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On The String: How Partnership Propelled Margo Price And Jeremy Ivey

Rick Diamond for Americana Music Assn.

I believe I first heard Margo Price sing in person at Music City Roots in 2013 when she and husband Jeremy Ivey were making their first wide impressions with their band Buffalo Clover, one of several iterations of their musical identity on the way to Margo’s 2016 breakout. They hit the stage at the Loveless Barn with a three-man horn section, two electric guitars, keys and harmony vocals. I wrote at the time that their feel fused “classic soul with hippie-friendly Southern rock into a sound that would go well with a shot of whiskey, a pint of Blackstone beer or a puff of smoke.” The set closed out with the ferocious and passionate song “Hey Child.” And with those soaring choruses, I joined the ranks of Nashvillians rooting for Margo and Jeremy, sensing greatness.

Hearing “Hey Child” on 2020’s That’s How Rumors Get Started, the third album in Margo Price’s solo chapter, was like unexpectedly seeing an old friend. With lines like “you got so many better things to do” and “you ain’t found it yet,” it’s possible to hear it as a self-therapy session from the lean times, the years of searching for the formula of actualization. While the contemporary composition “Twinkle Twinkle” on Rumors is a razzle dazzle memoir of her breakout: “Everything's turned inside out/ They wanna put me on a big TV/ Everybody wants to know/How I feel and what I think,” she sings with a mix of disbelief, bemusement and justifiable pride.

I definitely wanted to know what Margo is thinking these days, with an acclaimed third project making the year-end lists, two kids at home, a quieter year than expected with Jeremy and, by surprise on the day we interviewed, a surprise live album release culled from her Spring 2018 three-night, sold-out stand at the Ryman Auditorium. Moreover, her partner of 17 years has a spanking new album himself, two in fact in the past 14 months. He’d never released any solo material before, and the LPs The Dream And The Dreamer and Waiting Out The Storm feel like a sardonic Tom Petty or an East Nashville Rockpile. With references to hazmat suits and the song “Things Could Get Much Worse” - written in 2019 - he’s even prophetic. We really should listen to Jeremy Ivey and Margo Price. And that’s what we do in this special hour.

Margo reflects on the Ryman run captured on the new live album Perfectly Imperfect:

“I'm just getting teared up just thinking about it. I really can't believe that we got to do that. And you know, three nights, I'd waited so long. And it just felt so, so surreal. There was a lot of planning and just so much time spent on the road playing other venues and kind of like practicing and getting these different sets so everything could be different and each night would be unique. That that took like six months of planning. And I always joke that we put more time into planning those Ryman shows, and money, than we did into our own wedding.”

Jeremy speaks about the new Rumors album, which has been characterized by writers as a lean away from the hard country music of the prior two albums and toward rock and roll:

“I think it's a singer songwriter record, you know. You could easily country it up. You could take all the songs do them in many styles. I've known her for, obviously, almost 17 years, you know, but when we first got together, she was making these little demos on her home recorder. And, and they sounded like they were in the Joni Mitchell world. They were folk, kind of fingerpicking lyrical. So she might do that at some point, too. It's like, she's got a lot of stuff in there...I don't think it really matters to me whether people stay in the same lane as long as they're just being true to themselves.”

We talk about the days after they first met, about co-writing songs that wound up on each other’s albums, about making 2020 count and Jeremy's bout with Covid-19 and about Margo’s affinity for playing the drums. Their chemistry is palpable, at times telling stories by trading phrases like jazz players. We spoke remotely from my studio and their home outside of Nashville, and I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did, which was a lot.

Craig Havighurst is WMOT's editorial director and host of The String, a weekly interview show airing Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. He also co-hosts The Old Fashioned on Saturdays at 9 am and Tuesdays at 8 pm. Threads and Instagram: @chavighurst. Email: craig@wmot.org
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