The magazine spoke to Musgraves after what is described as a particularly stressful pandemic lockdown, which came after her split from husband and fellow musician Ruston Kelly in July 2020, who she credited with inspiring Hour when she won album of the year at the 2019 Grammy Awards. “I could have coasted for another couple of years,” she said about having to stew in her emotions during the year-plus pandemic lockdown, “just not paying attention to my feelings or not really dealing with some things.”
Instead, Musgraves dug deep and wrote 40 songs, 15 of which will appear on the as-yet-untitled album slated for release in late summer/early fall. The collection is described as somewhat Shakespearean, unfolding in a three-act structure that popped into her head just days before hitting the studio. “The word tragedy just popped into my mind. And I was like, ‘Whoa, what if the album was formulated like a modern Shakespearean or Greek tragedy?,'” she said of the inspiration that struck as she was laying on her bed journaling and listening to Bach.
“I felt, in many ways, on top of the world in my career, but in my personal life, I felt like I was dying inside. I was crumbling. I was sad. I felt lonely. I felt broken,” she said about the period after the success of Hour and her marriage meltdown. Not content to just be pegged as a country artist, Musgraves said that while she doesn’t belong strictly in that genre, she is deeply rooted in it. That said, the list of artist she describes as influences on the next album include: Bill Withers, Daft Punk, Sade, the Eagles and, naturally, Weezer.
“She can do whatever she wants to,” good pal and country legend Willie Nelson told Elle. “I think whatever she thinks she can do, you’d better get out of the way.” If Golden Hour — which seamlessly blended pop, country and a disco-tinged psychedelia — was about escapism, “fantasy” and viewing life through “rose-colored glasses,” Musgraves said the follow-up is “realism.”
As described by the magazine, the collection finds her singing about “longing for the past, recognizing that it was imperfect and craving it anyway, thinking about the possibilities of putting oneself out there again, and then politely demurring, for now.”
Check out the Elle cover and some other pics from the shoot below.