Kacey Musgraves Recalls How Her Fantastic Debut Single, “Merry Go ‘Round,” Was Inspired By A Shady Neighbor

A woman wearing sunglasses

Kacey Musgraves is gearing up to release her 4th studio album in just two days.

Star-Crossedher divorce album written like a Greek tragedy in three acts, has been preceded by a flashy roll-out along with a couple new songs. She’s released the title track, as well as another titled “Justified.”

I’ll be interesting to finally hear everything she’s been working on, especially since she promises this record will basically be the antithesis of the fan-favorite, Grammy-winning Golden Hour. And just maybe… slightly more country? We’ll see…

Though I’ve always been partial to her incredible 2015 record Pageant Material myself, her 2013 debut studio album, Same Trailer Different Park, put her on the map for a lot of country fans. And, one of my all-time favorite country songs is her debut single from that album, a little number called “Merry Go ‘Round.”

The idea for the song was born on a writing trip at a ranch in Strawn, Texas, with Kacey and co-writers Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally.

She says they were inspired after hearing Shane’s mom talk about one of her neighbors in Texas:

“Shane McAnally, he’s one of the guys I wrote it with.

His mom was talking about one of her neighbors down the street down in Texas and was saying, ‘Well, I don’t know if she’s selling Mary Kay or Mary Jane, or something down there. I don’t know what she’s doing.’

So it just made us laugh and as songwriters, we were like, ‘There’s definitely a song in there somewhere.'”

You can hear that type of inspiration and phrasing all over Kacey’s earlier stuff. It’s so apparent that she takes many of her real-life experiences and daily conversations and puts them into her songs with an added dose of sarcastic humor and quick wit.

It’s also funny because that story sounds like something I feel like I’ve actually heard my grandma say before, or at the very least, something quite similar. The way Kacey’s able to take southern culture, and maybe even stereotypes, and present it in such a deep, meaningful way is one of my favorite aspects of who she is as an artist.

And while the initial idea for the song is actually a funny story, the three writers knew there was something more to it and were able to dive into some pretty heavy subject matter.

The opening verse in and of itself is proof of that:

“If you ain’t got two kids by 21
You’re probably gonna die alone
At least that’s what tradition told you
And it don’t matter if you don’t believe
Come Sunday mornin’, you best be there
In the front row like you’re supposed to
Same hurt in every heart
Same trailer, different park”

Once the song started charting and gaining popularity, Kacey realized that she didn’t just write a song about growing up in small-town Texas, but really, it’s a song people related to all over the world:

“A deeper meaning came to life whenever we started really tossing the idea around. We’re all from small towns so we all can relate that way. It’s just a special song about life in general and the patterns that you get into. I feel like it’s something everyone can relate to.

I had people all over, it didn’t matter if I was in Texas or if I was in Scotland or New York, people were coming up to me and just saying, ‘That is my life.’

I’ve realized it’s not a small town thing, it’s a life thing. We follow in our parent’s footsteps because that’s what we feel like we should do until we can figure out our own thing.”

And because I’ll always include a stripped-down, acoustic version of a song if it exists, here’s a baby-faced Kacey singing it back in 2012:

And the original:

A beer bottle on a dock


A beer bottle on a dock