Kacey Musgraves was thinking about Daft Punk. Or at least, Daft Punk in the context of what it could bring to her songwriting. “I had this vision of futurism meeting traditionalism, and picturing this world where vocoders and synth pads can live with country instruments like banjo and pedal steel,” the 29-year-old singer tells EW.
That original mashup idea bursts into colorful accord on Musgraves’ newly released album, the spectacular Golden Hour, which finds the country star mixing her trademark twang with a touch of outer space. (See: the MIDI keyboard/pitch bender/banjo riff on standout single “Butterflies,” and the talk-box intro on “Oh, What a World,” among others.)
Lest you think Musgraves has taken a complete 180, Golden Hour is not, in fact, a full-fledged dive into the pop or prog sphere. Instead, it’s more of a side-step, one that introduces a new sonic direction without abandoning her country roots. “It was a balancing act,” she says, “to figure out how to implement new sounds and explore new avenues, but also not to lose my spirit or character.”
Ahead, Musgraves reveals the seven major inspirations that helped her achieve that balance and record one of 2018’s standout releases.
“I went on a fun acid trip and ended up writing the song ‘Mother.’ I got really tripped out thinking about my mom — she actually texted when I was tripping — and it made me nostalgic and emotional. I started thinking about the cycle of moms and life. I just got super-heady about it, and I wrote it all down, and the next day I finished the song. Psychedelics can make you feel like a grain of sand. It’s good for your ego. I would obviously never want anyone to do anything that doesn’t suit them. But it inspired me, and it ended up being a mainstay inspiration on the album.”
Currents by Tame Impala
“I fell in love with the record Currents hard. [Tame Impala’s] sound is a big inspiration. I was sucked into the sonic aesthetic, but the lyrics have a lot of substance too. It just feels good to listen to. There was this storytelling-like quality at moments. That, along with the melt-y, synth-y ear candy, made a huge impression on me, and I was excited at infusing that sound into country.”
The Solar Eclipse
“We were in the middle of making the album when the total solar eclipse happened and darkened all of Nashville. It was also my birthday. It just felt like a time to be present and witness and take in what was happening around me. It’s my 29th year, the golden hour, so to speak, of my 20s, and I don’t know… It was just this special moment, and it felt really cosmic. It added into the Zen nature of where I’m at.”
“I was listening to a ton of Bee Gees while making this album. I feel like disco is back! And I kept envisioning this Western-disco kind of thing — a mashup of those styles is fun to play with.”
“Getting married. That’s a big one. My world just completely changed. I met my now husband [singer Ruston Kelly] around the time that I set off on a new creative journey, and songs [like “Butterflies”] just started coming out of me. I hear a lot of songwriters say, ‘I’m happy now, I can’t write anymore.’ And I don’t really understand that. I want to write about everything. I don’t want to just write sad songs. So, naturally, that new chapter brought out new sounds.”
“I grew up listening to her. I feel like her musical sensibilities are imprinted on me somewhere subconsciously. I appreciate the fact that she is an artist who makes no apologies or concessions to anyone.”
“We got to record at Sheryl Crow’s house. She’s got a recording studio that’s also a horse stable. I’m a horse lover; I have one myself. I just feel a peace and calmness around horses. So on breaks, we spent a lot of time there. We just really wanted to get away from the rat race of the Music Row scene. It’s just not our thing. So we would record and hang, and go down and ride or play with these beautiful horses. She was so down-to-earth and incredibly gracious, letting us set up in her home. Maybe it’s through a little osmosis, but there are some early–Sheryl Crow vibes on this album.”