The adjective "vulnerable" is something of a music press cliché. Margo Price is capital-v. Because before she released her 2022 memoir, Maybe We'll Make It, she was in a state of abject terror over how her family would react to her confessions therein.
"I was having panic attacks, thinking about all of this being out there," Price told The Guardian. "I know what people do on the internet, and I was imagining the names they were gonna call me. They're gonna say I'm a horrible mother, that I'm a drunk."
But then, there's that word again: "I also [hope] that people are going to appreciate my vulnerability."
This attribute — married to sterling craft — has launched Price into the stratosphere; none other than Willie Nelson provided a blurb for Maybe We'll Make It's front cover. ("Margo's book hits you right in the gut — and the heart," he wrote. "Just like her songs.")
As she details in the book, the masterful Nashville singer/songwriter knocked around town for more than a decade in search of a record deal, and dealt with poverty, alcohol abuse and numberless other calamities. But Price was stubborn and persistent; her ascent began with her exceptional 2016 solo debut Midwest Farmer's Daughter, released on Third Man Records.
She continued her winning streak in 2017 with All American Made; the following year, she was nominated for a GRAMMY for Best New Artist. That streak continued with 2020's That's How Rumors Get Started, produced by Sturgill Simpson. In 2023, she released another excellent album, the Jonathan Wilson-produced Strays, which she's promoting alongside Maybe We'll Make It.
At a recent edition of the GRAMMY Museum's "A New York Evening With…" interview and performance series at the Greene Space at WNYC and WQXR in New York City, Price sat down with moderator Craig Finn of the Hold Steady. Together, they discussed the counterbalances of Strays with Maybe We'll Make It, and her wild, tragic, joyful story that's contained in both; the result was a window into Price's psychology.
Here are six takeaways about this GRAMMY-nominated master of words and melodies.
Her Album And Memoir Influenced Each Other
Early in the conversation, Finn inquired about the dynamic between a book and an album, as the publishing process typically takes much longer than the writing and recording process.
"They definitely ended up kind of influencing each other, because I was working on them in tandem," Price said. "I did kind of lose myself in it for a moment. My husband would say things like, 'You haven't written a song in months.' I was like, 'I'm an author now.'"
Price Finished Her Memoir Through Routine
In 2018 — upon getting pregnant and coming off the road — Price needed to keep her mind busy.
Despite not having a book deal, she and her husband, fellow musician Jeremy Ivey, would take their son to school, go to an East Nashville coffee shop and write from "about 8 in the morning until maybe noon or 1. And I just did that for maybe five or six months." By her telling, there were "many, many, many drafts" prior to the one we can hold in our hands today.
Observing Herself From The Outside Proved Beneficial
In reading about her experiences in the way a consumer of her memoir would, Price identified a seam of compassion for herself that she didn't realize she had.
"You can suddenly give yourself a break. I feel like I'm my own worst critic," she said. "There was always a breadcrumb to keep us going — and then there was something to knock us back down." However, "if there wasn't a struggle, I wouldn't be Margo Price."
Patti Smith's Memoir Influenced Her Own
Patti Smith's 2010 book Just Kids, a document of her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, is a go-to rock tell-all; Maybe We'll Make It shares some of its DNA.
"I had heard some of her songs and things before, but I think once I really devoured her written works, I started digging into her albums," Price said of Smith. "And I just thought it was incredible the way that she used poetry and just felt unafraid to throw it all in the pot and mix it all up."
On the literary front, one cue Price took from Smith was her use of descriptive detail for everyday scenes: "She talks about living off of tomato soup," she says, connecting that to the $2 frozen tilapia filets and bags of edamame she and Ivey used to subsist on.
"When you can taste what's going on, it puts you there in the kitchen with us," she said. "You can starve with the artist."
Price Is Becoming More Open To Collaborating — Judiciously
Price is skeptical of some of the team-ups she sees in the music industry. "Sometimes, I see a collaboration happening," she says, and I'm like, 'That looks forced. I don't know, man. I feel like they're just doing that for the Spotify plays.' So, I really try to only do it if it's meaningful."
Somebody in her camp presented a list of potential writing partners; she didn't bite. But when her manager suggested GRAMMY-winning guitar great Mike Campbell, she changed her tune.
"I'm like, 'Duh, of course. We're trying to write Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers songs over here anyway, so if we can get him in on it, then it legitimizes the whole thing… he sang on ["Light Me Up" on] my record, and it was just very natural."
She Might Join Your Band
"I'd love to play more drums," Price said during a brief audience Q&A before performing tunes like All American Made's "Pay Gap" and Strays' "Country Road" for the crowd. "Just drums in a band sometime, where I'd just be in the pack. It'd be so much less pressure.
"I need to find a gig," she added mirthfully. "If anybody knows something, let me know after the show."
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