The roots of country music do have some overlap with the American folk tale tradition, but for her next album, Kacey Musgraves has found inspiration even farther back in the history of the oral storytelling tradition: greek tragedy. Yes, her follow-up to the breakthrough album Golden Hour will be something of a classical three-act tragedy inspired both by her divorce and personal life and the state of the country over the past few years.
“This last chapter of my life and this whole last year and chapter for our country — at its most simple form, it’s a tragedy,” Musgraves told Rolling Stone in a new cover story. “And then I started looking into why portraying a tragedy is actually therapeutic and why it is a form of art that has lasted for centuries. It’s because you set the scene, the audience rises to the climax of the problem with you, and then there’s resolve. There’s a feeling of resolution at the end. I was inspired by that.”
It’s no secret that while Musgraves is steeped in country music tradition, part of the reason she’s proven so popular with fans outside of that culture is simply that she’s not afraid to push the genre forward by looking to incorporate inspiration from unlikely places. Golden Hour incorporated elements of psych-rock and disco, and Musgraves says the word tragedy sprung into her head while listening to Johan Sebastian Bach’s “Komm, süßer Tod, komm selge Ruh.” (The title of that song translates to, “Come, sweet death, come blessed quiet.”)
Amidst all her success, including winning Album of the Year at the Grammys, Musgraves has been privately dealing with the dissolution of her marriage to fellow musician Ruston Kelly. The separation was announced in July of 2020 after less than three years of marriage. In a statement, the couple said “it just didn’t simply work.” It’s a sentiment Musgraves elaborates on in the interview, claiming it “just simply didn’t work out. It’s nothing more than that. It’s two people who love each other so much, but for so many reasons, it just didn’t work.” Though, the experience has left her questioning the concept of marriage all together.
“Part of me questions marriage as a whole, in general,” she said. “I just have to tell myself I was brave to follow through on those feelings. But look at Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. They’re doing something right.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on growing up as a woman in the South and being a performer from a young age — we were told to please, to make this person happy,” she continues. “That has to imprint on your code. It kind of erodes boundaries. So I’m trying to examine things that may not be useful anymore and maybe unlearn some things.”
Her album will be out later this year.