On top of all the renewed concerns about COVID, Kacey Musgraves faces what seems like another daunting hurdle ahead of her tour this week: singing the ultra-personal, heartbreaking songs from her latest album night after night.
Like a Texan caught in a flurry, however, the Grammy-winning country-turned-pop singer ignores this latest concern — and plenty of other headline-grabbing news related to her 2021 album “Star-Crossed.”
“I’m in a happy place now,” she said firmly. “I’m comfortable sharing the pain and showing that I’ve overcome it.”
“Comfort” was the word of the day as the East Texas native spoke on the phone two weeks ago on a day when snow pelted her Nashville home – a scene she relished.
“I’ll be ready for you,” she joked to the Minnesota reporter, which ended up being her chosen spot to kick off her tour in mid-January.
Musgraves, 33, returns Wednesday to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the same venue where she had her breakthrough gig in the Twin Cities, opening for Harry Styles in 2018 just as her ‘Golden Hour’ album arrived. . (“It was such a good feeling to be embraced by Harry’s fans,” she recalled.)
Loaded with the clever puns, small-town bustle and self-deprecating humor that have permeated his two previous albums – 2013’s ‘Follow Your Arrow’ ranks among the top 5 country radio hits of the past decade – “Golden Hour” traded the Musgraves’ most grounded country sound for synth-tinged dance-pop and up-tempo, breezy Southern California twang-pop.
The musical change worked like a charm. “Golden Hour” has been picked up by pop and adult-contemporary radio stations on the verge of being named the 2019 Grammys album of the year.
“I don’t like feeling like I have to serve a particular entity or a person’s taste when I go in to make a song,” Musgraves said of his sonic progression. “If it makes me feel good, I go with it, and I hope I’m not the only one who likes it.”
She followed that instinct by doing “Star-Crossed.” Released in September, the 15-song collection was written and recorded with the same Nashville collaborators as “Golden Hour.” The big difference this time around was the emotional tone of the songs.
“Star-Crossed” follows Musgraves’ divorce from singer/songwriter Ruston Kelly after 2½ years of marriage. “It just didn’t work out,” the musical couple said in a joint statement, adding that they were “put into each other’s lives for a divine reason” and “both changed immeasurably for the sake of it.” better”.
Many of the songs on the album follow a similar no-love-lost, lessons-learned attitude. From the balladic Spanish guitar-infused title track, which opens the LP, to the slow, rambling single “Justified,” Musgraves more often sings about his own guilt and mixed emotions than those of his ex.
“Moving on, feeling strong, but healing doesn’t come in a straight line,” she sings in “Justified.”
Musgraves said the “moving forward” line will be central to her upcoming performances – which she promised “will be uplifting”.
“I truly believe this chapter of my life deserves a platform, and it’s something that a lot of listeners will tune into,” she said.
“I’m talking about the fact that healing is not linear, and you have to learn to depend on yourself, learn to depend on your friends. There’s been a lot of spiritual exploration and coming together with all that God is throughout this process.”
She promised to drop many songs from “Golden Hour” “to lighten things up,” but she also pointed out that the new songs aren’t entirely filled with heartache.
“There’s a lot of love on the album too,” she said. “It’s a divorce file, but there’s a lot of love, admiration and reflection on the experience I had with this person. It’s not because it didn’t last. forever, it doesn’t take away the beauty he once had.”
It’s time to “de-stress”
Although she thinks everyone in the crowd can relate to the posts — “especially after what we’ve all been through for the past two years,” she said — Musgraves chose “Good Wife” as a song that “has certainly been a favorite among women more.”
The lyrics include, “God, help me be a good wife cause he needs me / Even when he’s not right, he still needs me.”
“That song was kind of a fun little prayer,” she explained, “a little nod to myself being newly married and in over my head and not really knowing how to support someone. unconditionally. It’s hard.”
Upon the release of “Star-Crossed”, Musgraves found his support in the country music industry to be far from unconditional. The album received little attention from country radio and was even deemed ineligible in the country categories of the (currently postponed) Grammy Awards – never mind that “Golden Hour” was equally untwangy and won those same categories in 2019.
You could attribute these perceived rebuffs to sexism, given the more feminist tone of “Star-Crossed” (“I really couldn’t tell if that’s the case,” that’s all Musgraves said), but she don’t sweat them.
“I already have six Grammys, so I can’t really complain,” she said. “It gets risky these days when you try to break down and dissect the type of music on an album. Some of my favorite artists are kind of genreless.
“Really what matters most to me at the end of the day is that I’ve written songs that feel authentic to me, no matter what category they’re placed in.”
After already waiting four months to perform those songs on tour, Musgraves said she doesn’t want to delay any longer, even with the rise of the omicron variant of COVID.
“We have the vaccines, the boosters and the masks to protect us, and I think people now know what they’re comfortable with,” she said. (Note: St. Paul’s new citywide mandate for documentation of vaccines/tests and masks at indoor events goes into effect Wednesday.)
“I think we can all enjoy an evening to de-stress a bit,” she added.
As well as finishing “Star-Crossed,” Musgraves said she spent the long months of lockdown taking pottery lessons (“It’s super meditative”) and working on her Spanish skills. She shows this latest work on the closing album cover of Violeta Parra’s “Gracias a la Vida”, a dramatic ballad that Musgraves described as “an ode to the experience of life and all that is terrible and beautiful”.
She has also settled into her new home and has been writing a lot of songs over the past few months. When asked what his next record might look like, Musgraves wouldn’t go into detail – but did share probably the most important detail.
“Just an idea here,” she said with an audible wink, “but I think it will be a lot happier.”
With: King Princess, Muna.
When: 8 p.m. Wed.
Or: Xcel Energy Center, 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul.
Tickets: $16 to $100, ticketmaster.com