Country Up-and-Comers: Why Kacey Musgraves’ Grammy Awards Sweep Is ‘Incredible for Everybody’
At the 2019 Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, Kacey Musgraves celebrated a triumphant, four-win night that included an Album of the Year trophy for her record Golden Hour. While Musgraves' sweep was worth celebrating in and of itself, the evening had further ramifications: It inspired and rejuvenated some of the young artists who are currently at work on projects of their own.
Golden Hour isn't merely a great country album: It is a great country album that defies tradition in all the right ways, experimenting with the boundaries of what country music can be, while simultaneously staying grounded by the format's roots. A number of up-and-coming country artists have recently or will soon put out albums that aim to do the same, and to them, Golden Hour proves not only that such a project is possible, but also that can be successful on the highest level.
"It shows you that people still love music for what it is," says Ingrid Andress, who is currently at work on her first batch of songs a songwriter-turned-artist. "I didn't think of music in genres until I got into the music industry. I listen to music based on if I like it or not -- like, if you look at my playlist right now, it has, like, Cardi B next to Bon Iver. I don't really care; it's just if it's good or not. And I know that people heard Kacey's album, and they were like, 'This is just good.'"
Kree Harrison, a fellow Texan and friend of Musgraves', moves seamlessly between the different musical worlds she inhabits, borrowing from soul, classic country and a host of other influences.
"We all love country. And that's a huge part of both [Musgraves' and my] upbringings. We're both from Texas. Maren [Morris], too," she says. "So to be able to put our own twist on something that we respect so much ... We don't have to choose just for lack of people trying to get it. It either makes you feel something or it doesn't, and that's okay if it doesn't, but it doesn't mean that it has to [fit in a genre] box if it does."
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After all, Harrison continues, country music is no stranger to experimentation: "[You think of] Ronnie Milsap: That's traditional country, right? But he did some funky stuff in the '80s!" she adds. "It's like, was that traditional country? Or was it just good?"
If Harrison began in Texas and worked her musical way outward, trio Fairground Saints have had an almost opposite experience, beginning in their home state of California and making the trek to Nashville before finally settling on the perfect blend of "California country" sound. The group says they've nailed down the style that makes them unique on their forthcoming EP, Magic -- but now, albums such as Golden Hour remind them to stay true to that style, even if it's unlike what everyone else in the format is doing.
"I think with Kacey being the kind of person who's so completely true to exactly what her artistic vision is, it gives us the bravery to go, 'We're gonna stick with exactly what we think,'" the group's Mason Van Valin explains. "That's incredible for everybody."
Musgraves' Grammy Awards wins were incredible for all artists, in more ways than one: Stephanie Quayle explains that by opening up the possibilities for what the country music genre can be, Musgraves brings in new listeners, who might not otherwise think of themselves as country fans.
"Country is not so niche. The genre has expanded, sonically," Quayle goes on to say. "Someone who might not have been a country listener hears Kacey at the Grammys, they get curious, and then they find people like me, or people like Carly Pearce, or Ashley McBryde.
"I think [with] the word 'country', everyone can get bogged down sometimes by, 'Oh, it's not this, or it's not that.' I look at it all as opportunity," Quayle continues. "If I'm making great music, if I'm representing our genre the right way and the way I feel is right for me, it's all possible."
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