"I love words," Kacey says. "I love how intricate they can get. Even in simple conversation, I like it when language is colorful ... When I was in school, one of my favorite subjects was always creative writing."
"Woke up on the wrong side of rock bottom," is the first line of the record that Kacey co-produced with McAnally and Luke Laird. It appears on the initial track, "Silver Lining," a realistic song about optimism. You can't have the good without the bad, or as Kacey and co-writers Osborne and McAnally put it, "If you're ever gonna find a silver lining / It's gotta be a cloudy day."
The wisdom of the title track may seem surprising coming from a 24-year-old, but makes sense when you take into account the songstress' background. She made her public singing debut in church at 8, wrote her first song at 9, released three albums independently by the time she was 18, and then competed on the reality show "Nashville Star."
Those experiences likely also contribute to her boldness. "I don't make music based on what radio would like," Kacey tells the New York Times. And that's unheard of in this business. Country radio is the driving force behind the industry, but this free spirit is more worried about being herself.
That message is crystal clear in the humorous anthem, "Follow Your Arrow," which urges fans to: "Say what you think / Love who you love / 'Cause you just get so many trips around the sun." The subject matter also pushes the boundaries of country radio with lines like, "Make lots of noise / Kiss lots of boys / Or kiss lots of girls / If that's something you're into," and "When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight / Roll up a joint / Or don't."
That she would traverse questionable territory isn't shocking when she reveals her inspirations: Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patty Griffin and John Prine, to name a few. "I like anyone with something to say," she explains. "Loretta was writing stuff that was pretty ahead of its time, like with 'The Pill' and 'Rated 'X.'' She pushed a lot of buttons and I love that."
Kacey also sings about a casual relationship in "It Is What It Is," which she tells the Times her grandmother calls "the Slut Song." "She's like, 'My friends are gonna hear you say these things,' and I'm like, 'Nana, it's my career to mess up,'" the singer explains. "And not to be rude, but she's not my demographic."
However, fans who connected with "Merry Go 'Round" won't have a problem identifying with the rest of project. "I Miss You" is a love song, while "Step Off" is a tell-off tune. "Stupid" is an anti-love song, and "My House" is a fun ditty that shows her affinity for having a home on four wheels.
And just because Kacey calls it like she sees it, doesn't mean she's self-righteous. Her next single, "Blowin' Smoke," paints a picture of everyone's natural hypocrisy through the eyes of a smoker. "We all say, that we'll quit someday / When our ship comes in, we'll just sail away / But we're just blowin' smoke."
Watch Kacey's 'Merry Go 'Round' Video