Margo Price Discusses Getting High with Heroes and Writing Political Country Songs on 'All American Made'

Margo Price Discusses Getting High with Heroes and Writing Political Country Songs on 'All American Made'
Photo: Danielle Holbert
When Margo Price's debut album, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, finally saw its release on Third Man Records last year, she was hailed as revivalist, an inspiration, and of course, a badass. Since then she's toured the late-night circuit to great fanfare and raised hell alongside legends like Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson. On her new album All American Made she stands tall, not only against the brand of modern country that dominates the airwaves, but the volatile politics she sees all across the nation she loves so dearly. Here's how the newly-crowned queen of outlaw country breaks down her new record for Exclaim!
1 Margo Price is no country purist.
Her debut might have a conventional country sound, but All American Made is full of sonic exploration, pulling from Americana, funk, blues and gospel.
"I didn't want to limit myself to just making a traditional-sounding country record again. I wanted to be able to incorporate different topics, different sounds and different instruments. I wanted to keep a country thread weaving throughout it, but I've had a lot of love for many different types of music for a long time. My old band Buffalo Clover played rock'n'roll and soul. I've always loved folk music, when I first moved to Nashville I was just writing straight folk songs. I'm glad that we didn't say 'We can't we can't use this because it's not traditional.'"
2 She and her husband/songwriting partner Jeremy Ivey are competitive with each other.
The couple are always writing, often around their kitchen table while downing their morning coffee. Even with their busy touring schedule and their son, Judah at home, they try to flex their artistry as much as possible.
"I would write a piece of something and then if he wasn't out with me, I would send it to him or play it for him when I got home and vice versa. If he was at home and he wrote a piece of something he'd send it to me and we just try to always keep writing. I think it's important. It's a muscle just like anything else, and you have to do it constantly to keep growing and get better at the craft. We really just try to push each other to do our best work, and we get a little competitive with each other too I think. It's healthy."
3 Turns out smoking weed and duetting with your hero really is all it's cracked up to be.
Price and Ivey wrote "Learning to Lose" while listening to Willie Nelson records in their pajamas — they knew they had to ask if he'd sing on it, but couldn't believe he actually said yes.
"It seemed really cosmic because the song starts with 'On the day, before the day, before the new year…' and that was the actual day that we flew to Austin to go to his studio and hear him cut his vocals and of course put Trigger [Nelson's famed nylon string guitar] on there. We got there before him and Trigger was already set up and there were a stool with an ashtray and some joints. Before he came in, Buddy Cannon, who's been his long-time producer, cowriter and friend, was just telling us 'If Willie likes it he'll do it multiple times, but if he's not a fan of the song or just isn't feeling it, he is going to do it once and that's all you're going to get.' And he went through it probably four or five times and just you could tell he really cared about getting everything right and making it feel natural. It was so cool to go back later and then listen to all the different guitar solos he did. It was so hard to pick just one."
4 All American Made truly covered all of America.
The album was written on tour buses and in hotel rooms, from New York snowstorms to Nashville studios.
"The first record was a concept record, so all the songs were about my life and my story, and once I kind of explored that, you start to look at the world around you and then pull from there. So, I kind of describe it as all the songs are like postcards from different towns in America."
5 Sometimes the most powerful commentary is nonchalant, sobering truth.
The cutting critique of the wage disparity that Price offers in "Pay Gap" is a pretty blatant statement of fact masquerading as a chill, Mexicali toe-tapper.
"I've always liked writing something in a major key and singing something very sweetly, and then you hear the words and you're like, 'Wait this is actually some angry or darker lyrics,' but I think it's nice — it makes it feel less like preaching. Obviously I am a little angry about it. It's nice to just to play it with this kind of blasé attitude like, I'm just stating the facts and you can hate me for it if you want but it's just the truth."
6 The inspiration for Price's boldest political statement might not be what you expect.
Although she's been a scathing critic of America's current commander-in-chief, even wearing an "Icky Trump" shirt during her Tiny Desk performance, you might be surprised about Price's inspiration for the politically-fuelled reflection of "All American Made."
"We wrote it during the Obama administration, and it definitely felt like a new song come this election day. I didn't really expect that. I didn't really know what to expect. It's been a tumultuous time for the U.S. with everything that's going on here now, so it felt nice to have something to sing that was kind of cathartic and can feel very relevant even though it was written a while ago. But there's always been problems, there's always been corruption and greed and war. I think probably a lot of the people that are going to hate it, if they knew that I wrote it during a different time it would probably shock the hell out of them."
All American Made is out now on Third Man Records.