Deeper Well by Kacey Musgraves // Album Review

Deeper Well by Kacey Musgraves sounds like the first blossoming of spring after a long, cold winter. An aspect that shines the most within this music is her talent for sweet and simple songwriting. Every song is very rooted in nature and uses vivid imagery to paint such a stunning, honest and reflective portrait of this current phase of her life. The production is very stripped-back on most of these tracks, with the focus mainly on her vocals and lyricism. This is among her most introspective work yet, chronicling her inner-most thoughts and emotions from where she last left off in 2021 with star-crossed.

She worked on this album primarily in New York City at Electric Lady Studios, which is an environment that played into her wanting to make a softer, more subdued album this time. "There’s the smell of marijuana, pizza, people talking, skateboarders, loud music, everything at 220. And I think you take some of those things to the studio. When the outside environment is so maximalist I think it’s easier to go to a minimalist place in your mind," Kacey told Zane Lowe in an interview with Apple Music, recalling her daily walks to the studio to record this album. "I found a greater connection to my roots, Folk, Americana, Country. I felt like I was in a lighter phase after being star-crossed, going through divorce, therapy and allowing myself to fall in love again."

Deeper Well represents a fresh start for Kacey after a difficult period in her life. When looking back at her past two albums, 2018's Golden Hour and it's follow-up in 2021 called star-crossed, the approach to each differed quite a bit and there was a stark contrast in the mood between both of those records. Golden Hour was about an overwhelming, all-encompassing love that she thought would last forever, while star-crossed was mostly chronicling her divorce, as well as the mourning of that loss of love and not really knowing what was going to happen next. star-crossed was an interesting one for me and even now years later I'm still divided on my thoughts for it. There were songs from it that I liked, but at the same time, I think it was just trying to be too many things at once and ended up sounding incohesive. I can imagine that it's difficult as an artist to come off of the success that an album like Golden Hour had at the time and not really knowing where to go after that. Especially since so much change was happening in her life at that time, I can't really blame her for that being reflected in the music itself. I have also noticed that a lot of artists go through that problem after releasing a critically acclaimed record too, I suppose that cycle is just par for the course. It is evident that Kacey and her collaborators had a much clearer vision of the direction they would take with Deeper Well. 

This album overall sounds like a reflection of both of those times in her life and an optimistic look into what the future holds. The title track "Deeper Well" was the first song to be released alongside the announcement of the album, which perfectly set the tone for what the rest of this record was going to be. It feels like it is meant to be a reflection of the past few years of her life, while looking back on it with more clarity now. It is very autobiographical in her approach to the lyricism. There are many call-backs to themes that were present in all of her previous work too. It feels like this was the song she tried to make for star-crossed, but just needed more time to process the emotions she was feeling. "Sometimes you reach a crossroads. Winds change direction. What you once felt drawn to doesn't hold the same allure. You get blown off course but eventually find your footing and forage for new inspiration, new insight and deeper love somewhere else," Kacey said in a statement about this song when it was released. 

The message of learning to let go and move on without any regrets when a situation is no longer beneficial for you is so powerful and inspiring. That is a key theme that runs through so much of this album. One of my favorite lyrics from this song is, "No regrets, baby, I just think that maybe it's natural when things lose their shine, so other things can glow, I've gotten older now I know how to take care of myself," which she sings in the second verse. She references her Saturn returning in the opening line of this song too, which is an astrological concept that is present throughout much of this album. I wrote about it briefly in my recent review of Ariana Grande's eternal sunshine, which coincidentally also plays a major role in the story being told on that record and was released just weeks apart from Deeper Well. SZA also recently released a song called "Saturn", as well - they are all very much on the same wavelength in that regard! It refers to when Saturn completes its orbit around the Sun and reverts to the same position in a person’s zodiac sign as it was when they were born. That cycle takes around 29 to 30 years and is viewed as a rebirth of sorts and a time to wake up and take control of your life. A lot of the realizations she talks about in this song needed to come with time and life experience, but within that journey she found herself.

