Texan-born Kacey Musgraves began singing publicly at eight years old and wrote her first song a year later. Musgraves first came to the public attention when she placed seventh on the fifth season of the singing competition Nashville Star
. The following few years found her achieving some success as a songwriter with cuts recorded by such artists as Miranda Lambert ("Mama's Broken Heart
"). Musgraves signed with Mercury Records in 2012 and released this as her debut single.
Musgraves co-wrote this anthem about getting ground down by life's expectations with Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally. She told the story of the song to American Songwriter magazine: "We all grow up with expectations of breaking the cycle of life as we know it, trying to appear as if all is perfect under the surface," she said. "Coming from a small, conservative Texas town I've grown up with this. We're all guilty of having something that keeps us distracted - no matter the vice. Our comfort zones make us settle and I think there's hope in knowing that everyone has felt this way."
"This was one of the fastest songs I've ever written," she added. "Once we wrapped our brains around the idea, the song kind of seemed to write itself."
Much of the song was inspired by the surroundings that Musgraves grew up with. "Just from being from a tiny little Bible-belt town, conservative," she explained. "I'm just observing. I don't want anyone to think with this song that I'm pointing a finger or being cynical."
The Same Trailer, Different Park album title came from one of Musgrave's favorite lyrics. "All along I wanted the title to be something that stands out. I never wanted it to be one-dimensional or completely obvious - you know, 'Kacey Musgraves'... Or even 'Merry Go Round', you know? I kind of love it when album titles make you think, and sometimes they don't even have anything to do with the actual, it's just an abstract idea," she explained. "This came from a lyric in 'Merry Go Round' and it's one of my favorite lyrics in the record. The lyric is 'Same hurt in every heart/same trailer, different park,' and it kind of just means we're all kind of in this together. We're all hurt the same way. We all feel the same way, although we're all different."
Kacey Musgraves pushed this to be the lead single from Same Trailer, Different Park, despite its unorthodox subject matter. "It's a song that from the get-go, I felt something from, and really believed in," she told Billboard magazine. "People really connected with it when I would play it out. I told people that 'I really don't think we need to over think things here. This needs to be the single. It's not a typical 'radio' song, but that might be what works in its' favor. I'm glad I went that route. It's been amazing to see the response to it. As a songwriter, sure I want to make catchy music - that's a feat in itself, but if I can make people feel something at the same time, then I've done my job."
The idea for playing off the word "merry" came from a story that Shane McAnally's mom told her. "It started because Shane's mom was talking about one of her neighbors down the street," she told Radio.com. "And she was like, 'I think she's selling either Mary Kay or Mary Jane or something down there.'"
Musgraves, along with McAnally and Josh Osborne, started thinking about all the ways to use the word "Mary." She recalled: "We were like, 'How else can we put another spin on the word merry or the girl Mary?'"
The music video features a cameo from Musgraves' dog along with some old stock footage and home videos that the singer and her friend, director Perry Bean, found online. The country singer told Radio.com that the clip was really just a first draft until they found time (and money) to shoot an 'official' promo. "I actually made it with a friend in his kitchen one day," she said. "The footage of me we just shot on an iPhone... we just went out to the backyard and filmed some stuff and put it together piece by piece."
Musgraves added, "I had no idea that that would be the actual video and we just ran with it and people just ended up liking it. It's a little different than you're typical glamorized video or whatever and I think that's kind of fun."
Musgraves told The Boot that rather than being an indictment of small-town living (or thinking) the song is about regretting choices you've made. "It started with Shane's mom talking about her neighbor," she explained. "She said something like, 'Well, I think she's either selling Mary Kay or mary jane or something down the street." And we were like, 'There's definitely a song there.' So we started talking a little bit about small towns and how appearances tend to be everything, especially in a really conservative environment; people worry about what other people think. I feel like - especially in small towns but it happens everywhere - when you're scared to leave what you know or are comfortable with, people tend to settle and stay in their comfort zone. Later, that leads to resentment and just regret. It's just something that happens in life no matter where you are."
Billboard magazine chose this as their best country single of 2013. They said: "This song - while only a top-ten record - gave hope that true artistry and commercial success can be parallel forces."
This won for Best Country Song at the Grammy Awards in 2014. Musgraves performed "Follow Your Arrow
" at the ceremony.
It was Katy Perry who was responsible for kickstarting Musgraves' rise to stardom when she told her 55 million Twitter followers that she loved this song. The pair then hooked up to tour together and recorded an episode of CMT's Crossroads.