Kacey Musgraves: Right on target

JON BREAM | Updated 2/5/2014

Country upstart Musgraves scores with single “Follow Your Arrow.”

Kacey Musgraves performed at the Grammys Jan. 26, 2014.
Associated Press - Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

After winning Grammys for best country album and song, earning five nominations in the Academy of Country Music awards and sweeping Nashville Scene’s nationwide critics poll for the best in country music in 2013, Kacey Musgraves discovered the new normal last weekend.

First, there was a cake covered with glitter and a Grammy logo presented by country superstars Lady Antebellum, whom Musgraves just rejoined on a tour that hits Target Center on Friday. Then there were rehearsals for a new cover song that Lady A wants to play with her in concert. And there’s the newfound excitement when audiences hear “Follow Your Arrow,” the tune she performed on the Grammy two weeks ago.

“There was a huge reaction to ‘Arrow,’ so I guess a lot of people must have watched,” she said last weekend from Boston.

Like Taylor Swift, Musgraves tries to keep it real — except she comments more on society than on ex-boyfriends. The 25-year-old newcomer refuses to sugarcoat her lyrics for country radio. If she wants to sing about pot, same-sex love or people who have two kids by the time they’re 21, she does. In fact, they’re all referenced in “Follow Your Arrow.”

The song’s genesis was a note Musgraves wrote to a pal.

“I had a friend who was moving to Paris for like five months and she was leaving everything she was comfortable with behind — even the language,” she said. “I gave her a little arrow necklace and on the card I wrote a dumb little poem. It said something about following your arrow and kissing lots of boys and having fun.”

Already known for penning such hits as “Mama’s Broken Heart” for Miranda Lambert, she began writing “Follow Your Arrow” with Katy Perry for the pop star’s most recent album.

“When I played the idea, Katy said, ‘That sounds like something you’d be great at. I think you should keep it for yourself.’ I’m really glad I did.”

“Kacey’s bold. That’s what we love about her,” said Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley. “She’s got a great voice. She’s confident up there.”

Just don’t call Musgraves a rebel.

“I get frustrated when people throw the rebel and outlaw card out there,” she said, adding that she’s not concerned about turning off music lovers in red states. “The things I’m singing about aren’t controversial, especially not to me.”

Musgraves grew up in Golden, Texas, a town of 500, loving language, playing with it and writing poems and short stories.

After high school, she moved to Austin, Texas, and eventually Nashville, releasing three independent albums and placing seventh on USA Network’s “Nashville Star” talent contest in 2007. She’s written tunes for ABC’s nighttime soap “Nashville” and for such stars as Martina McBride and Gretchen Wilson. In 2012, she signed her own recording deal with Mercury Records and released “Same Trailer Different Park” in spring 2013.

The buzz was so big that the album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s country and No. 2 on the pop charts. It led to the Country Music Association Award for best new artist in November.

With all the buzz from the Grammys, “Follow Your Arrow” — which is more mainstream pop than twangy country — could cross over to the pop charts.

“Wherever the song wants to go, I’m happy for it to,” Musgraves said. “I want it to live and touch as many people as it can. I don’t want it to be constrained by boxes or genres, though I definitely think it’s a country song.”