I was also so struck by the third verse too, where she talks openly about growing up in an environment with a limited mindset, but as she got older she was able to learn and grow from that experience and see that there is so much more beyond her small town. "When I was growing up, we had what we needed, shoes on our feet, but the world was as flat as a plate, and that's okay," she sings. "The things I was taught only took me so far, had to figure the rest out myself, and then I found a deeper well". These are themes that she has always sung about, even as far back as her very first album. From the start, Kacey has always been such an important and progressive voice in country music. She pushed forward the genre in so many ways over the past decade and truly paved the way for so many young country artists we know today. 

"Cardinal" is such a beautiful way to open the album. This song is about seeing a cardinal and believing it is someone sending you a message from the other side, "Are you just watching and waiting for spring? Or do you have some kind of magic to bring?" she sings in the bridge. Sonically, it feels very inspired by the music of the 1970's, very Fleetwood Mac, very Stevie Nicks stylistically. The first time I heard it I was also reminded of "California Dreaming" by The Mamas & the Papas too. I love the symbolism that this song holds, every time I see a cardinal now I think of it. This song is also a great example of music being such a powerful vessel for healing and putting into words the feelings we cannot otherwise express. 

The connection between the spiritual world and nature is so palpable throughout every single song on this album. "I have such a massive reverence and love for nature," she told Nashville Scene. "For me, I would say nature is God, even though a lot of people have different meanings for that word. I heard a quote the other day that I really loved a lot, and it said, 'The ultimate rich is being in tune with the flow of nature' - like, being able to pay attention to what nature is telling you."

Amidst all of the chaos in the world, to find a moment of solace in this music is such an important thing to take away from Deeper Well. It is so grounding and thought-provoking in its lyrical themes. Her love for nature is truly represented in every single aspect of this record. Kacey's spiritual reverence is ever-present from beginning to end. A song like "The Architect" is among the most directly spiritual songs, asking to speak to some higher power to ask existential questions that there is no easy answer for. "Is it thought out at all or just paint on a wall? Is there anything that you regret? I don't understand, are there blueprints or plans? Can I speak to the architect?" to which she ends the song with the final question, "Is there an architect?"

With "Heaven Is", she is coming to terms with maybe not being able to find the answers to the questions she was asking in "The Architect". Even though there is so much unknown about what the meaning of life is and everything that comes after, this album is really about how precious life is and the importance of enjoying the small moments with the people you love. "Nobody knows where we go when we die, maybe we'll ride white horses in thе sky and if we don't then, darling, tonight, that's what heavеn is," she sings in the final verse. "If all I have is the light in your eyes, that's what heaven is".

"Dinner With Friends" is another highlight, a true celebration of the simple pleasures of life. It is modeled after an excerpt from Nora Ephron's final essay collection titled I Remember Nothing, in which she lists the things she will and will not miss when she passes away. It is such a special song from this album for the way it is so simple, yet so impactful emotionally. It never fails to make me tear up when I hear it. I love the lyric, "The way that the sun on my floor makes a pattern of light, and early in June when the fireflies first start to glow, it never gets old". Also, the pure love being expressed in the chorus with lyrics like, "Thе shape of his eyes, thе shape of his nose, the cute way he mispronounces certain words, the smell of his clothes" is just so sweet. Sometimes the simplest words can hold the most weight. 

The message of that "Dinner With Friends" connects so beautifully into the following song, "Heart Of The Woods". It is a short and sweet song about Mother Nature and our human connection to the natural world.

There are so many songs on this album that really moved me, but one of my favorites she has ever written is the sixth track, "Sway". It is such a beautiful and simple song, with the most gorgeous vocal harmonies. The imagery of a palm tree swaying in the wind, is such a beautiful metaphor for not letting the issues you may face in life break you. I have always loved palm trees, I even have a tattoo of one, so this song just really connected with me for so many reasons.

