A Charging Stallion, a Breakup, and the Meaning Behind Kacey Musgraves’ Grammy-Winning “Space Cowboy”

When a horse wants to run / There ain’t no sense in closing the gate declares Kacey Musgraves on her 2018 hit “Space Cowboy.” Released on her fourth album Golden Hour, the simmering ballad marks the clear departure of love and making peace with the end of a relationship, and was partly inspired by a Stallion that once charged at Musgraves.

“One day I was out at the barn watching this stallion charging powerfully from one end of the arena to the other, bucking and galloping at full speed all alone,” shared Musgraves on Instagram of the incident that inspired part of the song. “Though I was ‘safe’ on the other side of the arena wall, it kinda scared me when he came flying toward me, barely stopping in time. My riding teacher saw him coming at me and yelled at me to move away.”

She continued, “I said ‘I’m fine, the gate is closed’ to which she said, ‘Girl, when they wanna go they will go. There ain’t no point in even shuttin’ the gate.’ It really made a mark on me when she said that and I wrote it down. ‘Space Cowboy’ came a couple [of] days after with Shane McAnally and Luke Laird. Make peace with what doesn’t belong. You’ll find something better.”

Videos by American Songwriter

“You Can Have Your Space, Cowboy”

Musgraves lets go of her cowboy, cool, calm, and collected. She doesn’t chase after him and gives him all the space he needs to move on.

You look out the window
While I look at you
Sayin’ I don’t know
Would be like saying that the sky ain’t blue
And boots weren’t made for sitting by the door
Since you don’t wanna stay anymore

You can have your space, cowboy
I ain’t gonna fence you in
Go on ride away, in your Silverado
Guess I’ll see you ’round again
I know my place, and it ain’t with you
Well, sunsets fade, and love does too
Yeah, we had our day in the sun
When a horse wants to run
There ain’t no sense in closing the gate
You can have your space, cowboy

After the gold rush, there ain’t no reason to stay
Shoulda learned from the movies that good guys don’t run away
But roads weren’t made to not go down
And there ain’t room for both of us in this town

Different Masks

Space Cowboy” peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and earned Musgraves a Grammy for Best Country Song in 2019.

All 13 tracks on Golden Hour were co-written by Musgraves, who also co-produced the album with Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk. Golden Hour went to No. 4 on the Billboard 200, topped the Country chart, and picked up two Grammys for Album Of The Year and Best Country Album.

[RELATED: 4 Songs You Didn’t Know Kacey Musgraves Wrote For Other Artists]

“I was thinking about how there are different masks that we wear that represent different sides of us,” said Musgraves of Golden Hour. “None of the masks are solely us, but they’re all us. On this record, there’s the lonely girl, the blissful girl, the new wife, the girl that’s missing her mom, the angry girl, the sarcastic girl, the ’60s-sequined Cruella de Vil with the beehive, the shy girl, the life of the party, the winner, the loser.”

Musgraves added, “They’re all characters on this record. None of them alone are me, but the golden hour is when they all come together and you see me as a whole.”

Photo: Timothy Norris/FilmMagic

The Melancholy Meaning Behind “Coney Island” by Taylor Swift and The National