be about male or female, gay or straight – it’s just about humans being able to live freely.


Tell me about some of your country influences.

I’ve always loved Dolly Parton and I used to sing her songs when I was little. She’s a great storyteller and that’s probably where I got a lot of my influence from. I love Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson and his truth telling. I love Glen Campbell and a lot of old-school country. I’m really all over the map, but the country I seem to like is a lot older.


This album is being called your debut, but this isn’t your first album. This is actually your fourth, right?

Well, this is the only one that I want people to hear. The other songs were a learning curve and I’m a different person musically, so this is what I want the world to hear first. I’m a better writer and I’ve come into my own personally more.


Weren’t there some songs that the label wanted you to release on Same Trailer Different Park but you didn’t want them on there?

Yeah – just because I wrote it doesn’t mean that I like it! (Laughs) The label will be like, “Oh, this song is a hit, it’s a radio mash,” and I’m like, “I don’t give a shit. If it doesn’t go on the record, it doesn’t go on the record.” The hits will come if I believe in them. It won’t be a hit if I don’t believe in it.


Were you nervous about suggesting you smoke pot on the album?

I was more worried about my grandma hearing it!


What did your grandma say?

We call her Nana, and she always has an opinion. “The Slut Song” is what she calls “It Is What It Is.” And she doesn’t get any of the marijuana references.


Should we assume you’ve dabbled?

You can assume. It does a lot of nice things for a lot of people and it comes out of the ground. End of story. The government should stay out of it and just let people do what they wanna do with their own bodies.


Do you want to be country’s bad girl or would you rather leave that to Miranda Lambert?

I’d rather not. If I were gonna be a bad girl, I’d rather it be more in a progressive way than a “I’m gonna burn your house down” way.


In a way that brings hope and change to people’s lives?

Right. If that makes me a bad girl, then what does that make society?

photos by Kelly Christine Musgraves

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