6 Years Ago: Kacey Musgraves Releases ‘Pageant Material’
Before she was a Grammy Album of the Year-winning superstar known for the dreamy, deep Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves was an acclaimed singer-songwriter mixing traditional country style with modern flair. She's never had much success at radio, but her major-label debut, 2013's Same Trailer, Different Park, earned plenty of critical acclaim and awards show recognition.
Anticipation was high, then, for Musgraves' sophomore album. That project, Pageant Material, arrived six years ago, on June 23, 2015, offering fans another look at Musgraves' perspectives of life, love and her career, with an "if ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude toward her sound, lyrics and collaborators.
"Going back into the studio this time around was really fun and exciting for me because I knew more about myself and my direction," Musgraves shared when announcing Pageant Material. "The majority of Pageant Material was recorded live — which was a bit of a departure from Same Trailer — and gave it more of a concise, classic sound ... The last couple of years have done so much for me, and this project was really affected by that in the best way."
Luke Laird and Shane McAnally returned to produce Pageant Material with Musgraves, and wrote a majority of the album with Musgraves. Laird's a songwriter on six of the tracks, and McAnally co-wrote a whopping nine (out of 14) songs; Musgraves said at the time at the two "know my vision, but they aren't afraid to challenge it."
Most of Musgraves' other Pageant Material co-writers were also close confidants: Brandy Clark and Josh Osborne co-wrote four and five songs, respectively, and, like Laird and McAnally, had worked on Same Trailer, Different Park, too. Natalie Hemby and Ashley Arrison also each have one co-writing credit.
“I’ve been really blessed to find a unique group of people to create with. Most of them wrote everything on the last record with me, and I just love our songs so much that I didn’t want to fix what wasn’t broken!” Musgraves shared at the time. “One of the things I really love about working with these people is how much we laugh! We’re constantly laughing our a--es off, so it always makes for a lighthearted atmosphere.
Musgraves also got an assist from a(n extremely) famous friend on Pageant Material's final track: She duets with Willie Nelson on a new version of "Are You Sure?" a song Nelson originally recorded for 1965's Country Willie: His Own Songs.
"Pageant Material was really inspired by a lot of the classic records and artists I love: Glen Campbell, Jim Croce, Bobbie Gentry, Marty Robbins, Roger Miller, Charley Pride. Records that set an even tone throughout are ones that I usually gravitate towards," Musgraves shared before its release. "So recording this record was really fun and exciting for me because I knew exactly what I wanted to go for."
Perhaps even moreso than Same Trailer, Different Park, Pageant Material is autobiographical; certainly, "Dime Store Cowgirl" and "Family Is Family" offer a deeper look. "This Town" even begins with an incredible (read: unbelievable, but totally true) story, told by Musgraves' grandmother.
"My grandmother, who passed away about a year and a half ago," Musgraves explained in 2015, "I had a secret recording of her telling this story, and she didn't know we were recording it, and we used it on this song."
Upon its release, Pageant Material debuted at the top of the Billboard Top Country Albums chart; it also reached the Top 5 (No. 3) on the all-genre Billboard 200. It earned nods for Album of the Year at the 2015 CMA Awards and Best Country Album at the 2016 ACM Awards.
Based partially on the strength of Pageant Material, Musgraves was nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year at the ACM Awards in 2016 and 2017, and for Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA Awards in 2015 and 2016.
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