Margo Price Sits Down With BUST To Talk About Being Country Music’s Rebel Girl

by Eliza C. Thompson

A liberal lion shining bright in Nashville’s notoriously conservative music scene, Margo Price is too rebellious to be considered strictly country. Here, the visionary singer/songwriter reflects on ruffling industry feathers, quitting booze, and how sharing terrible things about herself “actually brings good things into my life”

Margo Price is an extremely easy person to talk to. She makes a joke about the FBI listening in on our Zoom call within the first 10 seconds of our conversation, and from there, it’s game on. There’s talk of shrooming, her C-section scars, and her distaste for contemporary country music—and we still squeezed in some discussion of her latest album, Strays, and its companion release, Strays II. She’s so warm and candid that it’s hard to remember we’re not going to meet up later tonight and shoot the shit while smoking a joint. 

Celebrities always want you to feel like this when you interview them, but with Price, it seems genuine. There’s no publicist listening in to make sure I don’t ask about anything too sensitive, and there’s no indication that Price wouldn’t gladly talk about her life for another hour or two if she had the time. Her songs are like this, too—forthright, free of artifice, and willing to go deep. Still, Price says there are some things she’s holding back, even though her fans might not know it. 

“Like Dolly Parton says, you always do keep a little something for yourself,” Price, 40, explains from her home in Nashville, where she’s sitting in a light-filled room, wearing a well-loved Bob Dylan shirt. “For as much as I give away, there are still things about my childhood, things about my family, things that I do keep, and even things that I’m going through in real time. I don’t really have the capacity to share it until later—that’s what I figured out.” 

While she’s not willing to share everything, what she has laid bare is more than enough to fill several fantastic albums. Price’s first record, 2016’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, earned her comparisons to Loretta Lynn and the aforementioned Parton for its old-school, whiskey-soaked country tunes about trifling men and hardworking women. Though Price had been grinding away for years before the spotlight found her, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter arrived amid a wave of releases by several other young female country musicians—including Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves—whom critics often described as “country for people who don’t like country.” 

Price loves country, as evidenced by the twang in her voice and the pedal steel anchoring her songs, but the genre—at least the mainstream part of it—has never really loved her back. Her 2017 album, All American Made, included a duet with country’s éminence grise Willie Nelson, but the traditional markers of country fame continued to elude her. As Morris and Musgraves racked up trophies from institutions like the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association, Price hung out in the Americana category with Brandi Carlile and Sturgill Simpson—i.e., people who are also unwilling to play ball in a genre where radio DJs still believe it’s unwise to play more than one female artist per hour. This may not seem like a big deal in the streaming era, but country is the last genre where radio play still matters, and women, not surprisingly, still get short shrift. 

It’s not necessarily that Price herself wants those traditional country accolades, but it’s frustrating as a fan to watch so-called tastemakers ignore generational talents like Price in favor of paint-by-numbers bro country about hot girls in trucks. Even her more mainstream peers have essentially given up trying to change the minds of the dinosaurs controlling country music: Musgraves’ last album was heavily pop-influenced, and Morris announced in September that she’s leaving the genre. 

As for Price, she doesn’t feel like she can leave something that never felt like home in the first place, but she understands the sentiment. “I have never been accepted,” she explains. “My music didn’t fit in the box of that pop-country world.” 

When her third album, That’s How Rumors Get Started, dropped in 2020—smack in the middle of the COVID pandemic—many listeners and critics interpreted the album as a goodbye to country. It incorporated elements of rock and soul that made it hard to classify as one thing. While Price was just making the music she wanted to make, she doesn’t deny that she was fed up with country as an institution. 

