MARGO PRICE

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photos/  Danielle Holbert

 
 

story / Lauren Rearick

 

2016 was the year of Margo Price. From taking the stage of Saturday Night Live, to earning the title of “country’s next star,” the singer-songwriter took the music world by storm following the release of her debut album – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. The album is a deeply intimate and moving record, detailing a period of heartbreaking struggles for Price. Whether exploring the loss of a family farm, to the death of her child or problems with men and the bottle, Price displays a sincere honesty that’s both gripping and touching.

In the year since the album’s release, Price reveals she has no intention of slowing down. With a follow up to Midwest Farmer’s Daughter already recorded and plans for new single releases on the horizon, the sky is truly the limit for this country star. Price shares with us the journey, from childhood to stage, the influences that shaped her and her hopes for a future of song.

You grew up playing piano and singing locally in a choir. How did that influence you as you started writing your own material and album? Have you known since your childhood that you wanted to pursue some form of music? Is there anything you would tell a young Margo Price about what your future in music holds?

Piano lessons made me a well rounded musician. Since then, I’ve taught myself how to play guitar, drums, percussion, and even a little mandolin and harmonica. Being involved in music through church and school definitely shaped my influences and helped me grow.

My mother also enrolled me in dance and gymnastic lessons at the age of two or three years old. As soon as I could walk and talk, I began to sing and dance. I began to learn (and make up on my own) different dance routines. I would even do stand up for my family during holiday gatherings. I was fearless and genuinely loved making people laugh. I was put on a stage from a very early age and grew to love the limelight. I’d say my performance today is still a little mix of all those things. I enjoy telling jokes on stage during my live show.

I think I still try to channel “young Margo” on stage sometimes. Children have less inhibitions. They live in the moment and that’s something everyone could do better these days.

You take influence from a lot of country artists, but make it very modern and relatable to current day listeners. What are some of the artists that you really look up to or you found played a part in shaping you as a musician? Growing up, did you listen to country music?

Yes, growing up I was always listening to music, singing in the shower and making mix tapes for all my friends and boyfriends. I felt very drawn to Tom Petty when I heard his voice coming through my radio as a young girl. I didn’t know what “Last Dance With Mary Jane” meant, but I knew I dug the hell out of it.

I loved Stevie Nicks, The Beatles (of course), The Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell, I was always drawn to a lot of the music from the 1960s and 1970s. My dad always had the oldies station on in his truck.

I’ve always dug a wide variety of music, of course traditional country music is nearest and dearest to my heart, but I also grew up listening to Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, Outkast and even some pop music.

My dance teacher choreographed to so many different genres- Jerry Lee Lewis, Michael Jackson, Cindi Lauper and everything in between, so I’ve pretty much been exposed to everything.


Your album – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter came out a little more than a year ago. How did you celebrate and looking back what has the journey from that release to now been like?

I celebrated by going into the studio and made another record over my winter break. I’m in the mastering/artwork process right now. I am so excited to keep going forward and growing as an artist… to reference Bob Dylan “Don’t look back.”

What was the writing and recording process for Midwest Farmer’s Daughter like for you? How far back did you begin writing the songs that would compromise this album? Was there a particular track or moment in the process that really stands out to you?

The writing process came together over several years. I write a lot with my husband/best friend, Jeremy Ivey, but I enjoy writing by myself as well. Co-writes are great though! One song I wrote blind drunk with Jeremy, Caitlin Rose and Mark Fredson one night on our back porch. I had been putting out other records with my band Buffalo Clover and singing and recording with lots of writers and bands in Nashville, but this debut came together very carefully. Partially because I was broke and partially because I wanted it to be perfect and had to figure out a way to fund it. My husband took care of that, too. He had so much faith in me that he sold our car and booked a studio. Next thing I know, we’re in Memphis cutting a live record at Sun with Matt Ross-Spang.

My favorite track on the album is a toss up between “Hands of Time” and  “Since You Put Me Down”. I’m proud that I wrote “Hands” on my own and love the arrangement the band and Alex Munoz (the co-producer) helped me come up with. But there’s something effortless and pure about the recording of “Since You Put Me Down”. If you listen hard, on the third verse you can hear a motorcycle drive by in the street outside.

 

How does it feel to be on a label like Third Man Records and to work with someone like Jack White? Was it ever surreal at any point? You also were on SNL. Between those two things and just the success of the album, how does that feel for you to look at all that you’ve accomplished?

I love that Third Man Records has given me a home. I always felt like I didn’t fit in in Nashville so it’s been nice to work with Jack and the entire staff there. Everyone there pushes their artistic boundaries and is so wildly creative, it’s always an inspiring environment to be in.

That being said, yes, of course I am happy and proud of my accomplishments over this past year. SNL was always a childhood dream,  but I’m still never satisfied and always looking for the next song and the many other artistic endeavors I may dive into next.

How do you manage daily life as well as touring, writing and being a musician? Is there a way you unwind or find time to be alone?

I have several managers who help with all my day to day emails, flights, interviews, etc. I also have a booking agent, a publisher, a killer music business lawyer, a mother, a husband and several great babysitters who help Nanny for me. It really does take a village at this point. When I’m home with my son I focus on being a full time mom and I turn off my phone. I miss family so much when I’m gone, it gets unbelievably hard to be away sometimes.

As far as unwinding and finding time to be alone – I’m on the road 200 plus dates a year so I spend most nights on the road by myself in my hotel room. It’s been a big adjustment since my husband is only out with me only part time now. But I try to enjoy it – I read a lot of books, listen to music, take baths.

That all being said, I love singing for my supper and wouldn’t trade it for a thing. It’s hard to have a social life sometimes because I’m a slave to my work and my craft.

Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a very intimate and telling glimpse at your life. Was it scary to be that vulnerable with listeners? Is it ever hard to relive those moments when you’re performing live?

At first it was hard but the truth is so freeing. We’re all human. We all bleed and make mistakes. Why not share them?

It’s usually easy to put myself back into the moment when I wrote it and perform the song with all the conviction in my bones. Every now and then, I’ll have an emotionally rough night. But I can always skip the tear jerkers.

You have spoken that you hope the album helps people in a similar dark spot or people going through depression. Do you feel that it’s important to destigmieze mental illness and have a hand in helping speak out about it?

I am a big advocate of people being open about their problems. Depression, anxiety, mental illness and even alcoholism are no different than the physical ailments people face. I don’t get the stigma. I’m happy to share my struggle if it helps people.

What’s next for you? Do you have any hopes or dreams of where you’d like to see your singing career head?

Yes-  I’m planning to drop a couple singles and then release another full length album with Third Man.  And as far as my career goes, I am enjoying meeting and playing with my bandmates and heroes I meet out here on the road. I don’t care about accolades or trophies. I just want to make good art.

Mostly though, I just really hope it continues to put food on the table cause it would be a damn shame to go back to waiting tables again.


All clothes, Desert Sun

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