It’s been less than four months since Kacey Musgraves released her whipsmart, sweet-as-sin second album, Pageant Material, but the 27-year-old country singer says she knows it won’t be long before she begins to tire of playing its songs on the road.
“I still really love a lot of these songs,” Musgraves tells Rolling Stone Country backstage at Farm Aid 30 in Chicago, white oversize sunglasses covering up much of her face. “But that does happen: you mix and master [an album] and you work on it so long. . . They say when you get to the point where you don’t want to ever hear it again that’s when you know you’re done.”
For now, Musgraves is enjoying herself on tour, regularly adding dashes of her innate rock & roll flair into the Pageant Material songs when performing them live. During her sassy set, she’ll often stretch out the new material onstage, giving each a more spontaneous flavor than their reined-in album versions. “‘Die Fun’ [has] grown into a more jammy kind of thing,” Musgraves explains, tightly clutching her newly adopted pint-sized dog, Bambi. “We kind of jam out on that one; that’s a little different than on the record. ‘Dime Store Cowgirl,’ same thing. I love the record versions a lot, but it’s always fun to see them take on a new persona in the live show.”
Raised in the small East Texas town of Golden, Musgraves’ world has been dramatically altered in recent times, namely as a result of her breakout debut album, 2013’s Same Trailer Different Park. For one, she’s opened her eyes to the collective desires of humanity. “Meeting so many different types of people and seeing the way they live is one of my favorite parts of touring,” she explains. “Since I’ve been doing that, it drives the fact home that we’re all the same. We’re all driven by the same emotions, the same wants, needs. We just do it in different ways. I really do enjoy experiencing different parts of other people’s cultures and trying different foods.”
Being one to care about what she eats, Musgraves says she was thrilled to be taking part in Farm Aid for the second consecutive year. Championing the need for more family farmers and less corporate involvement in food production hits especially close to home for her. “There’s not a lot of resources [in Golden] for people to be healthy; it’s kind of frustrating,” she says. “It’s inspiring to see Neil Young and Willie [Nelson] and all these people get fired up about this issue. It really inspires me. It’s total bullshit how our food is regulated in this country. Clean healthy food isn’t a luxury. It’s a right.
“Golden is famous for its sweet potatoes; that’s its cash crop,” she continues. “But as far as going to the store and getting organic produce that is untouched by pesticides and GMOs, it’s not available. It’s just not. Even the quote-unquote fresh produce that’s there isn’t what it could be. So it’s really sad.”
While on tour, Musgraves says she’s started writing new material for the follow-up to Pageant Material, but admits to being the sort of musician who reserves her most creative time periods for those spent in the studio. “Here and there if an idea pops in my head I jot it down because I don’t want to let it go,” she offers. “I don’t do as much writing as I would like to do on the road; I just don’t think there’s the calmness and focus I can have when I go somewhere to write and just clear my head.
“But I always can’t wait to get back to the writing part,” she concludes. “And I always save up a bunch of ideas so when I do get to it I have a lot at my fingertips. I feel most in my element when I’m writing or creating. Although that aspect doesn’t last for as long as I would like.”
Musgraves recently performed a pair of triumphant sold-out shows at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. She’ll play New Orleans on Friday, October 9th, before heading north for two gigs in Oklahoma.