Kacey Musgraves and Yearning for Living Water

Kate Meyrick

I listened to Kacey Musgraves’ new album, Deeper Well, as the first days of spring hit the Midwest. It’s that strange time of year when spring, summer, and winter weather all collide. As I walked home from the bus stop, I noticed a few blossoms coming through on the trees and a few more robins singing in the branches. Musgraves’ voice was the perfect soundtrack. Deeper Well is being called a “gratitude” or “wellness” album, and those expressions come through with her warm vocals and production. Her soft country twang lilts between acoustic instruments and slide guitars. There are unexpected elements to her soundscape: fuzzy 1970s synths, echoey vocal reverb, sparkly electronic flourishes, and nature sounds.

But don’t mistake Musgraves’ soft performance with shallow lyrics and messaging. Deeper Well, as the title implies, is an album that digs down into the depths of Musgraves’ desires and questions. The title track reveals that she is letting go of some people and habits that “are real good at wasting my time” and instead embracing “how to take care of myself.” She claims that she has found a “deeper well.” The album goes on to reveal the things that have been filling her cup from this deeper well—everything from finding new love, reliable friends, her home state of Texas, and the beauty of the natural world. In “Dinner with Friends” she lists moments like “The face that somebody makes when you give 'em a gift” and “early in June when the fireflies first start to glow.” Additionally, she praises the way her new love has changed her perspective, modulating the key and opening the backing tracks with a glorious swell as she sings, “He loves me in all of the ways that I've never felt love before.”

Lonely Millionaire” implies that Musgraves is drawing from this deeper well because she recognizes that money can’t buy satisfaction: “The money and the diamonds and the things that shine can't buy you true happiness,” she croons. Instead, she is willing to let go of material gain in order to experience emotional riches, singing, “I’ll burn it all to keep you warm . . . all I want is you.” The album reflects this act of stripping back, of minimizing the extra things in life, and throwing out the shiny distractions in order to focus on bigger questions.

If one song encapsulates the search for wonder and meaning, it’s “The Architect.” As Musgraves warmly addresses “The Architect,” she names things in nature she sees as “perfectly designed” and asks, “Was it thought out at all? Or just paint on a wall? Is there anything that you regret?” The listener wonders if The Architect is indeed God, the Creator. Her musings grow darker as she describes the pain of self-hate and her search for a redeeming love: “I thought that I was too broken and maybe too hard to love.” This short line encapsulates how Musgraves’ album articulates that search for a “well” of healing, a search for tenderness and redemption. She knows she will drink from any shallow cistern when she is desperate enough, but those wells simply cannot satisfy.

Musgraves will drink from any shallow cistern when she is desperate enough, but she knows those wells simply cannot satisfy.

Wells have significant meaning in the Bible. A deep well offers fresher, cleaner water. It’s relieving and thirst-quenching. Jesus used metaphors of wells and water for himself when he talked with the woman from Samaria at Jacob’s Well, saying “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” I have always loved this story because of how the woman goes toe-to-toe with Jesus as he asks her about her past husbands and the history of the well. I also love it because it is the first time that Jesus reveals himself to be the Messiah in the Gospel of John without relying on third-person tense or a voice from the sky. The woman from Samaria says, “I know that the Messiah is coming . . . when he comes, he will explain everything to us.” And Jesus says, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” He is the Deeper Well. He is the Living Water.

Later, in John 7, Jesus says, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” This invitation to drink is a call from Jesus to find fullness in him, to find peace with him, and to know that he is a faithful Savior and friend. While other vices in our lives let us down and leave us empty, Jesus promises to hold us close and fill us with abundance. Just like he knew the Samaritan woman’s complicated history, he knows where we have been. Instead of offering judgment, he offers hope and salvation. In faithful response to this revelation, the Samaritan woman leaves behind her water jug—symbolizing that she’s leaving behind sources of water that will not satisfy—to go and tell of the Living Water: Jesus, the well of redemption, healing, and new life.

I believe Kacey Musgraves is trying to explain this sentiment in Deeper Well: this unnameable ache we all feel when we are overwhelmed by the profound beauty in the world, yet crushed by the incredible suffering it can inflict upon us. To what and to whom do we run to when we can’t find answers? Or when we feel like we are unlovable? What happens when money isn’t enough, when what you once thought was forever isn’t forever anymore? What happens when spring days turn to winter? When joy turns to sorrow?

In seasons of struggle, doubt, and loss, it is tempting to go back to those broken, shallow cisterns—the habits that waste our time and drain our souls. For me, Musgraves’ music is a reminder to choose Jesus—the Deeper Well—during those stormy days, because he is always waiting. All I have to do is sit with him at the edge of the well.

Topics: Music