Kacey Musgraves’s Expanding Universe – The New York Times

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Musgraves created “Star-Crossed” for one person — “I make the albums for myself,” she said — but now that it’s done, the work of selling it, and herself, begins. The music may not be much bigger, but the marketing budget seems enhanced. There’s the “Star-Crossed” companion film, for which she has recruited the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” champion Symone, the TikToker @averagefashionblogger and Eugene Levy. She is selling Musgraves-branded stick-on tears and lacy handkerchiefs to prep her fans for the season she’s calling “sad girl fall.” Recently she started an ambivalent TikTok account tagged with a self-deprecating “Mean Girls” line: “she doesn’t even go here.” In her first post, Musgraves saunters in slow motion and smiles winningly before covering the camera lens with a hand. The caption: “the moment nobody’s been waiting for.”

Osborne, who has known Musgraves since they were both “ramen noodles broke,” said that for all the industry scaffolding that’s been built up around his friend, Musgraves herself seems unchanged. “I forget all the time that Kacey is really famous until we go out and somebody gets weird,” he said. I asked him what he knows about her that the public doesn’t, and he was eager to counter a perception he’s seen floating around Twitter that she can be standoffish or cold.

First of all, “If a guy were to act that way, he’d be seen as cool and mysterious,” he said. Second, he knows Musgraves to be a loyal friend, but also allergic to pretense. She just does not have “pert pop star mode” on her emotional dial. “I’ve never, ever seen Kacey pretend to feel a way that she doesn’t feel,” he said. “She wears her heart on her sleeve.”

Lately Musgraves’s Instagram feed has lit up with snuggly images of a new boyfriend, Cole Schafer, a poet who writes under the name January Black. They met when they spied each other across a crowded restaurant. “He did not know who I was, which I loved,” Musgraves said. The paparazzi, however, have been recognizing her more and more. “A handful of grown men come out, and they’re sweating trying to keep up with you on the sidewalk,” she said. “It feels very predatory.” Musgraves is still navigating how to become a bigger star without feeling like she’s the center of the universe. “Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed with how self-centered being an artist is,” she said quietly. “It just feels like me me me me me.”

It’s only in the past several years that Musgraves has acquired a form of performance anxiety, a slight panic that rises when the attention shifts unexpectedly to her. It first materialized in 2019, when she was filming her celebrity-studded Christmas special, and she was spontaneously asked to introduce herself on camera and offer her favorite holiday memory.

“I could not answer what should be the world’s easiest question,” she said. “I couldn’t get any words out. My heart was racing. I started sweating.” Sometimes, when she is sleeping, she has this stress dream, where she is being summoned to a faraway stage, and she can never seem to make it there in time. “And I’m like” — she curses in frustration — “they’re calling my name!”

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