Brandi Carlile + Margo Price Talk Speaking Out Through Music: ‘People Want to Hear Real Stories’
In early January, talk began about Margo Price and Brandi Carlile joining forces to form a new musical supergroup with Amanda Shires, but the pair of outspoken singer-songwriters have more than just talent in common. After bonding backstage in Seattle, Wash., in 2016, Carlile and Price have built a friendship based on the kind of brutally honest songwriting that doesn't make for big radio hits in the modern country music world -- but does lead to multiple Grammy Awards nominations.
“This is proof that people are yearning for honest music,” Price tells Billboard, in a joint interview with Carlile, who adds, "Our honesty, struggle and perseverance seem to resonate with, and maybe represent, some of America right now. People want to hear real stories.”
From legalizing marijuana to gun control, Price and Carlile have addressed social and political issues from both on- and offstage. "Activism is at a level that didn’t exist in the artistic community three years ago," Carlile says. "I’m more inspired than ever by my sisters and activists who’ve realized that this s--t -- these deportations, this institutionalized racism, institutionalized sexism, institutionalized homophobia -- has been going on for way too long."
What is socially acceptable in country music songwriting, however, is still in question, according to the two. Carlile jokes that Price "committed country music suicide," specifically with her song "All American Made" (sample lyrics: "I wonder if the President gets much sleep at night / And if the folks on welfare are making it alright"), while Price explains that her musical protests don't cater to one specific party or interest.
"Everybody wants music to be a distraction." Price says. "I wrote "All American Made" during the Obama administration ... Given the weight of the election and how it turned out, the song suddenly had a different gravity, so we changed the lyric to 'I wonder how the president gets any sleep at night / If the folks down by the border are making it all right.'"
She adds, quoting Bob Dylan's famous line, “All my songs are protest songs," and says that she's on board with that characterization.
"I don’t mind them being labeled that way," Price says, "because ultimately they’re songs written during and about a humanitarian crisis in America. I was moved from an early age to write songs for the underdog, whether it’s middle-class Americans, farmers or kids who need to feel safe in school. I believe artists have a duty to be a voice for what we believe in."
Both Carlile and Price will be on hand for the 2019 Grammy Awards. Price is nominated for Best New Artist, and Carlile has nominations in six different categories.
Country Music's Most Political Artists