Watch CBS News

Kacey Musgraves: I'm the "gateway drug" for prospective country music fans

How Kacey Musgraves stayed true to herself
How Kacey Musgraves stayed true to herself – with a big payoff 05:36

Country megastar Kacey Musgraves had a golden night at the Academy of Country Music Awards last night, winning Album of the Year for "Golden Hour," becoming the first female solo artist to win that category twice. She also took home Female Artist of the Year.

"CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King told Musgraves, "I've heard people say, 'I don't even like country music, but I like her music.' Do you hear that, too?"

Singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves. CBS News

"I hear that all the time," Musgraves replied. "That is one of the top things people tell me. And I'm like, 'Well, you just didn't know that you liked country music.' Yeah, they're like, 'You're my gateway drug!'

"And these days with the genre lines being so blurred, I mean the possibilities are endless. To me music falls into two different categories. It's good and bad. But yeah, I don't believe that you have to pick a lane or stay in a lane."

With three critically-acclaimed studio albums, Musgraves has certainly made her own lane. The singer-songwriter said her love of music began when she was just a little girl: "I grew up wanting to be a singer. I mean, I grew up just singing, singing, singing, and just never shut up."

She'd sing into a hairbrush, or a karaoke microphone. But when she moved to Nashville when she was about 19, Musgraves figured out that she could have an actual career as a songwriter instead of a performer. "I was kind of turned off by the whole artist side of things," she said. Then, "Somewhere along the way, I started collecting these songs that felt like I wouldn't want to give 'em up."

Musgraves released her debut album, "Same Trailer Different Park," in 2013. She insisted the song "Merry Go Round" be the first single.

Kacey Musgraves - Merry Go 'Round (Acoustic Performance) (VEVO LIFT) by KaceyMusgravesVEVO on YouTube

It was an edgy choice that a record executive told her wouldn't work for radio. "I said, 'I wouldn't be proud of changing myself to try to, you know, appease a wider range of people."

"And what did he say to you?" asked King.

"He said, 'Well, sometimes in this business you just have to do things that you're not proud of.' And I said, 'That's where you and I, sir, are very different.'"

"You would really prefer not to have the career you have than to have a hit song and not be proud of it?"

"Oh my gosh! I can't imagine something more excruciating," she replied. "No, it's not worth it. It's just not worth it to me."

Staying true to herself has paid off big. For Musgraves, it's success she attributes to her songwriting roots. When her latest album, "Golden Hour," won four Grammy Awards earlier this year (including Album of the Year), she said, "To me, it's just all about the songs."

Why is that so important to her? "There's a little lightbulb that goes off that says 'This is an idea this could be in a something,' and it kind of presents itself. I could be in the middle of an argument. I'm like, 'Oh, that's a good line!'  I guess just the whole process of taking something from nothing, that process is something that is magical."

Take her song "Happy & Sad": "Happy and sad are two emotions that I find myself feeling a lot of the times together," she said. "I think it can be the anxiety of knowing that the moment is eventually going to end. What goes up comes down.

"I remember being in a Palm Springs tiki bar with my now-husband, and we were so in love. And he was saying just these things to me that were bringing tears to my eyes, and I was very happy, but he was confused 'cause I was crying. And I was happy but I was sad at the same time. And I feel that a lot."

Musgraves and singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly tied the knot in 2017. It's a love story that helped inspire "Golden Hour."

"Leading up to making 'Golden Hour,' I was just in kind of a depressive space. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do creatively, and I feel like I always feel a little bit depressed when I feel lost creatively. I took about a year to where I could just be in town and catch up on the simple parts of life that I had missed, being on tour.  Like, I'm needing to live life and that will feed new songs. So, that's about the time that I met Ruston, and needless to say, all these songs started pouring out."

Kacey Musgraves on Austin City Limits "Butterflies" by AustinCityLimitsTV on YouTube

King asked, "Okay, now she's in love and she's happy. … Will the music be as good? Were you worried about that?"

"I was worried," she replied. "I was like, 'I am happy now! Like, my music's gonna suck!'" she laughed. "Because you trick yourself into thinking that as a creative person, that you need to suffer in order to produce great art. And I think that's a terrible mistake. Like, I've kept myself in bad relationships before, thinking that songs will come out of it. So, whatever. That's like, what a waste of time!

"I did get some good songs out of it, though! So, it came as a surprise to me when this kind of whole new facet of art and writing kind of opened up for me after being the happiest that I had ever been."

King also asked Musgraves about her struggle with fame.

"It's not my favorite thing, fame. I think it used to freak me out a lot when I was younger. I was really intimidated by it. But as I've gotten older I've realized that, you know, there's not really anything to be scared of. Like, I have a wonderful foundation with my family underneath me, my husband. I know who I am."

King asked, "Do you feel like this is your moment?"

"I could say that it's my moment professionally, but personally I feel like it's best yet. You know, with leaving my 20s, going into my 30s, finding kind of a new sense of self and confidence that comes with being with the right person, and the songs that came from that. I think for me it all boils down to my songs. None of that would matter if the songs weren't there for me."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.