'The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show' Revives A Classic Holiday Tradition

Dec 21, 2019

Kacey Musgraves, the Grammy award-winning country music star, released a Christmas special last month on Amazon Prime's video streaming service. It features Musgraves and with her band, along with special guests including Lana Del Rey, Leon Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, James Corden, the Radio City Rockettes and so many more.

Musgraves previously released A Very Kacey Christmas in 2016, before her star profile went supernova. She thought The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show "would be a fun way to bring my old Christmas album back in the form of those old Christmas specials that we love." Musgraves emulates those specials of yore — hosted by the likes of Bing Crosby and Judy Garland — with retro elements such as a laugh track, shots of families watching at home on old box televisions and glimpses of the control room.

The singer also brings back her holiday original, "Christmas Makes Me Cry." Musgraves wrote the song after one of her grandmothers died right before Christmas a few years ago. She says it changed the holiday for her for a while and is "hard to sing sometimes."

Overall, the camp and energy of the performances keep the good feelings going. "There's a warmth there that I always find really pleasing about Christmas," Musgraves says. "There's a lot of reasons that we can all find the holiday stressful and annoying, but I think that we could all use more joy."

Hear her full conversation with NPR's Scott Simon in the audio player above.

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET IT SNOW")

KACEY MUSGRAVES AND JAMES CORDEN: (Singing) Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You ever heard of TV Christmas specials - Bing, Andy, Nat, Judy, Liza, fuzzy Christmas sweaters? Well, they're back - sort of - for one night's entertainment. Kacey Musgraves, the Grammy-winning musical artist at home with her band and stars that include James Corden, Leon Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Lana Del Rey and the Radio City Rockettes, among so many others who just dropped by to sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRESENT WITHOUT A BOW")

KACEY MUSGRAVES: (Singing) There's no red and white stripes on a candy cane. Silent" "Night just wouldn't sound the same. Where'd the magic go? All I know is me without you is like a present without a bow.

SIMON: Now streaming on Amazon, "The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show" is retro, jokey, tuneful and even has a puppy. Kacey Musgraves joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

MUSGRAVES: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: The show seems like a lot of fun to do. Was it?

MUSGRAVES: It was so much fun. It was also a gigantic challenge. It was a very big undertaking, and I've had Christmas shoved in my face pretty much all year. So...

SIMON: Well, you probably did this, like, in July or something, right?

MUSGRAVES: Well, it started last year as a small idea between my band leader and I, Kyle. We thought it would be a fun way to bring my old Christmas album back in the form of, you know, those old Christmas specials that we love. From there, the ideas just started rolling. And yes, the business of Christmas starts very well before Christmas. So I've been working on it for a while.

SIMON: Let me ask about the retro part because you show an old-style control room, there's a laugh track, there's shots of families watching at home on huge, old box TV's. What were you trying to capture there?

MUSGRAVES: Well, there's this nostalgia that comes with Christmas that I love. There's a warmth there that I always find really pleasing about Christmas. I mean, there's a lot of reasons that we can all find the holiday stressful and annoying, but I think that we could all use more joy.

SIMON: And you have a song in this special that acknowledges holidays can be hard for a lot of people.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS MAKES ME CRY")

MUSGRAVES: (Singing) It's the ones we miss, no one to kiss under the mistletoe. Another year gone by, just one more that I, I couldn't make it home. And I know that they say, have a happy holiday. And every year, I swear I sincerely try.

That one's hard for me to sing sometimes.

SIMON: I'll bet. You've had those kinds of holidays?

MUSGRAVES: I mean, I always enjoy the holidays. But yeah. I have a grandmother on my mom's side who passed away right before Christmas. And it really changed the holiday for a while. So there's a lot of reasons, I think, that we can all find sadness there. And I think especially because we all know - you know, it's ingrained in us that we should be happy during the holidays. And it's not always that easy for people. So there was a natural element to - I don't know - showing that side, those side of the feelings, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS MAKES ME CRY")

MUSGRAVES: (Singing) Oh, but Christmas, it always makes me cry. Always.

SIMON: You talk about your Nana throughout the show.

MUSGRAVES: I do, yes, Nana.

SIMON: So that's not just a clever actor who has been made up to look like your grandmother.

MUSGRAVES: That is not a method actor. That is, in fact, my Nana, my real Nana. She is something else. Her name's Barbara. And she was my original booking agent whenever I was 10, 12 years old. She was the one carting me around in the minivan, taking me around to wherever I would sing. And she's just - she's been such a wonderful support my whole life.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE KACEY MUSGRAVES CHRISTMAS SHOW")

MUSGRAVES: (As self) Nana.

BARBARA MUSGRAVES: (As self) I thought you might like this.

MUSGRAVES: (As self) Where did you find that?

MUSGRAVES: (As self) You left it at my house last Christmas.

MUSGRAVES: (As self) Come here. Come here. I've missed you. I can't believe - what are you doing?

She came in, she delivered her lines, she gave us ad-libs, she gave us options, inflections. She's a worldwide star now. So watch out (laughter).

SIMON: Did you ever want to say, Nana, just say Merry Christmas and take a seat or...

MUSGRAVES: Well, I was nervous that - you know, it can be intimidating to come in when cameras are on you if you're not used to it. I mean, it's intimidating for me sometimes. Oh, honey, no. She was nailing it just with flying colors. It was beautiful.

SIMON: That's wonderful. Christmas specials tend to be annual traditions. Is this one?

MUSGRAVES: You know, it almost killed me. So I don't know if I - if it's going to be an annual special. It honestly - it was a great challenge for me. I am not a dancer. I am nowhere near a thespian or an actor. But I'll dedicate myself to the bone, you know, for a creative vision. I want to see it through.

SIMON: Kacey Musgraves, her Christmas special is on Amazon, thank you so much for being with us, and happy holidays.

MUSGRAVES: Thank you. You as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS")

MUSGRAVES: (Singing) And have yourself a merry little Christmas now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.