“I’ve seen people get stuck in a rut. It looks painful” - Margo Price talks letting loose new album That’s How Rumors Get Started
After making her name with a thoughtful and considered take on windswept country and folk, Margo Price is cutting loose on her new album, That’s How Rumors Get Started.
Recorded with country firebrand Sturgill Simpson, the album is Price's first since her departure from Jack White's Third Man Recordings for Warner Brothers imprint Loma Vista.
Written and recorded with husband Jeremy Ivey as well as a band that includes guitarist Matt Sweeney and legendary bassist Pino Palladino, That’s How Rumors Get Started is Price’s attempt at a classic, good time, rock and roll album. One in the vein of Tom Petty, Linda Ronstadt and vintage Fleetwood Mac.
With the album now on shelves in hmv stores, we spoke to Price about why she wanted a change in style and why she doesn’t think she’ll be touring any time soon...
When did you start the work for this album? Are you able to write on tour or do you need to be home and decompressed before you can start on the next thing?
“I write on the road a lot. We write in the back of the bus and in hotel rooms. I don’t need to be anywhere specific to be in the right frame of mind.”
Does that mean when it comes to time to make an album you’ve got a lot of songs to go through?
“For this one, we started with 16 songs and we recorded all those. Once they were done, we worked out which ones were really strong and which went together. I really wanted this record to be very cohesive. A real album.”
“I wanted to make a stylistic change. I wanted to make a rock and roll record. A very straightforward rock and roll record.”
Was that a conscious move? Or were you just writing lots of rock and roll songs?
“Our live shows were heading that way and it felt like the natural thing to do. Prior to me being a solo artist, I was in a rock and roll band and a soul band. I know how to do it. I didn’t want to keep making the same album over and over again. I’ve seen people get stuck in a rut. It looks painful.”
To make a good rock and roll record, you need a good rock and roll band, you’ve got Matt Sweeney on guitars, Pino Palladino on bass, Sturgill Simpson in the control room, it’s a great line-up…
“I was thrilled. We had James Gadson, who has worked with so many great people, Benmont Tench, who played with The Heartbreakers too. We had such a great time in the studio. They were all such professionals. We had a blast every day.”
How was Sturgill as a producer?
“We’ve been friends for a while and it was a fun experience. He added a lot of great ideas and he helped build the band. I’m glad that I agreed to it. He’d been trying to talk me into recording with him for a while.”
What was he like as a producer? Is he a taskmaster or is he laid back?
“He pulls no punches. He’ll give you his opinion on what he likes and doesn’t like. I like that about him. In this business, you never know if people are being honest. With Sturgill, you know where he stands 100% of the time. No confusion, no tip-toeing around.”
For a rock and roll record, you’d want a live feel, was that the way you worked? Did you move fast?
“We recorded in EastWest Studio in Los Angeles. It’s a place with a lot of history. It’s where Brian Wilson made Pet Sounds and where the Mamas and Papas made California Dreaming. We were in the smallest room there, it was even smaller than the room where I made my first record, but it meant you could really hear what everyone else was doing. It’s the closest thing to be on stage you could get.”
What kind of record is it lyrically? Is there a theme?
“It’s a landscape album. Lots of little vignettes. Some of them are personal, some are fictional. It’s definitely my strongest songwriting. My husband (songwriter Jeremy Ivey) and I worked really hard to make memorable songs. We wanted a good chorus, but you need to have depth and to keep the poetry. It was a really fun record to write.”
When did you settle on the album title? Did you kick any others around?
“That was something that I heard in passing and I just stole it. I knew it’d be the record title, even before I wrote the song. I love the ambiguity and the mystery. It’s a nod to Fleetwood Mac and wanting to make a classic rock and roll record.”
Do titles tend to come easily for you?
“My first album title, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, that was pretty laid out for me. I don’t think my band liked it, but I’m glad I didn’t listen to them. All American Made, even prior to that, in the rock bands I was in, it’s always been three words. This is my first album title to go beyond that and I was a bit superstitious about that. But it just resonated with me so much.”
This is your first album for new label Loma Vista, you’ve been with Jack White and Third Man for your other solo records, how has the transition been?
“It’s been seamless. It’s still an indie label and they’re very much down to let me follow my artistic vision and not get in the way. Third Man is still pressing all my vinyl. I’m indebted to them forever and we’re still on really good terms. I love what they do.”
It must be a bit of killer that having written a record that’s made to play live, you can’t tour at the moment…
“It’s a bummer, but everybody is up s**t creek without a paddle right now. I’m going to do some shows with my band and we’ll stream them for people. I’ve already grieved the loss.”
Are you making any plans for 2021? Or are you just waiting and seeing?
“There’s talk of things. I’m not really getting my hopes up about anything. I’m prepared for anything to be cancelled. The US isn’t being very responsible right now and there’s a big leadership issue. I’ll be one of the last people back to work. That sucks, but I’m going to be writing and recording and making music videos. I’ll keep positive.”
It’s better that it’s the start rather than having to stop in the middle of a world tour?
“Maybe. I didn’t see this coming. It’s going to be a long time until things are normal. I’ll be here when it’s over and I hope my fans have time to sit with the album, so, when I do come to play it live, everyone will be very familiar with it…”