Country singer Kacey Musgraves may have written her Grammy-winning album "Golden Hour" while falling in love, but her latest release, "Star-Crossed," is reflecting a different lifestyle, the one she's been immersed in since last year: the split from her husband, songwriter Ruston Kelly.
But don't think of "Star-Crossed" as simply a "divorce album," she tells NPR in a new interview. "You can easily say it is a post-divorce album, which yes, it is factually on paper," she said. "But this album is full of a lot of love and gratitude for that person, for Rustin, for my life and my ability to explore all the emotions as a songwriter."
To that end, Musgraves' fifth studio release, which debuted on Friday, does have a lot of songs that seem infused with her marriage and its aftermath: "Good Wife," "If This Was a Movie," "What Doesn't Kill Me" and the new single "Justified," to name only a few. (There's also a tie-in film, streaming now on Paramount+.)
"I've been doing a lot of reading about the stages of acceptance, the stages of grief and healing," says Musgraves, 33. "I've found out a lot about the fact that healing is not linear... It's a feeling of confidence and empowerment mixed with extreme fear and sadness and guilt and depression, but hope for the future. But then, yeah, a little bit of anger, a little bit of bargaining, a little bit of struggling to accept where you are."
To Musgraves, the album has three acts in it, which address all of those emotions. And she explains she's learned a lot from both divorce and from being married.
"I just don't think that marriage is for everyone," she says. "But I think that it's beautiful. If that's how you work best and you find fulfillment in that, I think that it's a very beautiful thing. I don't think that it's the end-all be-all, though, you know?"
Musgraves and Kelly had a songwriting date together in 2016, and began dating after that; she has said her "Golden Hour" song "Butterflies" is about him. They got engage late that year and married in October 2017 in Tennessee. They filed for divorce in July 2020, telling TODAY in a joint statement that they were each other's "soul connection," but "it simply just didn't work."
For fans and others who might hear the music from "Star-Crossed" and who are also going through their own relationship trials, Musgraves says she thinks it's the kind of release that can bring people together.
"As much as you can be 'the "Golden Hour" girl,' the girl in love and the girl experiencing this really beautiful facet of life, you can experience the complete antithesis of that, you know?" she says. "It's real life and I just think that embracing the good and the bad and knowing that we're all experiencing it, whether you're famous or not, is a really beautiful reminder that we're all in this together."