"She's really nailed this album": Kacey Musgraves manager Jason Owen on the country star's new era

Kacey Musgraves is currently riding high in the midweeks with her phenomenal new album Deeper Well, not to mention back on the cover of Music Week

With Deeper Well attracting rave reviews – plus Interscope CEO John Janick hailing it as a “classic singer-songwriter album” – Musgraves is duelling with Ariana Grande for the No.1 spot in the charts. For her UK label Polydor, it’s very much a sign of how Musgraves – and country music, for that matter – has grown on our shores over the years.

“Even though it’s not a genre that has traditionally been huge in the UK, country music at it’s core is just great songwriting and storytelling and Kacey is the perfect example of that,” Polydor’s co-MD Stephen Hallowes tells Music Week. “But our biggest ambition with Kacey is less about what she can do for the growth of country music in the UK and more about her breaking out of whatever the perceived limitations of the genre are here and going from being a best kept secret to a household name.”

In our eight-page cover story, Musgraves opens up about making her latest record – including self-care, getting back to her roots after the pop-leaning Star-Crossed, coping with the pressure of winning big at the Grammys, her advice for the music industry and why she chose to launch her own scented candle business. And the importance of riding a horse every so often.   

In the piece, Musgraves is joined by long-term manager Jason Owen, who offers unique perspective on the superstar’s return, including navigating the tough Star-Crossed album which dealt with her divorce, and the behind the scenes gameplan to hook her up with stars like Noah Kahan (She Calls Me Back) and Zach Bryan (I Remember Everything) ahead of her latest outing. 

Released in 2023, I Remember Everything scored half a billion streams, became her first No.1 on the US Hot 100 chart and won the pair a Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. In doing so, Musgraves became the only artist in history to receive a Grammy for Best Country Album, Best Country Song, Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Duo/Group Performance. 

Here, in an unread extract of our cover feature interview, manager Jason Owen reflects on the Deeper Well album, and the journey he’s been on with Kacey Musgraves over the years…

What was your initial reaction to Deeper Well? Did you hear it in stages, or did Kacey present it to you as a finished body of work?

“I heard it in stages. We typically tend to have an album from Kacey for a while before we start to release it because the aesthetics and the whole picture are so important for both she and I, we like to have the runway to be able to set it up properly. So, I've been living with it probably since late last summer with the exception of maybe a few songs. Just like Golden Hour, my favourites have changed dramatically over the months, and that's how I always know that she's really nailed it.”

Kacey told us that the stars aligned when she met you. Can you paint a picture of that young artist you first encountered?

“She was very sure of herself as a songwriter and a singer, but I felt like at that moment she was a little unsure of herself as an artist. Meaning her biggest goals were very different from mine, which I think is what makes us work so well. She thought, ‘If I can have a career where I'm touring every couple of years in theatres and have the flexibility to create the music I want to make, that is my definiton of success.’ That was the top tier, if she could sell out Radio City, or the Greek or something at that point. And that is a great career! But that was not my goal for her.”

Everyone pushes everything they can in the first week for whatever chart number, but our plan for this album is pretty much a year-long campaign 

Jason Owen

Indeed, what’s interesting is that she’s got to 26.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify without having to rely on hit singles. What do you chalk her streaming success down to? 

“It's a combination of a lot of things. She has so much in her repertoire, whether it's albums, collaborations or covers. And she has such a distinctive voice, it's almost like she's our generation’s Linda Ronstadt. You hear her voice, and you know who it is. Every time you hear one of her songs on a random playlist, it just cuts right through, it's her cadence, the way she's pronounces things. Also, from an authentic standpoint, you never feel like any of the songs were done for any reason other than because she decided they were right for her. Her version of Neon Moon [with Brooks & Dunn], is one of the best covers ever. And then there's this new version of Three Little Birds that she just did for the Bob Marley movie.”

From the outside looking in, it seems you couldn't have primed Deeper Well any better, what with the big collaborations with Zach Bryan, Noah Kahan, Madi Diaz and the Bob Marley soundtrack…

“I'll be honest, there was a moment we were going to put the record out in October of last year but she wasn't quite finished with it. She and I were like, ‘This doesn't feel right’. A lot of stuff is about timing, where people are in their head and what's happening here, what's happening there, and where can the focus be? We collectively decided to move the record into March. I said, ‘Let's bridge the gap with some of these collaborators that have been reaching out non-stop wanting to do songs with you’. She had actually already cut the Noah Kahan song, and Zach had reached out to me via his management about I Remember Everything. I heard that and I was like, ‘Oh my god, the song’s incredible!’ The craziest part about that is the song came in two weeks before it was released. She heard it and was like, ‘I love this, but I want to rewrite my verse’. And not because she didn't think his version wasn’t awesome, which it was, but just because she knew what to say and how to say it in her words. We cut it and that thing just was a monster. And then of course, we held the Noah song back and that came a month and a half after that, and then Three Little Birds came up and she's covered that song in her shows, too. She loves Bob Marley, so that was a no brainer. That’s an interesting story because the label on the Marley soundtrack never expected us to allow that to come out before Deeper Well did. John Janick and I both were like, ‘Yes, we don't care if it comes out two weeks before Deeper Well – it's only going to help.’ When it makes sense and it's something that she feels really great about, then why wouldn't we do that? You can do all the marketing in the world, you can spend all the money in the world and do all this stuff, and sometimes it doesn't work. It's always just that the song has to work. And that all comes from her.”

Golden Hour had some songs that were primed for radio, like High Horse, and Star-Crossed had pop crossover moments, but this album is more stripped-back and at odds with a lot of music that goes viral or gets massive airplay. What's the challenge of getting quieter songs out into the world? 

“I think the challenge is attention, and I mean that in terms of not just in the first week. Very much unlike what we did with Star-Crossed, I think this record will have a similar cadence to the way we did Golden Hour. Everyone pushes everything they can in the first week for whatever chart numbers, promo and all the things, but our plan for this album is pretty much a year-long campaign. We have tours, we have television booked throughout the year, everything probably for the next nine months where we know that every month there is something significant that's going to really raise its hand as part of this album plan. That's the only way I know how to do it and certainly the only way I know how to do it with her. When she performs on television, you probably won't see her do the same two songs anywhere, she'll really spread the breadth of the album.”

On top of the album plan, you’ve also been building her scented candle empire, too…

“There are a couple of other things coming up that we can't talk about that you're gonna be like, ‘Of fucking course, that is exactly right!’ It's a project, and it's something that you're like, ‘That makes so much sense!’ When those things appear or when she has this brainchild idea that we pursue and know is coming from the right place, then it's always a home run. I can't wait to tell you.”

Subscribers can read the full Kacey Musgraves cover story here

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