NEW YORK — Kacey Musgraves and Harry Styles might sound like an odd pairing for a tour, but for Musgraves, it makes perfect sense.
That's because Musgraves is happy to bring country music to new and unexpected audiences and, at the same time, continue to expand her own sound, like she does on her recently released third album, where the influences include Sade and the Bee Gees.
"I've always wanted to be the kind of artist that can play Bonnaroo or Coachella and then turn around and play a country festival. I love both sides of the coin — whether it's going on tour with Willie Nelson or Katy Perry," she said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
"Golden Hour," which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's country albums chart this week, sticks to Musgraves' country roots, but the result is more pop-leaning compared to her first two full-length albums. She said while crafting the songs she was "trying to think bigger, think more globally."
"I'm really excited for this record to reach an audience that I haven't reached yet with my other music. One thing that I've always been very proud of is when someone says, 'I don't like country music, but I love your music.' That's a huge compliment to me. I love being an ambassador."
Musgraves has been playing the new songs on the road with Little Big Town, and she'll reach more — and new — fans when the two-time Grammy winner opens for the former One Direction member on June 5.
Musgraves talks about her new album, switching up her sound, tripping on acid and more.
AP: How do you feel that you've grown in the last couple of years?
Musgraves: I feel like I've grown in a lot of ways... If you kind of start off from Day One just being yourself, you really don't owe anything to anybody from then on. There's a lot of freedom in just coming out and just saying, 'This is me. And if you like it, cool and if not, that's fine, too.' It's been really fun over the years, just following those inspirations and just kind of rolling with it, whether its country or not.
I love the idea of country music translating to people of all kinds, everywhere. And it doesn't have to be about only five subject matters, tailgates and beer. Those are great things, but country music — real country music — is about life, and that's what this album is about.
AP: Was the goal of reaching more people in the back of your mind when you were recording?
Musgraves: A lot of influences were in my ear going into making this. I'm a big fan of Sade and I grew up listening to her and the Bee Gees and Neil Young and all these things, Imogen Heap and Daft Punk. I was like, 'Where's a world where all of these things can live, (along) with the things that inspire me about country music?' Like, pedal steel guitar, banjo, my country center, my organic center.
It was real important for people not to hear this and go, 'Where's Kacey? Where'd she go? This is the third album. Oh, she just tried to get weird for weird's sake.' No, it's like, I was very adamant about finding the balance and not losing my spirit or my character within all of this, but also evolving.
AP: Are you excited to go on tour with Harry Styles?
Musgraves: I love the challenge of being put with an artist that you normally probably wouldn't think to put me with. I think it's a brilliant combination, especially considering where his album ... the direction that went. When I got asked to do it I was like, 'Yes, I can totally see this being so fun and making sense.' And I honestly think that his fans are going to dig the record. And they may not know anything about country music, but hopefully they like it.
These days, people don't think in terms of genre. You know, genres might have been created for store shelves. A categorizing system of sorts and we don't have that anymore obviously as much, so I really just see music falling into two different categories: good and bad. I think most people are starting to see that way. A good song is a good song no matter how it's dressed up.
AP: "Mother" is a wonderful and personal song. What was it like creating that?
Musgraves: It's a song that, long story short, was inspired by an acid trip and my mom texting me during said acid trip, and it just open the flood gates for all these emotions and reflections on the cycle of life and mothers. The fact that I was sitting there in Tennessee missing my mom, who was sitting in Texas missing her mom, who passed away several years ago. I surprised her with the song one day. I didn't tell her that I wrote it. I just said, 'Hey, I have something to play for you. And I wrote this for you and it's the shortest song on the album, but I think it's kind of the one that means the most.'
AP: How has married life been for you? (She married musician Ruston Kelly in October).
Musgraves: Married life has been really fun. It feels just really solid and like I have a teammate for life. I married my best friend, so we have each other's backs so that feels really good. Although it is hard, both being touring musicians, we got to, like, pencil each other in. But we can get through the next couple years being really busy and you know, take some time.
AP: You'll turn 30 in August. How do you feel about that?
Musgraves: It feels really good, to be honest, to be kind of in the golden hour of my twenties. That was kind of a factor, thinking about this album. I turned 29 on August 21, which was the same exact day that the total solar eclipse happened in Nashville. And there we were, we were like smack dab making the record, it was my 29th birthday, I was about to get married, and then we had the path of totality of Nashville, and it just felt like the culmination of so many events, cosmic and personal. It was really cool. I hear from everybody that is 30-plus that your 30s are your best. I'm personally excited. Everything gets better with time. And I'm still finding inspiration and having fun, so I can't really ask for more.