Music can make us feel like we're not alone in our struggles, give us something to believe in, mend a broken heart, or make us feel heard when we're the ones listening to it. Someone who seems to touch all the bases is Kacey Musgraves.
When I feel conflicted or stressed, I put her songs on shuffle and let her lyrics ease my mind. I've always had the habit of letting music be my therapy at times and something about her songs are extra effective. My upbringing is really similar to hers, so I think that has a lot to do with it. Being from a small town in the south, but still being open-minded and outspoken, can come with consequences. And I've spent a lot of time trying to be taken seriously, then more time not giving a shit if I am or not. Living by the words of Kacey Musgraves, and just by living, I've come to the conclusion that not giving a shit is way better for my health.
Even with six Grammy awards, she's one of the most relatable artists. Much of that has to be attributed to her perfect balance of wit, wisdom, and tasteful use of satire and sarcasm. It seems like she takes a dauntless approach toward songwriting that is very "Que será, será." It always feels like she's just letting things off her chest and saying how she truly feels, and in turn, is giving her listeners something to hold onto. And I think that can be the case for most people, not just those raised in the south. So whenever anyone is going through something, they can easily say "there's a Kacey Musgraves song to help me get through it."
1. Fear of tradition or settling: "Merry Go 'Round"
The thing that's always scared me the most is feeling like I would be stuck in a life I don't want. "Merry Go 'Round" came out when I needed it the most. I was 13, which is easily the worst time of anyone's life. I already felt like no one understood me. I wasn't sure of the fate of my parents' relationship. I was starting to doubt the traditional values as I graduated from my seat at the kid's table and started noticing the hypocrisy and closedmindedness that filled my family. And luckily, it was that same year I got my first iPod. I wanted to fill it with more than just the country music I was raised on, so Kacey Musgraves was a breath of fresh air. She felt familiar, but put out a song with the sarcasm I was craving and lyrics that acknowledged everything I was starting to see for myself. It was the perfect start to my teen years. And even now that they've basically come to a close, "Merry Go 'Round" makes me less afraid of what I used to fear the most.
2. Things not going as planned: "Silver Lining"
I know I can be quite an idealistic person, and I tend to plan things out in my head. The lyrics of "Silver Lining" are a reminder that it takes more than wanting something to happen for it to happen. Luck isn't what makes things work out. With the use of various idioms, Musgraves is thoughtfully sending the message that hard work is imperative to success. "'Cause if you're ever gonna find a four-leaf clover, you gotta get a little dirt on your hands."
3. A job crushing my spirits: "Blowin' Smoke"
I've been at battle with myself over whether I'm being practical in wanting to be creative and do something that seems to matter. Having jobs that require a fake smile, just to come home and cry sucks when I've wanted nothing more than to follow my passions. I've had my day ruined by coworkers who don't care about their next moves so they talk shit to get through the day. And after one of those days, I randomly came across "Blowin' Smoke," after not hearing it in a while. The bridge kept rolling around in the back of my head, "We all say that we'll quit someday. When our nerves ain't shot, and our hands don't shake." So I left.
4. Pressures of society getting to me: "Follow Your Arrow"
Something I've learned is that you can't make everybody happy, so it shouldn't matter who you piss off. And "Follow Your Arrow" is a song that represents that perfectly. And for that reason, it's the song that best describes my life. It reminds me of so much of what I witnessed growing up. Like the time I was at a "welcome home from prison" party and I overheard the host of the event accusing another family member of being on hard drugs because of her new diet. And the lyrics continue to be true. Because a few years later, I was repeatedly called fat by that same side of the family after the freshman 15 followed me home from my first year of college. And jokes were cracked toward me when my best friend came out as gay and I obviously loved him anyway. And then there were more jokes after I let it slip that I developed a crush on a guy who wasn't white. Apparently, that was all I needed to do to prevent people from asking "have ya found a man yet?" But as the song says, "you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. So, you might as well just do whatever you want." So I do.
5. Wanting to step off the beaten path: "Pageant Material"
As a girl who grew up in the south, "Pageant Material" obviously holds a big place in my heart. Especially since my particular place in the south is South Carolina, where being a pageant girl was made into a joke back in 2007, thanks to our geography buff. (But our state is ranked 43rd in education, so it's nobody's fault). In all seriousness, every word of this song rings true. There is a certain expectation for southern females. Most of it involves sitting still, looking pretty, and keeping your mouth shut. Most of the women in my life settled down early, getting married and having kids right out of high school, then spending all their time after proving themselves to their traditional mothers and husbands. We're starting to move past that, but that doesn't always come with support from older generations. They still gasped when I dyed my hair purple, pierced my nose, and every time I drop the F-bomb.
