Kacey Musgraves Talks Four Grammy Nominations, 'Zen' New Tour & Why 'Women Are Making Better Music'

Jamie Nelson
Kacey Musgraves

"It takes women to have the balls to be unique enough to be noticed, but it takes somebody to notice and to be fair about that," Musgraves tells Billboard Pop Shop Podcast for our Grammy preview episode.

When Kacey Musgraves set out to make her third studio album, Golden Hour, she knew she wanted to "play with some different colors" this time around, but she never could have imagined that her creative turn would lead to her first-ever nomination for the Grammys' top prize: album of the year.  

"It really is just a huge honor," she tells Billboard's Pop Shop Podcast backstage at the Grammy Museum for our special Grammy preview episode (listen to the full podcast below). The two-time Grammy winner was at the museum on Tuesday night for An Evening With Kacey Musgraves, a benefit program for the Recording Academy's eduation initiatives, during which she took part in an hour-plus conversation about her music and performed six songs from her 2018 album, including a live-band take on her disco barn-stomper "High Horse."

"Being in a category where it's, quote-unquote, whatever they're hailing as the 'best album of the year' in a year that did have so many great things, and in a category where these records amassed giant sales numbers, giant radio play, and mine didn't, it's just a different kind of album," she says, comparing her work to commercial behemoths and fellow nominees like Drake's Scorpion, Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy, Post Malone's beerbongs & bentleys and the Black Panther album. "I just think that everyone is great in the category, and it's very diverse. I think that's really rad, and it just makes me feel like my hard work is paying off. It just reinforces the fact that songs are songs and it doesn't matter what genre that you step out of; people just want to connect. That's the main takeaway from that, whether I win or not."

In addition to her album of the year nomination, Musgraves will also vie for country album of the year, best country solo performance ("Butterflies") and best country song ("Space Cowboy") on Sunday night. And whether she takes home an award or not, we know she'll hit the stage at least twice: once as part of a Dolly Parton tribute (covering "a song that I absolutely adore") and a second time on her own. "I get to perform a song that's very special to me," she says, adding a lyrical hint that points directly to her next Golden Hour single "Rainbow." "All I can say is, 'It'll all be all right.'"

During last year's Grammy ceremony, a lot was made of the lack of female representation in the top categories -- and the uproar became even louder after the telecast, when Recording Academy President Neil Portnow urged female musicians to "step up" to compete in the top fields, seemingly putting the onus on artists as opposed to Grammy voters. A year later, Musgraves is one of five female artists in the expanded album of the year field, and she thinks there's a few factors at play. "I think it's really exciting to see the music industry as a whole moving toward fairness, but I also think that women are creating better music. It's a combination of both," she says. "It takes women to have the balls to be unique enough to be noticed, but it takes somebody to notice and to be fair about that. I think it's kind of a bipartisan growth. It's happening."

All the Grammy madness is coming at a busy time for Musgraves, who kicked off the North American leg of her Oh, What a World Tour last month. While she was able to perform her Golden Hour songs when she opened for Harry Styles on tour last year, it's a whole new feeling to play for a crowd there just for her. "It's honestly everything to have a room full of people that really connect with the songs that you're playing," she says. "This tour has kind of blown my mind. I think that there's a lot of new people that have come to the party through hearing this album. It's very obvious to me when we see these people and we hear them singing the lyrics. And we still do include a little bit of the old material, because that is still very much me, but yeah, it's been really fun to put together.

"The songs just feel good," she adds. "I hope they feel good to hear, but they feel good for me to play. They're very kind of tranquil, kind of blissed-out. I want people to come and have a little bit of a zen moment at the show. You can't really expect it to be crazy high-energy, but ultimately, I just want it to feel good."

Musgraves' tour continues Feb. 13 in Phoenix with dates through June, plus festival stops at Coachella, Bonnaroo and Governors Ball.

While she's on the road, she's still making time for creative endeavors, including an adult coloring book with her artist mom, appropriately titled Oh, What a Colorful World, and even some new music, not even a year after Golden Hour's March 2018 release. "There's a couple new songs here or there that I've kind of added to the pile," she teases. "And that's kind of what I like to do, is just take some time to meander my way and see if I can catch some sort of a creative wind. I feel like it can be one song that sparks that. For the last album, that was 'Oh, What a World.' … So we've gotten to sit down once or twice between busy days and add a song here or there, and I'm really excited about the direction that they lean. I think in March, I'm gonna take some time and kind of dig around more in there and see if we can kind of latch onto. I'd like to make another record that I'm really proud of. It's hard to tour and not rush an album, but I really don't want to do that. I mean, Golden Hour, it was a slow burn -- pun intended."

Also on the show, Keith & Katie break down who they think should and will win at the 2019 Grammy Awards, which air live from LA's Staples Center on Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard's weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard's senior director of charts Keith Caulfield and deputy editor, digital Katie Atkinson every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)

2019 Grammy Awards