Long before Kacey Musgraves commandeered the Grammy Awards in light-up cowboy boots, singing about how it's OK to kiss lots of boys or lots of girls, she was doing Kermit the Frog and Johnny Cash songs in a perfectly clear voice surrounded by fiddles and steel guitars.
The 26-year-old Musgraves -- who performs Saturday night at The Paramount in Huntington -- seemed to arrive out of nowhere with her Grammy-winning 2013 breakthrough, "Same Trailer Different Park," but she has meticulously crafted her songs, voice and persona since she was an East Texas 8-year-old. Here's how she got from there to "Pageant Material," which recently made its debut at No. 1 on the country charts:
1996: Musgraves, 8, performs on stage for the first time. She and her sisters were in a country band called the Buckaroos, wearing "white button-ups and red bandannas," as she recalled to CMT, Sundays at the Fort Worth Stock Yards in Texas. "It was run by this group of older people that just really loved country-Western music," she said in an interview with The Fader. "They would mentor younger kids to get out of their shells and sing old Roy Rogers songs they'd literally never know otherwise."
1997: Musgraves writes her first song, "Notice Me," but she doesn't follow up on it until she is 15 and has more heartbreak (like breakups and stuff) to discuss.
2001: The young singer-songwriter puts out her first album, an independent release called "Movin' On," with a cover portrait in a white cowboy hat next to a grazing horse. She applies her clear, charming 13-year-old's voice to '60s classic "I've Been Everywhere" and Kermit the Frog's theme song, "Rainbow Connection," and delivers a spoken-word country-music history lesson amid yodeling on "Montana Medley."
2007: Musgraves adds a teary soul and a bit of Texas twang to her "Rainbow Connection" voice. Competing on "American Idol"-style audition show "Nashville Star," she performs her own "Halfway to Memphis," and it's unbelievable that she loses the competition, much less finishes seventh overall. Trivia: One of the three "Nashville Star" judges that year was rising country star Blake Shelton, who later married Miranda Lambert, Musgraves' longtime Texas friend who placed third on the same show in 2003.
2009: By this point, Musgraves is a bit of an outlaw -- in her "Nashville Star" bio, she lists alt-country star Shooter Jennings as an influence along with Dolly Parton. She moves to Nashville, signs a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell and, within a couple of years, places songs on Martina McBride's "Eleven" ("When You Love a Sinner") and Lambert's "Four the Record" ("Mama's Broken Heart").
2013: Musgraves' "Same Trailer Different Park" is jammed with great lines, delivered in a more weathered, unusual and sexy voice -- "Merry Go 'Round" begins, "If you ain't got two kids by 21 / You're probably gonna die alone." It's Musgraves' most accomplished album, nurtured by years as a songwriter and life as a 20-something. "I guess it's a combination of moving away from home, living out of state, being put in weird situations," Musgraves told The Guardian. "I had breakups, get-back-togethers, my roommate came out to me. Just living life, smoking weed, changing my perspective. Meeting people that I really clicked with and doing that over and over."
2015: A year after winning a Grammy for Best Country Album -- not to mention performing the do-whatever-you-want anthem "Follow Your Arrow" on the broadcast in a fringed skirt and light-up cowboy boots -- Musgraves puts out her follow-up, "Pageant Material." Although it lacks the rebel snap of "Same Trailer Different Park," her singing is lively and her songwriting remains delightfully provocative: "I ain't pageant material," she sings, "I'm always higher than my hair."
WHEN | WHERE Saturday night at 8 (doors open at 7) at The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington