Kacey Musgraves attends the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Kacey Musgraves attends the 48th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 5, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Grammy and Academy of Country Music award-winning, 26 year-old country music artist Kacey Musgraves’ sophomore album "Pageant Material" was released today, June 23 on Mercury Nashville to the delight of fans everywhere. The album pays homage to Musgraves’ heroes with the throwback sounds of Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson, the latter of whom makes a surprise cameo. "Pageant Material" features 13 tracks, all co-written by Kacey. The album also reunites her with the team behind her 2013 Grammy-winning breakout "Same Trailer Different Park," co-producers Shane McAnally and Luke Laird.

Why the name "Pageant Material?" The album title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to her brief and unsuccessful pageant career. “This was me,” Kacey says in an interview with Fader Magazine, showing a photo of her one-and-only run at the Little Miss Tater Tot title in her native Golden, TX. The photo is of a mischievous-looking three-year-old, dappled in freckles and clutching a doll to her side. “Clearly I didn’t win,” Musgraves says.

As with many young girls, Kacey entered the pageant as almost a rite of passage. The pageant hopefuls flashed their forced but sweet and shiny lipsticked smiles. However, Kacey Musgraves is proud that she is not cut out for that, an important and relevant theme of "Pageant Material." On the title track, Kacey sings, “I’m not exactly Miss Congenial," and she truly doesn’t care to be.

At a time when female artists are often expected to follow pageant-like standards for attention, Kacey is quite the opposite. She is almost irreverently low-key about how she presents herself and her music. In the same Fader interview, she says “I hear a lot in the industry, ‘This is the way it’s done, so you have to follow suit. Why can’t we look at other options?” Kacey continued, “In the South, getting judged on superficial stuff is a real thing. And, I’m not attacking the people that might get something positive out of pageantry; I’m just not into being judged in that way. I’d rather lose for what I am than win for something that I’m not."

When the new issue of Fader, an indie music magazine, hits newsstands on June 30, Kacey Musgraves will become the first country artist to grace the cover. The Fader is famed for putting artists on its cover months and years before its more mainstream peers – artists like Sam Smith, Kanye West, Lana Del Rey and more.

On "Pageant Material," Musgraves offers a rich collection of captivating song stories, a few “against the mainstream” jokes and confessions. “Pageant Material,” follows the same understated folk theme as “Same Trailer Different Park,” with its subtle "Merry Go 'Round" and the CMA Award-winning "Follow Your Arrow." "Pageant Material’s" “Good Ol’ Boys Club,” is a tongue-in-cheek number about her aversion to stroking egos. Last year, syndicated-radio personality Bobby Bones said she was “rude” to him in an interview, to which Kacey replied on Twitter, “I’m human. Not a robot.”

No stranger to controversy, Musgraves also faced criticism for "Same Trailer Different Park," as the album received more praise than sales. Here, Kacey follows a new path, much like the legends such as Patsy Cline and all other women who break new ground in country radio's resistance to female artists.

Kacey Musgraves self-released three albums before appearing on the fifth season of the USA Network's singing competition "Nashville Star" in 2007, where she placed seventh. Signed to Mercury Nashville, she released her solo debut single "Merry Go 'Round" to critical acclaim in 2012. She also joined Lady Antebellum on their Own the Night 2012 tour in the United Kingdom.

Musgraves was nominated for four awards at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year. In April 2014, Musgraves won the Academy of Country Music award for album of the year for "Same Trailer Different Park."

Kacey was also nominated for four Grammy Awards at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, tying Taylor Swift and Lorde for the most nominations received by a woman that year. Those nominations included Best New Artist, Best Country Album (winning for "Same Trailer Different Park,") and Best Country Song (winning for "Merry Go Round.") "Same Trailer Different Park" was certified Gold in August 2014 for selling over 500,000 copies. Musgraves' single "Follow Your Arrow" was also certified Gold, while "Merry Go Round" was certified Platinum.

Rolling Stone magazine listed "Follow Your Arrow" at number 39 on their list of 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time, and said that Musgraves was "one of the loudest symbols of young country musicians embracing progressive values."

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she said "I think throwing the rebel card out there is really cheap. The things I’m singing about are not controversial to me; I don’t push buttons to push buttons. I talk about things that have made an impression on me that a lot of people everywhere are going through."

One thing is for sure; despite Kacey Musgraves' musical maturity on her new album, you will find that a compelling mischievous streak still exists in the “non-pageant” persona of this rising country star.