5 Years Ago: Kacey Musgraves Debuts With ‘Same Trailer Different Park’
Five years ago, on March 19, 2013, Kacey Musgraves released her major-label debut album, Same Trailer Different Park. The Texas native co-produced the record with Luke Laird and Shane McAnally; the latter also co-wrote the bulk of the album with her, although Josh Osborne ("Silver Lining") and Brandy Clark ("Follow Your Arrow") also get several songwriting credits each.
"The making of this record was such a fun and meaningful time for me," Musgraves said at the time. "As a writer, singer and producer I learned so much throughout the whole process. I am proud and excited to present a project ... that came from a very real and inspired place in my brain and heart."
Same Trailer Different Park is a showcase for Musgraves' confident vision, which pairs the sparse arrangements and evocative instrumentation of vintage country (e.g., banjo, pedal steel) with the pop-leaning production favored by '90s country artists. If she sounds self-assured, there's a good reason for that: Musgraves started performing on Texas' Opry circuit while still in elementary school, and released three full-length albums independently before signing with Mercury Nashville to release Same Trailer Different Park.
Signing with a major label didn't dampen Musgraves' iconoclastic streak, but it did provide a bigger platform for her songwriting. Same Trailer Different Park features vivid characters, such as the waitresses of "Blowin' Smoke," who swear they're going to quit one day, and the heartbroken protagonist of the rollicking "Dandelion." Musgraves' voice is empathetic but even-keeled; the emotion she exudes makes her songs even more relatable and meaningful.
Yet the album is also a testament to Musgraves' incisive songwriting, which is economical and effective. "Merry Go 'Round" features clever but wistful wordplay such as "Mama's hooked on Mary Kay / Brother's hooked on Mary Jane / And Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down," while "Step Off" features the indelible lines, "Sticks and stones / May build a throne / But you’ll be up there all alone."
"I love words," Musgraves said at the time. "I love how intricate they can get. Even in simple conversation, I like it when language is colorful ... When I was in school, one of my favorite subjects was always creative writing."
As detailed in a 2013 New York Times profile feature, Musgraves also wasn't afraid to use her lyrics to push against expectations. For example, the story opens with her deciding to play "Follow Your Arrow," which references sex and drug use, at a showcase of radio programmers.
“A label’s typical plan would be to put something out that’s safer and get fans, and then push buttons,” Musgraves told the Times, “but my idea is to push buttons first, scare off the people who are gonna be scared off, and then the right people will like you for who you really are, and stay with you.”
Musgraves' bet paid off: Same Trailer Different Park hit No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart, while all four of the released singles landed in the Top 40 of the country charts. (Three of these songs also hit the country airplay Top 40.) In 2014, the album was certified gold, and gave Musgraves the chance to open shows for Katy Perry, as well as Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss.
Same Trailer Different Park won Best Country Album at the 2014 Grammy Awards and nabbed Album of the Year at the 2014 ACM Awards."Merry Go 'Round," meanwhile, also won Best Country Song at the 2014 Grammy Awards.
"The fact that this song was chosen as the best ... just blows my mind," she said while accepting this award. "This song has changed my life." After acknowledging Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally, who joined her onstage, Musgraves added, "We tapped in to something really special. I'll never get tired of playing that song."
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