So much of this album is also about the literal and metaphorical seasons of life we all experience. With a song like "Moving Out", she is looking back at specific memories from her marriage, both the good and the bad as she is moving out of the home they shared together. Her storytelling is so vivid on this song, you can really imagine the exact moments she is singing about with each lyric. With moving on from that time of her life, the following song "Giver / Taker" gives so much insight into that relationship and everything she was trying to process in the aftermath. "I would give you everything that you wanted and I would never ask for any of it back and if I could take only as much as I needed, I would take everything you had," she sings in the chorus.

Much of Deeper Well is about her search for healing and comfort in the difficult time that followed. She explores new-age wellness methods in a song like "Jade Green", which in a way reminds me of "Mood Ring" by Lorde. Although that song was written with a satirical undertone on wellness culture as a whole, Kacey is taking a more genuine approach to the benefits or spiritual protection she has gotten from something like the jade green bracelet she always keeps with her. The production is what stands out to me the most from this track. 

Her disillusionment with fame and money is also something that comes up a few times throughout the album too. On "Heaven Is" she sings, "I don't care for money or fame, all for you, I'd give it away." She goes more in detail about those feelings on "Lonely Millionaire" too. "Who wants to be a lonely millionaire? Comin' home, ain't no one there that you can talk to in your king-sized bed," Kacey sings in the chorus. "Be careful what you wish for, I see it all the time the money and the diamonds and the things that shine can't buy you true happiness". The pursuit of trying to find true love and happiness is the ultimate goal for her, which is showcased throughout Deeper Well so beautifully. 

The journey of finding love after heartbreak is also at the forefront of many of the songs being told on this album. "Too Good To Be True" is a vulnerable acknowledgement of those feelings of hesitancy, but still wanting to dive into this new stage of her life. "Please don't make me regret openin' up that part of myself, I've been scared to give again, be good to me and I'll be good to you, but please don't be too good to be true," she sings in the chorus. 

One of the sweetest portrayals of those new, intense feelings comes toward the end of the album with "Anime Eyes". This song is so cute and fun, with such a pure love being expressed. "When I look at you, I'm always looking through anime eyes, a million little stars bursting into hearts in my anime eyes," she sings in the chorus. With all of the "ridiculous, hazy, crazy, rainbow, explosions of ecstasy", Sailor Moon's got nothing on her!

"Nothing to be Scared Of" serves as such a beautiful conclusion to this album. With so much of Deeper Well being focused on fears of what is going to come next, ruminations on life, death, and all aspects of the natural world, this song is a reminder to just live in the moment. What's meant to be will be. It reminds me of "Rainbow", the final song from Golden Hour, in the way that the strength has always been within you to move on from the things holding you back. "Nothing To Be Scared Of" showcases her lived wisdom now more than ever.

This song feels like the fresh start she has been looking for throughout star-crossed and much of this album. Finally feeling comfortable with who you are and finding the confidence to love again is such a great note to end on. Letting go of the thoughts of "holdin' tight to who you are, like someone's gonna take it, bubble wrap around your heart, like someone's gonna break it" is also such a powerful message. A lyric that particularly struck me is, "I madе a list of everything that I've been busy chasin', but if a train is mеant for me, it won't leave the station and pull away".

This whole album really reminds me so much of Golden Hour, not just because of the sonic and lyrical themes they share, but mainly because of the feelings I have when I hear both of these albums. I always have found so much comfort and joy in Kacey's music that is incomparable to any other artist. I can listen to her music for hours and hours and just feel transported to a new world, she really sounds so grounded and vulnerable in sharing her journey.

There is something so delicate about this album, but at the same time her strength shines through in every single song when opening up about her experiences and the lessons she learned from them. It builds upon her past releases in such a perfect way, while opening up a side of her artistry that we haven't heard from her before. Kacey's simplistic approach to this album showcases her talents so beautifully. 

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Deeper Well by Kacey Musgraves*, I would really appreciate if you would do so through my affiliate link*, which I may earn a commission from. My vinyl copy of this album hasn't left my turntable since I got it, I cannot stop listening to it! Plus the physical design of this album is so unique and one of the best in my collection - it's an essential for any collection. Shop more Kacey Musgraves music here*

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below! 🪻

-Melissa ♡

Photo Credit: Kacey Musgraves, Interscope Records & MCA Nashville

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