Margo Price released Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, her debut album for Third Man Records, almost exactly a year ago and her life hasn’t been the same since. Addressing autobiographical topics including the loss of her family’s farm, the death of her child and substance problems over the disc’s 10 tracks, the singer/songwriter recorded a traditional country album that takes the listener on an honest and raw journey. Winning the favor of the public and critics alike, Price has received numerous awards — including Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2016 Americana Music Awards — and has made several television appearances (Saturday Night Live, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Later…with Jools Holland) since the album’s release.
Price’s ascent seems fast, but the 33-year-old has been working in Nashville the old-fashioned way for 13 years. After moving to the Music City from Illinois, she waited tables; she taught dance at the YMCA. She was a preschool teacher and she worked in retail. Her husband and bandmate, Jeremy Ivey, sold his car to finance the recording of Midwest Farmer’s Daughter at Sun Studios in Memphis.
On Sunday, March 5, Price will perform at WorkPlay with Jonny Fritz opening the 8 p.m. show. Recently, Price spoke with us about Midwest Farmer’s Daughter and the whirlwind her life has become since its release.
Weld: Midwest Farmer’s Daughter includes a number of autobiographical songs. Upon its release, did you feel a sense of relief or were you fearful of being vulnerable and exposed?
Margo Price: When I wrote them, I thought they were going to be just for me. But then I realized I wanted to play them out, so I had to make the decision to let the skeletons come out of the closet. I was worried people would judge me, but it was the exact opposite. It was a freeing thing to just do it and say it and not have to hide anything anymore.
Weld: Had the majority of the songs been around for a while or were most them written right before you recorded the album?
Price: There were a lot of them — like “Hands Of Time” — that I’d been playing for a while, but “Weekender” was one of the later ones. It got a little bit closer to what I was trying to hone in on toward the end of it. It was a span of three years that the songs were being gathered.
Weld: Was recording Midwest Farmer’s Daughter at Sun Records important to you, or was that accidental?
Price: It was no accident. The history and vibe of Sun was a big influence on the sound of the album. We wanted to play in a live room, with no headphones and really capture the feeling of playing the songs together, not a huge, sterile studio where everyone feels separated and the musicians have to rely on overdubbing everything. Memphis is a magical, soulful place. The city vibrates with creativity. I love it there.
Weld: You tour with your husband, bassist Jeremy Ivey. Have there been points where working so closely together has been challenging for either the art or the relationship?
Price: Of course! We are incredibly competitive when it comes to writing, and we are both very emotional, passionate beings… Sometimes we fight. It can be difficult. That being said, I wouldn’t trade our art, our intertwined lives, and the songs we’ve written together for anything in the world. Without his love and support, his poetic mind and ideas, I would not be here today. I mean, the man sold the car to fund my record. Jeremy is quite literally the wind beneath my wings.
Weld: Over the past 10 years — before your massive successes of the past year — did you ever feel like music might not be your path?
Price: No, I always knew it was my calling. I did dabble a bit in photography, and also entertained the idea of being a writer… I may pour more time into those outlets in the future, but I couldn’t escape my fate. I was put on this earth to write songs and sing them. And I’ll probably continue to do that until the day I die. Success or money aside.
Weld: You performed on Saturday Night Live last April. How did that appearance happen, and what was the experience like?
Price: Surreal. I’ve dreamed of doing that since I was about 10 years old. I hope if I return, they’ll let me be involved in a sketch. I studied theater in college and have always loved acting and making people laugh. I used to put on plays for my parents and babysitters growing up. My mom has VHS tapes full of me playing lots of different characters. [Laughs]
How important has Third Man Records been in connecting Nashville’s emerging rock community to “East Nashville” and to “Music Row?”
Price: Third Man has opened up the entire city to the possibility of something other than glossy pop country. They’ve turned the entire world onto bringing back vinyl. The level of creativity there behind the scenes is an incredible force of nature. I’m so proud to be a part of that label… and Jack [White] just opened a pressing plant in Detroit! Their impact on the music community is more than just East Nashville. It’s worldwide.
Weld: Judging by success that you, Chris Stapleton, and Sturgill Simpson have found, there seems to be a renewed thirst for honest and traditional country music these days. Why is now the right time for that?
Price: I kind of feel like music goes through these drought phases where there’s more glossy stuff and there are people trying to bring things back closer to the roots, whether it’s Emmylou Harris or Dwight Yoakam or Willie [Nelson] or Merle [Haggard] or what era it is. I think there’s been these pop things going on for so long — and it’s obviously still alive and well — but it’s good to see that people are turning their ears back toward the ground.
Margo Price comes to the Workplay Theater on Sunday, March 5. Johnny Fritz opens. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.