Exit Interview: Margo Price Reflects on ‘Up and Down’ 2020
"I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel finally"
Like so many artists, Margo Price had a, well, interesting year. The Nashville singer-songwriter originally planned to release That’s How Rumors Get Started, her third studio album, in May before getting pushed to July. But 2020 had other plans. Her husband, Jeremy Ivey, contracted COVID, a devastating tornado crashed into Nashville and she was raising a newborn.
If you slept on Price’s latest project—which made our list of the best albums of 2020 — it saw Price inching more toward Southern rock and away from country. The album featured some of Price’s most intimate songwriting, touching on a rocky point in her romantic relationship when distance became a strain, the struggles of being a touring musician who loves the road but misses her family and motherhood.
Nearly six months after her record was released and with the rollercoaster of 2020 coming to an end, SPIN checked in with Price about how she and her family have fared in quarantine, the aftermath of her record and her mental health.
How was your 2020?
Up and down and really I can’t complain. I think everything took so many turns. I had no idea we were going to be locked down for this long. I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel finally—the vaccine and the hope of the return of live music is keeping me going.
You were one of the many artists that put out an album this year, but you ended up delaying the release of That’s How Rumors Get Started.
It was hard to know what’s right. But I’d rather share my music, get it out there and keep making more. All we can do right now is really release music. Without shows, it’s cathartic but I also wish I could tour and do things because I had such high hopes for this album. It’s been like, “Oh okay I guess I’ll just throw it out there and let people listen and enjoy it. That’s all you can do.
Were you creatively stifled at any point this year? How did you deal with that?
At the very beginning of the pandemic we did about 100 days of solitude because [my husband] Jeremy had COVID and it was so hard to see him suffering. He went to the ER three times. Ramona [my daughter] was very sick. At that point, I couldn’t even keep up with the laundry, let alone sit down to write a song. I had so many journalists at the song, “So are you writing with your free time?” I’m like, “Hell no I’m not writing. I’m changing diapers and trying to survive.” I did not feel inspired, I felt like everybody else did: Everything that we love was taken away from us. After being pregnant and being off the road for so long, I was so ready to have a comeback, put this record out and do so many things, and it’s been difficult to navigate.
Without regular touring, have you experienced a significant financial impact?
I’m fine, I’m not destitute by any means. But that’s any artist’s largest source of income. Streaming isn’t going away anytime soon. But we have got to figure out a way to break down this pyramid scheme and pay artists what we deserve. We’re being exploited and then if you speak out about it you’re going to be outed from being added to playlists. It’s just a very weird Catch-22. With this new administration coming into the White House, I’ve been talking to some of my peers, some musicians, about starting a group or an organization that shines a light on this. Good songs are going to die—they already are—because we’re not taking care of songwriters.
You’ve gone through a lot this year—your husband had COVID and you had a new baby – how have you been able to manage your mental health in the process?
I definitely am feeling for all parents that are working with their kids at home. I have two children at home and I know it takes a toll on my work—even just being able to post things, share things or answer my emails. I’m burning the candle at both ends. A lot of times I end up doing my emails at 10:30 p.m. once I put the kids to bed. It’s hard to get sleep—my baby is not sleeping through the night still. That lack of sleep gets to you. We know that women are taking a hit in this pandemic and more women have lost their jobs and are becoming caretakers because we have a huge problem with childcare and being able to provide it. I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t slipped back into my depression a little bit, but I’ve been trying to not drink too much and be good to myself. I recently started microdosing with some mushrooms and that’s been great. I’ve never been on antidepressants, and I’ve contemplated so many times. I recently watched this documentary Fantastic Fungi. It starts out very dry and scientific about how mushrooms heal and help grow all the plants on this planet but then it goes into the science and how evolution maybe happened from monkeys tripping on mushrooms to expand their cerebral cortex. Over the past couple of weeks, I have felt less anxiety and colors are brighter.
Since lockdown started, have you been creating and writing or have you taken a break?
We’ve been writing for my next album. We’ve done some pre-production demos. I’ve done a couple of collaborations for charities. We still have some stuff that will come out this year that we’ve worked on. I kind of realized that the only thing that matters as an artist is what you leave behind. The shows and the pageantry of performing, of course, I miss that and it’s a huge part of who I am, but I’ve really grown into knowing what I need to do. And writing has come back to me as a therapy, which is how I always used to use it. I’m grateful I have that there. When I start feeling really desperate and helpless. It’s nice to be able to sit down and put some word vomit on a page and get things off my chest.
You were working on Jessi Colter’s album. Have you been focusing on that during the record?
I worked on it at the beginning of the pandemic—I went and added a bunch of background vocals and percussion. It’s finished, but right now we’re trying to figure out the right place to get it out. It’s the boring and tedious part of talking with different labels. I can’t wait to get it out. It’s a brilliant, brilliant record. I hope it comes out soon. I’m like, you have to just get this out, Jessi. Hopefully, soon we’ll have something to share with y’all.
What were your favorite albums of 2020?
My top three albums of the year are Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways, Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters and Swamp Dogg’s Sorry You Couldn’t Make It.
Do you feel hopeful about 2021?
I do feel hopeful. I’ve got stuff on the books. I’m not holding my breath that I’m going to get to play shows, and I won’t be surprised if they’ll be canceled, but I just keep thinking it’s got to be better than this year. I do have hope. I think it’s all that we can have right now.