January 27.2014 – The Story Behind Kacey Musgraves “Merry Go ‘Round”

Kacey 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.”

“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?'”

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.
“Merry Go ‘Round” won Best Country Song at the Grammy Awards 2014.

LYRICS: Written by Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally and Josh Osbourne
If you ain’t got two kids by 21,
You’re probably gonna die alone.
Least that’s what tradition told you.
And it don’t matter if you don’t believe,
Come Sunday morning, you best be there in the front row like you’re supposed to.

Same hurt in every heart.
Same trailer, different park.

Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay.
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane.
Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.
Mary, Mary quite contrary.
We get bored, so, we get married
Just like dust, we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go ’round and ’round and ’round we go
Where it stops nobody knows and it ain’t slowin’ down.
This merry go ’round.

We think the first time’s good enough.
So, we hold on to high school love.
Sayin’ we won’t end up like our parents.
Tiny little boxes in a row.
Ain’t what you want, it’s what you know.
Just happy in the shoes you’re wearin’.
Same checks we’re always cashin’ to buy a little more distraction.

‘Cause mama’s hooked on Mary Kay.
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane.
Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary.
We get bored, so, we get married.
Just like dust, we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go ’round and ’round and ’round we go
Where it stops nobody knows and it ain’t slowin’ down.
This merry go ’round.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary.
We’re so bored until we’re buried.
Just like dust, we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go ’round.
Merry go ’round.

Jack and Jill went up the hill.
Jack burned out on booze and pills.
And Mary had a little lamb.
Mary just don’t give a damn no more.

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About Robynn

Robynn Jaymes has spent her whole life in radio… 30 years!! And almost half of them have been at Star Country. Originally from Cincinnati, Robynn came to the area as a Liberty University student. Along with all things country music, Robynn is a big fan of Football!—The Virginia Tech Hokies, The Washington Redskins and, of course, the Cincinnati Bengals. And also, “I’m addicted to the Weather Channel,” she says. Right now, Robynn is a big fan if the music coming from Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum and Kenny Chesney! Robynn is also a winner of the Billboard Air Personality of the Year award. Hear all new Warm & Fuzzies with Robynn M-F at 11:45AM!

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