Ruston Kelly and his wife, Kacey Musgraves, collaborated on a memorable ballad from the collection, “Johnny Cash Forever Words,” released in April this year. Their vocals and music to accompany the legendary Cash’s lyrics for “To June This Morning” summoned the perfect tone of morning calmness over coffee and the power of the sound of “feet on the stairs” to set a day off to a good start.

Any seasoned Country Music fan knows full well that Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash didn't come to that place of contented bliss and wordless communication easily.

Johnny Cash battled addiction for years in separate spans through his career, and June Carter was not only his emotional flagship through those times, but also served as the guiding force in seeking proper medical intervention.

Ruston Kelly and Kacey Musgraves are officially still newlyweds, but they are learning the brave battle through addiction, and Ruston Kelly is brave enough to write about all the sides of the struggle, and finding his way out, on his debut album “Dying Star.” He shared his reflections on coming to sobriety and the impact of his newfound clarity on his life and creativity with Rolling Stone on September 7, just as his album tracks are getting YouTube traction.

Fast times and falling

Ruston Kelly came to Nashville at 17, enamored with the timeless music of the Carter Family. His authenticity and way with words got noticed by some big names in country music, including Josh Abbott, Kenny Chesney, and Tim McGraw, who recorded “Nashville Without You.”

Despite being the son of acclaimed pedal steel guitarist, TK Kelly, Ruston had other talents to develop as a youth.

He was a gifted and competitive figure skater, and that professional track took him frequently to the ice capitals of Michigan and Belgium, besides having part-time roots in Alabama. It was during his time in Brussels that he truly became creatively infected by the roots of country music, and decided on the move to Nashville.

Kelly got a coveted publishing deal with BMG, leading to his successes writing for other artists, and in 2017, his 10-track EP, “Halloween,” which drew comparisons with the like of Ryan Adams, released. Rather than jubilation, the period was already a precursor to his artistic discourse on drug addiction that would become “Dying Star.”

The songwriter admits that “my drug intake skyrocketed,” after completing the EP, and the inebriating concoctions combined with “family stuff” took its toll with a near-deadly overdose. The words “dying star” kept recurring for Ruston Kelly as he recuperated on his front porch after release from the hospital.

Kelly is far from the first artist to confront the brutal truth and the deceptions of drug addiction.

Jason Isbell did it masterfully in two acclaimed albums, “Southeastern,” and “Something More Than Free,” and his embrace of the sober life has yielded a slew of awards, including Grammy and Americana music recognition.

Ruston Kelly has arrived at his time for personal and creative reclamation, and his music, like the man himself, doesn’t shy away from a few four-letter words, but he doesn't skip the humor either, in detailing the ups, downs, missteps, and steady hands along the way.

Let the ladies take a bow

“She was such a strong, redemptive force in my life,” insists Ruston Kelly of his country superstar wife, also known for strongly speaking her mind. He credits her for reminding him that human worthiness isn’t derived from behavior, that “everyone has a past,” and “someone has to help pick you up somehow.”

The two married in October of last year, and in songs like “Trying to Let Her,” and “Anchors,” Kelly juxtaposes the sense of constant unworthiness against the craving for real love, in lyrics that capture “chasing the poison,” with the admission “my choices are repulsive,” and still embracing the grace and power of selfless love.

Beyond emotional support, Ruston Kelly insists that he gains the most creative inspiration from artists of the female persuasion. Kate York, Joy Williams, Natalie Hemby, and Abby Sevigny, as well as Kacey Musgraves, all join in this Ruston Kelly effort.

The artist specifically asked his label to “only put women on my calendar” feeling that their artistry is far more authentic than some male songwriters who only think they write great songs. “I can actually learn from Lori McKenna,” he says as an example.

Another collaboration that was an extreme source of support was that of producer, Jarrad K, who became a “real friend” to Kelly, not only after the overdose but through some periods of relapse.

The producer is probably best known for his work with Weezer, and he constantly prompted the recovering songwriter to work on new songs he was creating, inspiring him to take confidence in his music and recovery.

The album also became a father and son reunion, as Ruston asked his dad to be part of the creation. His father had an unusual request. He wanted to experience his own psychedelic trip after a conversation with his son. A single mushroom did the trick, and the younger Kelly was still astounded by the pedal steel that his papa put down. The inspired playing brought the son to tears.

That anecdote is probably not the best advertisement for sobriety, but Ruston Kelly is doing his best to live out what sobriety means for him, and it just might speak to others hearing “Dying Star,” reminding them that they can become someone new.