“I did feel incredibly disenchanted when everybody [went to] the CMAs the year of the pandemic, when Charley Pride died,” she recalls, referencing the groundbreaking Black country star who died of COVID one month after performing at the November 2020 awards show, leading to much speculation that he caught it at the ceremony. “I went on the Grand Ole Opry after George Floyd was killed and I said that they should have more diverse people on their stage. I went in and stirred the pot from the beginning and just immediately got put on the ‘naughty list.’ There are things going on [in country] that are an utter embarrassment, and it’s been that way. It’s been very white, and people are awarding these incredibly…let’s just say, not talented [artists]. I’ve never wanted to kiss anybody’s ass to even get in that room.”

If That’s How Rumors Get Started was a tentative step away from country, then Price’s most recent album, Strays, is a dive into the deep end of everything else. Released in January, Strays was primarily written during a shroom-filled vacation to South Carolina Price took with her husband and bandmate, Jeremy Ivey. The album runs the gamut from ’70s psychedelic rock to folk-tinged pop and stomping soul, but her lyrics remain as frank and heart-wrenching as ever. On the poignant “Lydia,” Price sings about a woman contemplating whether or not to have an abortion, while “County Road” is a moving tribute to her late drummer, Ben Eyestone, who died in 2017 at age 28 after a short battle with colon cancer. 

In October, Price released Strays II, a collection of nine new songs that were written and recorded at the same time as the first Strays. Price sees the entire project as a double album that was split into two parts simply for logistical reasons—all 19 tracks wouldn’t fit on one LP. Also, as she jokes, “I don’t know if people have the attention spans or budgets for double albums these days.”

The point is that Strays II isn’t just an album of castoffs hastily mastered and repackaged as bonus tracks. Strays II closes the loop on the entire Strays experience, which is far and away Price’s most ambitious work to date. The new songs feature collaborations with Big Thief’s Buck Meek and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ guitarist Mike Campbell (who also appeared on the first Strays). Musically, they’re hard to pin down, weaving Topanga Canyon folk with funk and blues. Price says she can’t pick a favorite, but she’s partial to the title track, which is about her relationship with Ivey. “It’s very near and dear to my heart,” she says. “I love how that one came out. That one is the story of Jeremy and I meeting and growing up.”

Price has always been unusually willing to speak about her relationship with Ivey, who records as a solo artist in addition to playing in his wife’s band. As Price recounted in her 2022 memoir, Maybe We’ll Make It, Ivey pawned her engagement ring to pay for the recording of Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. He eventually got it back, but sold their car instead, which Price said in the book was “the most romantic thing he had ever done” for her. 

After marrying in 2008, Price and Ivey welcomed twin boys, Judah and Ezra, but Ezra died of a heart defect days after his birth. Price has been open about how difficult this period was for her and Ivey; she drank heavily and had an affair (which she disclosed to Ivey years before writing about it in her book). Ivey and Price had another child, daughter Ramona, in 2019, and in early 2021, Price quit drinking. She doesn’t regret the decision at all, but she sometimes finds herself worrying that she’s sharing too much. 

“After I wrote my book and even this album—how it was just so wildly different than the first record I made—I was definitely having full-on anxiety and panic attacks, thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, how could I divulge all this information?’” she says. “But in recent months, when I’ve been out touring, I’ve had people coming up to me and say, ‘Thank you so much for sharing your story—I lost somebody in my life and was absolutely wrecked by it,’ or ‘I’ve changed my relationship with alcohol, too.’” 

It helps Price to know that her stories are helping others. “At some points in my life, I’ve felt so much shame around losing my son. I felt like it was my fault. Or shame for having this addictive personality that could not just go out and behave like everybody else,” she says. “But when I share things about me that are really terrible, it actually brings good things into my life.”

Price spent much of 2023 on the road, but when we spoke, she was looking forward to getting back in the studio in a couple months. She was still in the early stages of her creative process, but it’s clear that whatever she’s got cooking could sound as different from Strays as Strays does from Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. “I’ve always been attracted to artists who have the capacity to reinvent themselves and keep everything fresh and keep people on their toes,” she says. “I don’t want to get stuck making the same albums, just doing what I think everybody else wants me to do.” She’s not putting any pressure on herself, though, because as a sound guy in Arizona once told her, “Its shape will reveal itself.” 

