On 'Midwest Farmer's Daughter,' Margo Price Hits Her Breaking Point — And Big Break The country singer's music is steeped in loss and heartache, emotions she knows well. Her debut solo album recounts the struggles she has faced, and what she has learned along the way.

On 'Midwest Farmer's Daughter,' Margo Price Hits Her Breaking Point — And Big Break

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Singer Margo Price knows hard times. Her music practically aches with them.


MARGO PRICE: (Singing) When I rolled out of town on the unpaved road, I was $57 from being broke.

GREENE: In this song we're listening to, she yearns to turn back the cruel hands of time, and you're about to understand why. While Margo Price's music has been kicking around Nashville for a while now, she's out with her first solo album. And it's getting a lot of attention in country music. It's called "Midwest Farmer's Daughter," and that's an identity she tries to hold onto, years after her family lost the farm in Buffalo Prairie, Ill. Her entire family - grandparents, uncles - had to find jobs in town. And that included Margo Price's dad, who took a job as a prison guard.


PRICE: (Singing) Took a job at the prison, working second shift. And that's the last time I let them take what should be his.

It was never his plan that he would grow up and work in a prison. But he just, you know - life moves so quickly, and you just have to put food on the table. And they did everything they could to make sure that we were never without. It was a hard loss for the family, you know. It took a lot of the ornery out of him. Things were never the same.

GREENE: There is one line in "Hands Of Time" that goes by very quickly, but I know how significant it is. And it's where you sing that your firstborn died, and you cried out to God.


PRICE: (Singing) Is there anybody out there looking down on me at all?

GREENE: And I just can't even imagine. Can you tell me what happened?

PRICE: Yes. I had twins, and my firstborn, he had a heart condition. It was hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which essentially means that he was born with half a heart. The whole pregnancy was very difficult knowing that - that he had this condition. And so, you know, the surgery just did not work. And we lost him after a couple weeks. And, you know, it's - nobody should ever lose a child. I would never wish that upon my greatest enemy. But we - we made it somehow.

GREENE: I'm so sorry.

PRICE: Yeah, it was dark days for a while. And it's very hard on a marriage, you know? People cope very differently when you lose a child. And my husband's been very supportive, and he's stuck through with me to help us get through it.

GREENE: It sounds like, from some of the songs on here, that one way you were coping was turning to the bottle a good bit.

PRICE: Yes. It's something that I think everybody has to watch, you know? Depression sneaks up on people, and after a couple drinks, it doesn't feel so bad sometimes.

GREENE: The song "Weekender" is - I wonder if that was a low point for you?

PRICE: That was definitely the turning point. Everything just kind of snowballed. I was feeling so depressed and honestly thinking about checking myself into, like, a, you know, a mental institution or something. And that was kind of God's answer, I think. He was like alright, you want to be in a loony bin? Here you go; now you're in jail.


PRICE: (Singing) He took me down to cell block B after stripping off my clothes, put me in a monkey suit and threw me in the throes. Like a rat in a maze, a cow in the herd or sparrow with a broken wing, now I know the reason why the caged bird has to sing.

GREENE: So what exactly happened, Margo Price?

PRICE: Well, you know, I try to be as vague about it as possible to not hurt my grandmother's feelings 'cause I'm sure they're probably listening out there. But, you know, I was staying out too late. I was running around with the wrong folks, and I wound up making some really bad decisions that I'm not proud of and going to jail for the weekend. And, you know, after I got out and, you know, I just told myself, I'm never going back there again. I'm never going to ever put myself in that kind of a situation where I would hurt myself or other people. And I went, and I sought therapy for the first time, which I probably should've done immediately after I lost my son, Ezra. But sometimes we have to take the long way around.

GREENE: A song like "Weekender" - it is referring to what sounds like such a difficult, difficult time. But it really has kind of an upbeat tempo to it.

PRICE: Yeah. It's in a major key, too. I'm just tricking people into listening to really sad things. I'm putting happy compositions behind them.


PRICE: (Singing) 'Cause I'm just a weekender in the Davidson County Jail. And my old man, he ain't got the cash to even go my bail.

GREENE: What is it about country music that tragedy can lead to such powerful songs? I feel like that has been a truth about country music, I mean, since its beginnings.

PRICE: It's true. It's - you know, it's the songs of the working man in real-life situations that make it honest and, you know, make it something different than maybe pop music. I think a lot of the tragedy and the lonesomeness - there's something uplifting in there as well. It's like when you hear George and Tammy sing a song about divorce or...

GREENE: George Jones and Tammy Wynette, you're talking about?

PRICE: Yeah, or just the lost dreams and - you somehow hear their voices trying to conquer over it.

GREENE: Was there some kind of connection between putting your life in order and getting your music career to where you have this debut album?

PRICE: You know, I've been trying to figure all this out - how it happened - 'cause I thought I was going to be cursed forever. And I didn't think there was much of a chance. But a lot of it is about taking the bad things and really growing from them and learning from them. And it's kind of like the phoenix rising from the ashes, you know. You can't let every bad thing that happens to you in your life overtake you.


PRICE: (Singing) How the mighty have fallen.

GREENE: Margo Price, it's been a real pleasure, and best of luck with the album.

PRICE: Thank you so much. It's been wonderful to talk with you.


PRICE: (Singing) How the mighty have fallen right back into my arms.

GREENE: That was musician Margo Price. Her new album is called "Midwest Farmer's Daughter."

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