In just a few days, Kacey Musgraves will be on hand at the Grammys, to both perform and, hopefully, win some hardware. All this might have seemed far-fetched a year ago, when her own genre was giving her little support at radio and she seemed to have lost her clear-cut place in the industry. Not quite an outlaw, not quite a hit-seeker, Musgraves operates in her own lane, making personal songs about finding love and losing it, about missing her family and growing into an independent woman. Throughout every clever turn of phrase or effortless high note, she’s managed to establish her own aesthetic and hone her distinct point of view, something that songwriters twice her age still have trouble perfecting. And on her latest album, the already iconic Golden Hour, she proven that she doesn’t need any of the typical benchmarks to make a lasting impression.
But on Sunday, she has a real chance to hoist the biggest benchmark, the Album Of The Year Grammy, high above her head like the champion she is. And on Wednesday night, in front of an intimate audience at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles in a fundraiser for the museum’s youth education program, she spoke about what that honor would mean to her. Toward the end of a wide-ranging conversation with Grammy Museum Artistic Director (and ace interviewer) Scott Goldman, Musgraves touched on the nomination:
“It’s just a different level, a different kind of compliment. When you are put up in a category with albums that have garnered giant sales numbers and a giant number of spins, you just don’t expect to be put there with them. I know the Recording Academy doesn’t always look at those as the end-all-be-all as factors, but it’s a giant part of it, whether we like it or not. I think I was just surprised, because this record was different for me and you never know how that is going to go down. People want the things that they like to stay how they like them. They like what they know. We could all be guilty of that…
Being in that category, whether I win or not, it makes me feel like all of our work has paid off. The grueling travel or not seeing my family very much, it makes me feel like my hard work and my team’s hard work is paying off. And it reinforces the notion that people just want to hear songs that they connect with or resonates with them and it doesn’t matter how they hear them, where they hear them, how big those artists are, what genre they come from, what kind of clothes they wear. It gave me hope. It’s a really big compliment.”
It was a theme that came up frequently in the interview, how Musgraves felt at odds with the country music world during Golden Hour‘s release despite how proud she was of the output. At one point, she noted how radio professionals told her that the songs were at too slow of a tempo to be successful on the radio, to which she responded by tracing all the No. 1 songs of the last year and emailing “about 800 people” that her songs actually had the same, or in some cases faster, tempo than all of them. The response she was given was that they were talking about “perceived tempo,” to which Musgraves could simply roll her eyes and chalk it up to an industry that works against women and against anyone that challenges the status quo.
But on Sunday, it could be extremely heartening not just for Musgraves, but for music fans, to see an album so special (that critics also adore) honored for Album Of The Year ahead of bigger commercial success stories. It likely wouldn’t lead to a change in how music is consumed, but it would be a big boost in the idea that success stories can come in many different packages, and that there is value outside of the typical metrics. Musgraves isn’t too cool to care about awards, or too jaded to acknowledge the validation that comes with it. But Golden Hour has already accomplished so much, Grammy night feels like icing on the cake.