One thing in particular helped her get unstuck while making Strays: psilocybin mushrooms. She is passionate about destigmatizing the drug, which she credits with both enhancing her creative process and improving her mental health. “We live in a culture that should be more open to things,” she says, “but somebody has to be the first person to go out on a limb and say, ‘Yes, I’m a mom. Yes, I have eaten some mushrooms.’ It’s helped me incredibly with my depression, and I don’t want to feel shame for it because it really is just plant medicine.”

These are the kind of statements that make it clear Price still has that outlaw country spirit, even if her music is taking her in a sonically different direction. Case in point—in between writing a book, raising two kids, and making Strays, Price also found time to produce Jessi Colter’s latest album, Edge of Forever, released in October. Colter, for those less versed in honky-tonk jukeboxes, is the First Lady of outlaw country—one of the only women to come out of the musical movement pioneered by Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings in the 1970s. Colter, now 80, was married to Jennings from 1969 until his death in 2002, and her new record includes songs she co-wrote with him during their marriage. (Which she found in a long-lost briefcase!) 

Price became friendly with Colter “about six or seven years ago” after Colter saw a video of Price covering one of her songs. They started work on Edge of Forever while Price was pregnant with Ramona, now four. “It’s so incredible to see somebody who’s refined their craft over decades and decades,” Price says of Colter. “I think in this culture, a lot of times we get really focused on child prodigies and glorifying youth and stuff. It’s awesome when kids are talented, but when somebody has been working at something their whole entire life and they get it just right, it’s so encouraging.”

Price doesn’t have as many miles behind her as Colter, but she, too, has spent her entire life honing her craft, singing in the church choir as a kid in the small town of Aledo, Illinois, before moving to Nashville to pursue her dreams. She waited tables and did other odd jobs for years before signing with Jack White’s Third Man label, which released her first two albums. Price was White’s first country signee, and that stamp of cool helped her find fame with listeners who, these days, might not know who Colter is if Margo wasn’t telling them. 

Being signed to an independent, rock-focused label like Third Man also helped Price focus on what she wanted to say—and there’s no doubt that some of her lyrics would have faced pushback at a more traditional Nashville label. On the Midwest Farmer’s Daughter track “This Town Gets Around,” for example, she sang about a manager “old enough he could have been my dad” who spiked her drinks. All American Made included a song called “Pay Gap,” which is about exactly what it sounds like: “We are all the same in the eyes of God/But in the eyes of rich white men/No more than a maid to be owned like a dog/A second-class citizen.”

Strays and Strays II are political, too, though in a somewhat subtler way. “Light Me Up” is about the life-changing power of the female orgasm, while the sprawling track “Been to the Mountain” touches on climate change and income inequality. Price is a proud feminist—“Put it on my tombstone if I’m not cremated” she says—and she’s an outspoken advocate for gun control, Black Lives Matter, and other causes that few Top 40 country artists would dare take up. She also still lives in Nashville and has no plans to leave despite the Tennessee legislature’s efforts to make the state a real-life Gilead. 

“I don’t run from a fight,” Price says, quoting her friend and fellow musician Adia Victoria. “I’m not scared to go in and sit down and take a meeting with Governor Bill Lee and ask him if he cares about our children,” she says, referring to a group she joined that met with Lee after a March shooting at a Nashville school that left three adults and three children dead. “I’ll keep writing essays and I’ll keep showing up and protesting and doing all those things.”

Price’s willingness to speak out is one reason people love to call her a “badass,” but she says she didn’t always feel like one. When she sang about “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” back in 2015, she was processing trauma and grief, and what looked like badassery was actually a deep pain. Now, however, she’s ready to own the term. 

“Now that I just hit 40, I do feel more like a badass,” she says. “I will embrace that. I’ve got stretch marks all over my ass and three C-section scars. I’ve been outspoken in a genre and a subculture where that’s not typically accepted. I guess if the shoe fits, I’ll fuckin’ wear it.”


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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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