For all the rough-and-tumble transparency in her music, Margo Price is a polished gem—all grace and grit. She has a sort of quiet glamor, whether she’s wearing a t-shirt and cowboy hat, or the amazing fringed dress she donned at her Hotel Café show, plucked from a New York City vintage store and modified to perfection. Her eyes are languorous but warm; her demeanor is a mix of Southern charm and the Midwest manners she learned growing up in Illinois.
Cracked open, she becomes your fortune teller. She sings your story—past, present and beyond. She says she can’t see the future in “Hands of Time,” a plaintive, slow-paced exploration of the hardships throughout her life. Maybe she can’t see it, but she feels it. She’s lived your life and a thousand more.
Every choice or journey has, willingly or not, conjured up compelling stories to infuse into her music. “World’s Greatest Loser” recounts how she and husband Jeremy Ivey “pawned the wedding ring and sold the car” to create music—a move that Jeremy’s father discouraged. Jeremy tried to comfort her, reminding her that is was “just a ring,” and Margo protested, “But it’s my cracked diamond. It’s my ring!”
Cracked open, she becomes your fortune teller. She sings your story—past, present and beyond.
The car, the lawnmower—they sold whatever they could get their hands on, drove their Winnebago from Colorado to Texas, broke down on the Pacific Coast Highway, almost almost gave up. The pair played gigs in desolate Florida dive bars and booked tours under Margo’s male pseudonym, John Serrota, to better her odds at a fair shake from promoters.
Never knowing, or believing, but probably deep down hoping that one day they’d get the chance to perform on one of Margo’s favorite childhood shows like Saturday Night Live or sign to Jack White’s groundbreaking label, Third Man Records. Just like the plot of a country song, Jeremy got her cracked diamond ring back when things turned around.
“Somewhere in this house, there’s a half-carat diamond,” Margo laughs. Much like her own life, Margo found imperfect beauty in something perfectly damaged. Eventually, the jewel fell out and vanished—a fractured treasure buried deep within the floorboards, or under a pile of her son Judah’s toys in her Nashville home. A story to tell over beer and the same snacks she and Jeremy cooked up for the infamous gourmand personality, Anthony Bourdain on an upcoming episode of Parts Unknown.
Somewhere in the house is this precious gem, but treasured memories shine through the corners of their home. There’s the basement, where she penned a song, weary from the loneliness of pregnancy, and later went into labor. The bed she threw herself on when she learned that one of her twin sons in utero, Ezra, would be born with only half a heart. The shower where she cried in secret, so no one would know the depths of her depression during the summer after his birth. The bathtub, where she washed Judah for the first time, after saying goodbye to Ezra for the last. Every moment has two sides—a darkness, and a light that permeate her music.
Even when reading bedtime stories or playing games with Judah, Margo’s understanding of life’s hardships bleed into the bonding time. Those quirky Shel Silverstein tomes about characters with bizarre names and wicked personalities—they’re dark and weird and wonderful, just like Margo. She plays a card game with Judah, warning him that when you “cheat, you don’t win.” In all his youthful naiveté, the boy scoffs at his mother: “We don’t learn when we lose!” Margo lets out an exasperated laugh. It’s as if in that statement alone, Judah has denounced every track on Margo’s album, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.
“We had lowlife blood, and we’d just be losers until the day we died.” — Margo
Cynicism and dark humor tinged with hope seem to run in the family. When Margo met Jeremy, she told a friend she was going to marry him because he seemed like a “troubled artist” and a “tortured soul” who needed her help. “We had lowlife blood, and we’d just be losers until the day we died,” says Margo, recalling a time when wayward managers stole from them, industry people screwed them over, record deals fell through the cracks and money never seemed to stick around. Allusions to The Band’s Richard Manuel appear in “Desperate and Depressed” because Margo thought she would turn out to be like him—committing suicide by hanging after getting loaded on wine.
Luckily for Margo and Jeremy and Judah, and for us, her life is on the upswing. There was Champagne and happy tears when she made history on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. She finally has a team supporting her instead of swindling her.
And she has her magic—that ineffable mastery over time and space that helped her choose all the right roads leading up to this moment. This happiness. This serene Nashville spring night where she’s singing with the love of her life, after a plate of salad and chicken wings. A dark but beautiful traditional song, “The Blackest Crow,” which has been her son’s favorite lullaby for the last three years.
“I wish that I was going with you, or you were staying here.” The tune rises quietly in the air and we know that somewhere, there is a half-carat diamond shimmering sweetly, a half-hearted boy listening, and the second half of Margo’s life just waiting to be turned into song.
She has her magic–that ineffable mastery over time and space that helped her choose all the right roads leading up to this moment. This happiness. This serene Nashville spring night where she’s singing with the love of her life.
Margo and Jeremy play ‘The Blackest Crow’ in their living room.
Margo is the subject of our second ever Beats 1 radio documentary for Apple Music, which airs this Thursday (06/16/16) at 7 PM PST. From a weekend in jail to a spot on SNL, Nashville's toughest woman put it all on the line to reach the country charts, and you can hear it. Preview the piece below.
Meeting her husband:
Dealing with dead end jobs:
The death of her son and going to jail: