Margo Price’s year reads like a Margo Price song. In early March, the singer-songwriter held a listening party for her new album in Nashville where a tornado had hit hours later. As COVID-19 spread across the country, Price’s husband and collaborator Jeremy Ivey came down with the virus. The album release was put on hold while Price cared for him and their two children.
Fortunately, things are looking up. Her husband is on the mend and Price released her third full-length record, That’s How Rumors Get Started, in July. Blending her country roots with folk, psych rock, and soul, the album stood at number one on the Americana chart for weeks. She even found time to cover Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP.” Price joined me by phone from her childhood bedroom in Illinois to chat about getting an education in beer and writing timeless music in a historic moment.
Is there anything embarrassing in your childhood bedroom that you can share?
Oh my god, I have two younger sisters and all three of our bedrooms just kind of look like we died. It’s completely the way that I left it. There are senior photos of me. There’s a collage that I made of a bunch of my favorite musicians. We’ve got Jeff Buckley, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, and Aretha. I’ve got all these letters from ex-boyfriends and all sorts of incriminating photos of me partying at 16. It’s a mess in here. Then there's dolls, like a troll ballerina doll. It’s just wild. I hope you’re getting the picture.
You’re visiting your hometown. Is there a beer scene there now?
There is a brewery that’s pretty good in the Quad Cities. Bent River Brewing Company has this amazing Uncommon Coffee Stout. It’s like drinking a cold brew; it’s so good. A lot of times I go by and get a growler of it.
I used to work at the Flying Saucer in Nashville, so I learned a lot about beer there. We had to do all these extensive tastings. I started working there when I was like 20. It was crazy to taste the beer but not be able to legally drink. We had like 100 beers on tap and 200 bottles, so I definitely got an education in beer at that place.
And probably drinking nicer beers at 20 that you would have, if you weren’t working there.
I’m a snob when it comes to beer. My bands all drink Coors Light. I drink a lot of tequila and soda or mezcal mules, but when I do drink a beer I want it to be full-bodied. I want it to taste not like piss and Miller Lite. There goes my promotional opportunity.
What kind of beer do you usually reach for?
I tend to drink more stouts and ambers. I really love Belhaven. That’s one of my favorites, if I can find it. I drink a lot of Guinness honestly.
Have your drinking habits changed at all during quarantine?
I’ve been all over the place. I spent part of quarantine completely sober and then fell off the wagon pretty good. I just try to find a balance. I typically only drink a couple nights a week, because it’s too hard to wake up every day hungover.
Somebody gave me a bottle of Blanton’s bourbon, which is really killer. I haven’t really had whiskey in the past four or five years, because I went through a phase with that and then started drinking tequila. I’ve been making hot toddies with the Blanton’s and cinnamon and I make my own whipped cream. That’s been a nice treat here and there.
The underlying themes of the problems in the world have been there, it’s just very much come to light.”
I know you had a tough spring with Jeremy getting sick, but how are you doing these days?
We’re doing a lot better. We were worried that he wasn’t going to make it. It was pretty bleak there for a while. He’s feeling back to normal. He does still take a ton of vitamins and he has to be really careful about getting run down. If he starts to feel really fatigued then he ends up needing to sleep more and take breaks from drinking. We’re doing much better. We got a cold last week and we were all freaking out. We went and got COVID tests and they were negative.
It’s something I’m worried about. I don’t want him to get it again. It’s going to be a long winter. Summer was great, but I’m not looking forward to being stuck in a house with the kids and not being able to go anywhere when it’s cold.
I’m so glad to hear that he’s doing better for the most part. Along with everything else you were going through, your album release was delayed earlier in the year. What was surprising about putting out a record during this time?
I really miss just being able to have people record me for interviews. I’m not good at Zoom and I don’t really like to use the computer. I’m not technologically savvy, so it’s always really stressful to me. I miss having people help do my sound and shit like that.
It’s gone as well as expected. I’ve had really strong reception to everything. I think fans are enjoying it. The album has been number one on the Americana charts, and I’m getting more play than I ever have on my first two albums as far as the radio playing it. I think it’s the best outcome considering the circumstances.
I’m ready to put out another one. It’s like, what else can I do? I can’t tour, so I might as well just get back in the studio and start recording.
Congrats on all the success of That’s How Rumors Get Started. I know that you have known Sturgill Simpson a long time. What was it like to work with him in a different capacity as a producer on this album?
It was great. We had a hell of a time. It was really smooth sailing. David Ferguson, who Sturgill brought in, was a great engineer who also produced. He had worked with Johnny Cash and Cowboy Jack Clement, so it was awesome. I was pregnant the whole time, so we just ate a ton of food and they let me pick the meals each day.
Some of the issues we’re reckoning with this year have been under the surface for a long time. Although you wrote this album before 2020, it feels especially relevant now like “I’d Die for You” or talking about loneliness on “Letting Me Down.” What has the reception been like?
Like you said, the underlying themes of the problems in the world have been there, it’s just very much come to light. I’m glad that they’re songs that feel pertinent because it took me so long to get the damn thing out. I think that’s the mark of a good song. Sometimes when people are like, “I wrote a song just for this moment,” it feels a bit pandering. It’s hard to write good topical songs and focus on something that feels timeless and lasting instead of dated. It’s always a goal as a songwriter.
I know you’ve been doing some livestreams and some full band performances without an audience. How has that felt?
It’s just like the good old days. We played the Brooklyn Bowl as a band and there were probably 15 or 20 people in the balcony, but even having 20 people clapping and watching was rewarding. [Laughs] We’re starved for applause.
I was playing shows to 10 or 15 people for years and years. I would always give it my all, even if there weren't many people. You never know who is watching and you want to put on a good show regardless. So, I think I’ve been trained for this very moment.
That’s good to hear. We’re all missing live music and missing that connection. I can’t believe it’s been like eight months since I’ve been to a show.
Yep, it’s wild. I know people are missing that experience and that release. Between that and hanging out in restaurants and bars people are really having to figure out what else to do with their time.
Speaking of filling time, you've been busy with special projects lately from Honor Her Wish, to the Voting Rights Lab collaboration and Musicians for Marquita. Why are events like this important to you?
I think this election is such a historic moment and Americans just don’t vote. Young kids don’t vote. Who knows what it’s going to look like in 2050 or 2060? People are saying that the soil isn’t going to be nutrient rich enough to grow food.
I think that we’re at such a crucial time and I want to encourage people to get out there and vote. Hopefully we can flip the Senate. I think that would be, I dare say, more important than the presidential election because of everything going on with nominating another Supreme Court justice.
I know everyone is just ready for it to be over. It’s consuming, and I don’t even like politics. Like fuck politicians, but I think it’s cool that you’ve got people that are just civilians that want to step in and help people and make things better. We’ve got to change something.
What’s making you feel hopeful?
My children. I really hope that we can save the environment, protect women’s rights, and keep moving towards progress of everyone being equal. I want that for my children. I don’t want them to live in a dictatorship.
Have you been doing any writing these days?
Yeah actually, at the beginning of quarantine, I was not writing at all. I didn’t have time. Everybody was sick and the house was trashed. Then my mom came down to stay with us and that has been a great thing because my daughter barely sleeps and I need sleep.
So, my husband and I went to an Airbnb in South Carolina. We ate a ton of mushrooms and ended up writing like twelve songs. The creative energy is alive and well. I find myself writing lots of poems and stories just to keep my brain distracted. It makes me feel better if I’m upset about something. I just sit down and put the pen to paper and do a little free therapy.