6. Stepping into drama I don't want: "Biscuits"
There's not much to do in small towns, so people gossip. It's really easy to get caught up in it. Sometimes poking through the blinds to see what the cops are doing at your neighbor's house can be better than what's on TV. One week back in my hometown comes with unsolicited information like who is cheating on their partners and with whom, who's lying about who their baby's daddy is, who dropped out of college, and a whole bunch of other things I have no business knowing. That's part of why I try to stay away as long as I can. I have to mind my own biscuits so life will be gravy.
7. When I need to come back down to Earth: "Dime Store Cowgirl"
"Dime Store Cowgirl" is my personal reminder that no matter where I end up or who I become, I'm not that cool. I dream really big and get ahead of myself, but I'm still me. And if all of my dreams were to come true, that wouldn't change. I honestly wanted to get out of my hometown so bad that I left for college a year early. No one else in my family had ever been so I felt like I had something extra to prove. It took leaving my hometown and my family to see that they were what shaped me into who I am. And since I like that person, I love that little town and the family that drove me crazy. As Kacey Musgraves says, "I had to get away so I could grow."
8. Every time my relatives are more than I can handle: "Family is Family"
Every single word of this song could be about my family. There's a relative for every line so I play it when I get homesick. Mostly because it's better than calling a lot of my relatives (and quicker). But the sincerity is still there. I've established how crazy my family is. And I'll admit that the last time I went home it was just for an appointment with my optometrist and a haircut, and I didn't tell anyone I'd be around. But I love them a lot and I know that even though they don't support all of my choices, they have endless love for me too. That's why photos of relatives fill my wall, memories fill my head, and their love fills my heart. And I'm blessed to have a family that's so big and so wild. Because even with the ones I only see at funerals, it's not a bad time.
9. When I can't gather my emotions: "Happy & Sad"
"Golden Hour" will forever be my favorite album. I don't think any entire project will ever be able to match my anticipation and then exceed any expectation I would have for it the way "Golden Hour" did. I constantly crave songs with lyrics that won't ever leave my brain because they're words I feel but can't put together on my own. "I'm the kind of person who starts getting kinda nervous when I'm having the time of my life," are the lyrics that do that. I get anxious when I realize a good thing can't last forever. Anxiety and its takeover of conflicting emotions are hard to put into words. Yet somehow Kacey Musgraves managed to master that task in less than five minutes.
10. Needing reassurance that it gets better: "Rainbow"
I love that this song reminds everyone that there may be a weight on their shoulders, but there's a rainbow over their head too. I play it every time I feel more stressed than usual, and because it is so delicate and reassuring, I feel better instantly. "Rainbow" has inspired me to live a life that is vulnerable and authentic, which is something I appreciate.
11. Someone killing my vibe: "High Horse"
"High Horse" makes me laugh and has a way of getting me to loosen up because it's pure disco fun! And of course, someone specific comes to mind so I'll roll my eyes in their honor when it comes on, which always feels good. We all know a person, or people, who are a total buzz kill with their entitlement and holier-than-thou attitude. And "High Horse" is a funky reminder that their unfun arrogance is unnecessary, so they can just giddy up out of town. It's more groovy than it is bitter, which is the kind of positive energy I want in my life.
12. Missing my mom: "Mother"
"Mother" is quick and to the point, but has made me cry more than once because I miss my mom constantly. I complain about my family a lot, and truthfully my mom is the only person exempted from it. 90% of what I gripe about is the mess she married into, so we've been riding the messy wave together my entire life. And even though I'm honestly not that far from my mom and I shouldn't miss her since I call her at least once a day, any distance is too much. She has an answer for everything, she's more nurturing than I would ever think possible without knowing her, and she's an artist so she has a genuinely unique outlook on everything.
13. Expecting too much: "Wonder Woman"
Whether it's setting expectations too high for myself or for people in my life, it's something I catch myself doing too often. I listen to "Wonder Woman" so I remember I can't be a superhero and I shouldn't want anyone else to be either. I can only do what I can do, and if that doesn't mean giving 100% all the time, that has to be okay. It's an important reminder when it comes to love, and just in life.