Musgraves Returns for Hometown Hang

Concert Benefits Arts and Music for Wood County Kids


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Photo by Kelly Christine Photography

It might be easy for so many people to think of Kacey Musgraves’ return to Mineola on September 26 with her full band as the return of a conquering hero, an overnight success. The truth is, as young as she still is at 27, it’s already been a long journey, an odyssey of sorts, coming home for payback.

The “Hometown Hang” at the Mineola Nature Preserve includes performances by Wade Bowen, John & Jacob, and musicians from local schools plus local food vendors, an auction, and more. Proceeds benefit Wood County schools’ arts and music programs.

“I’m really excited to bring the band to Mineola,” Musgraves said, noting that it will be the first time the full band will be with her in the area where she was raised.

“I just remember when I was growing up hearing an art teacher say she had to pay for some art materials for class. That really made impression on me. It’s cool to help.”

Musgraves picked up her first guitar when she was 12; soon she was taking lessons in Mineola from John DeFoore, who’s worked with hundreds of students over the years including Miranda Lambert, Casey Rivers, Michelle Shocked, Kerri Arista, Jon Wolfe, T-Roy Miller, Aaron Jackson, Karleigh Paige, and so many more.

“I’d been performing well before then,” Musgraves said. “John was a wonderful teacher. I don’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing right now if he hadn’t inspired me to write and to listen to songwriters and to play guitar.”

Locals know, “outsiders” don’t, that overnight success was a longtime coming.

Her “odyssey,” indeed began much earlier, with pre-teen performances as a yodeling cowgirl on “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America.” She wrote her first song, “Notice Me,” for an elementary school graduation when she was eight. At nine, she wrote a song about a relationship going bad but, she said, “I wouldn’t want anybody to hear it now.”

When she was 14, Musgraves won the teen album of the year from the Lone Star Music Association. She released three albums before performing on the fifth season of “Nashville Star,” which led to a national contract with Mercury Nashville and the 2013 hit album Same Trailer Different Park, with its country hits “Merry Go ’Round,” “Blowin’ Smoke,” and “Follow Your Arrow.” Same Trailer Different Park won the Academy of Country Music award for album of the year, the first of several professional awards including two Grammies and a World Music Award.

Rolling Stone magazine wrote that she was “one of the loudest symbols of young country musicians embracing progressive values.”

Now Musgraves is back with co-producers and writing partners Luke Laird and Shane McAnally and the new Pageant Material, a mature album mixing serious and humorous songs with enough clever lines to please any country audience.

Musgraves said she likes all of the songs on the new album for different reasons.

Her favorite, if she has to name one, might be “Late to the Party,” a pretty song about a couple who decide they’re never late to that party because the world can wait “when you’re happy at a party of two.”

She also singles out “This Town,” which opens with gossiping voices, then describes a town big enough for a ZIP code that has a good Mexican restaurant, a beauty shop or two, Methodists and Baptists and the Church of the Nazarene; she sings that it’s “too small to be mean, way too small for secrets because they’re too small to keep.”

And “Family is Family,” a fun song that recognizes kinfolks “no matter how dysfunctional or embarrassing they might, at times, be.”

Other highlights, among many, include “(I’m just a) Dime Store Cowgirl” about a young woman who “got too big for my britches; the  philosophical “Biscuits” which reminds us to mind our own biscuits and life will be gravy;” and “Somebody to Love” where she sings that we are all “just tryin’ to hold it all together, wishin’ our best was better.”

Just who is Kacey Lee Musgraves these days?

“At my core, I’m the same person. And I’ve got a pretty strong core. I appreciate where I come from and my family’s involvement. Simple things still bring me joy. I’ve seen a lot of the world, really some amazing and crazy things,” she said. “I think I’m the same person, just with more experience of the world. Different perspectives allow me to grow.”

While some people hear her music as fairly happy and some hear anger with a sense of humor, Musgraves doesn’t separate the two.

“I really enjoy songs with a sense of humor, even if it’s a depressing juxtaposition, even if there’s a little sarcasm,” she said. “Whatever rings true to me, and if its feels conversational enough, just how I would say something in real life.”

She doesn’t consider her lyrics controversial, not even in a genre that remains fairly conservative.

“I think throwing the rebel card out there is really cheap,” she once told the Wall Street Journal. “The things I’m singing about are not controversial to me. I don’t push buttons to push buttons. I talk about things that have made an impression on me that a lot of people everywhere are going through.”

For someone who lists John Prine as a major influence, it’s not surprising that, if she had to choose between writing and performing, her choice would be clear.

“Oh, absolutely writing. Writing brings me so much joy, makes me feel like I’m using my brain,” she said. “Performing is great, just a vehicle to connect with people. But writing is my favorite part. It gives me a true natural high. There’s no better feeling than when you finish a song that’s really good.”

Other major influences — her career role models — include another East Texan, Lee Ann Womack, and, for her longtime excellence, Alison Krauss.

What would Kacey Musgraves be doing if she weren’t a musician?

“Oh, who knows? I’d probably be a fugitive somewhere,” she said, laughing. “It would be something creative. I like shaping things from the ground up, whether it’s painting or a song, just putting my stamp on it.”

She’ll put her stamp on Mineola again — and on local schools — with the Hometown Hang. Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the gate, with special arrangements for donations of $150 or more. The gate opens at 3 p.m. with performances beginning at 4:30. For more information, go to mineolanaturepreserve.com or www.kaceymusgraves.com.

“I’m really happy to have such great support around me,” Musgraves said. “Growing up in East Texas, I got a lot of encouragement to be creative, and this is my small way to give back to that.”

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