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The Meaning of Kacey Musgraves’ “Butterflies”

Kacey Musgraves’ “Butterflies” is one of several love songs on her 2018 Grammy-winning album Golden Hour. The track speaks to a tender relationship that seems to rescue her from the tangles of her own mind, as well as the demons that haunt her from past relationships.

During an April 2018 interview with NPR, she explained that the song, and many of the love songs on the album, were inspired by her relationship with her then-husband, Ruston Kelly:

“Butterflies” represents those feelings that you have when you’re first meeting somebody and you fall in love. This was the first song actually that I wrote after meeting my now-husband, so it was about three weeks after I met him. I was all in. I was like, ‘This is my person.’

Kacey Musgraves on the meaning of “Butterflies”, 2018.

It seems that even if she may have felt strongly about her husband in that moment, the love that inspired “Butterflies” was not quite enough to keep their relationship together, as the pair ended up divorcing in 2020, just two and a half years after getting married.

Alas, such is the way of life. Even positive feelings of love and affection that seem like they could last a lifetime, sometimes fade away without notice.

“Butterflies” Lyrics Meaning

Despite the failure of her relationship with Ruston Kelly, “Butterflies” is still a sweet and beautiful song about the exciting feelings that accompany the early stages of a relationship, and falling in love with someone whom you feel is right for you.

Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics and see just how Kacey accomplishes this, starting with the first verse:

I was just coastin’, never really goin’ anywhere
Caught up in a web, I was gettin’ kinda used to stayin’ there
And out of the blue, I fell for you

First verse to “Butterflies” by Kacey Musgraves.

In the opening lyrics, Kacey reveals that prior to meeting this person, her life was in a rut, and things didn’t seem to be progressing for her. She was caught in a challenging place, and had grown accustomed to living with these challenges.

However, she unexpectedly fell in love, and things changed for her rather quickly, as she describes in the first chorus:

Now, you’re lifting me up ‘stead of holding me down
Stealing my heart ‘stead of stealing my crown
Untangled all the strings ’round my wings that were tied
I didn’t know him and I didn’t know me
Cloud Nine was always out of reach
Now, I remember what it feels like to fly
You give me butterflies

Chorus to “Butterflies” by Kacey Musgraves.

It seems that Kacey has had some unhealthy relationships in the past with men who would hold her down, and take away her autonomy. This relationship is different, and she feels that her current partner is uplifting and empowering towards her.

In addition to this affect, her partner also helped her to free herself from the difficult situation that she placed herself into with her own mental hurdles, so she could truly stretch her wings and be herself.

She didn’t know who she was until she met him, and “Cloud Nine”, or pure happiness, was always unachievable. Now, though, she understands what love really feels like, and is experiencing the classic sensation of butterflies in her stomach.

The second verse offers some wordplay:

Kiss full of color makes me wonder where you’ve always been
I was hiding in doubt ’til you brought me out of my chrysalis
And I came out new
All because of you

Second verse to “Butterflies” by Kacey Musgraves.

We picture an actual butterfly here, with bright wings (“kiss full of color”), fluttering into the backyard in late Spring as if they had been there all along.

She then describes her doubt as a chrysalis, as he helped her complete the metamorphosis from caterpillar to full-grown butterfly.

The song ends with two more hits of the chorus, with the second featuring slightly altered lyrics about taking her hand:

Now, you’re lifting me up ‘stead of holding me down
You’re taking my hand ‘stead of taking my crown
Untangled all the strings ’round my wings that were tied
I didn’t know him and I didn’t know me
Cloud Nine was always out of reach
Now, I remember what it feels like to fly
You give me butterflies
You give me butterflies

Second chorus to “Butterflies” by Kacey Musgraves.

Watch the music video for “Butterflies” by Kacey Musgraves below.