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Margo Price on deep roots, Nashville culture, and not sleeping around

Margo Price

Margo Price

Maybe you just heard of Nashville singer-songwriter Margo Price about a year ago with the release of her debut album on Jack White’s Third Man Records, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. But the 34-year-old didn’t just fall from the sky.

With one listen to her critically acclaimed album, reissued this year as a deluxe package, you’ll hear pain, sadness, hard-won humor, and authenticity. Price paid her dues, and now she's poised to reap the benefits she deserves as the newest talent in true outlaw country.

We spoke to Price ahead of her Saturday show at First Avenue.

CP: You have one big album under your own name, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a history there. Can you talk about your pre-Midwest Farmer’s Daughter time?

MP: I moved to Nashville 14 years ago, and I had been writing songs prior to moving here. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in music, so I put out a small EP in my own name. I met my husband [bassist Jeremy Ivey] and we formed a band called Secret Handshake, and we put out one EP. Then we founded a band called Buffalo Clover, and we put out a couple albums under that name and configuration. I was definitely a lover, myself, of classic '60s and '70s rock and roll, so that was more what Buffalo Clover was leaning toward. After all that ran its course, I went back to my own name and more where my heart was -- in country music. I have a lot of respect, though, for blues, and folk, soul, and rock and roll. I hope that comes out in the country.

CP: I like the sly take on the Beach Boys with the album title.

MP: Yes! I was definitely tipping my hat at the Beach Boys. Some people miss that. It was an homage to Loretta Lynn with Coal Miner’s Daughter, and also pulled directly from “California Girls.” I grew up listening to a lot of Beach Boys. My dad liked them a lot.

CP: Speaking of your dad, I don’t want to open a whole theater of pain here, but the first track, “Hands of Time,” is largely about your dad and pretty sad. I’m wondering how autobiographical that song and the album is.

MP: The whole album is autobiographical, except for two small lines. That song in particular is about my upbringing, and it is all true.

CP: Any jackass can say, “I was broke,” but on that song you say, “When I rolled out of town on the unpaved road, I was $57 from being broke.” It is so specific.

MP: I didn’t have much money at all.

CP: “Four Years of Chances” is interesting. It sounds liberated and liberating. It’s the least country-sounding song to my ears. Was that a conscious decision?

MP: Not necessarily, no. When I wrote it, it was just on an acoustic guitar, so it sounded different than the way it turned out with the band -- my husband playing bass on it, and what the drummer did. It has a country-funk vibe, but I didn’t try to make it different. It was the band’s influence on it.

CP: Did you really just say, “It’s not who you know. It’s who you blow” on “This Town Gets Around”? Is that your inner Robbie Fulks coming out?

MP: I am actually not familiar with him, but several people who have interviewed me have asked if I know him, but that is just something I heard about this town. I thought it was a great line. I’ve seen people sleep with somebody, and that producer kind of launch their career. I don’t have respect for someone who sleeps their way to the top, male or female.

CP: Is Nashville all it’s cracked up to be?

MP: I have a love/hate relationship with it, but lately it’s been more good than bad. I guess I just stuck it out long enough that things turned around.

CP: The last track, “Desperate and Depressed,” feels like you are trying to own something as opposed to just whining.

MP: My husband came up with the beginning of the song, but I have definitely owned my depression throughout my life. I think he can attest to that. He does a good job of writing from my point of view. We were down in Florida, just got this booking agency, and we thought everything was going to turn around, but they booked us at the worst shows, the smallest, most terrible venues playing to empty rooms. I’m not complaining about being sad. I’m just owning up to what I am.

CP: You are coming this way April 8 for a show at First Avenue. I think last time you were here you played at the Turf Club. Besides shows here and there, do you have any other knowledge of Minneapolis/St. Paul?

MP: I have visited there quite a bit. I have an aunt and uncle who live there. I’ve played at First Avenue long ago, actually. I opened for somebody. Such a great venue. I was excited when I saw it pop on the schedule. I always do a Bob Dylan song when I am there.

CP: Do you get sick of comparisons, people saying that your songs sound like so and so?

MP: I don’t get sick of it. Some people don’t know how else to describe things besides using people who have already done it. Hopefully, I sound like myself. I think it will be weird in the future when the tables are turned, and some new artist sounds like Margo Price. I’m not trying to emulate anyone in particular. I have a vast array of influences, but at the end of the day I’m trying to be myself.

CP: Throwaway last question. Is there anything in world that you are just done with? That you have had enough of?

MP: I’ve certainly had enough of reading Donald Trump’s Twitter.

Margo Price
When: 8:00 p.m. Sat. April 8
Where: First Avenue
Tickets: $25; more info here