5 Years Ago: Margo Price Releases ‘Midwest Farmer’s Daughter’, Her Debut Album
Margo Price sent a message -- both to fans and to the music industry at large -- with her debut album: The independent singer and songwriter has honest, vulnerable and occasionally uncomfortable stories to share, and she'll be successful while doing it her way.
Released on March 25, 2016, five years ago today, Midwest Farmer's Daughter debuted in the Top 10 (No. 10) on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart: the first time since the chart began in the 1960s that a solo woman's debut album did so without having charted on the Hot Country Songs chart. It was almost as though Price appeared out of nowhere -- but for those in the know, that was far from the case.
By that time, Price had been performing all over the country, exploring a variety of sounds with a number of fellow musicians. After two years of college near Chicago, the Illinois native dropped out and moved to Nashville, and spent several years performing under her own name as well as in bands with her husband, Jeremy Ivey. The couple moved to Colorado as the Kinks-inspired Secret Handshake before returning to Music City to form Buffalo Clover, a band inspired by Price's hometown.
When she was ready to record the solo album that became Midwest Farmer's Daughter, Price had been turned down by a number of labels. She pawned her wedding ring, and her husband sold their car, to pay for studio time at Memphis' famed Sun Studio. Across three days of overnight sessions there with her band, Price recorded live to analog tape 10 songs influenced by her years in music, childhood memories of her family losing their farm and the pain of the death of one of her twin boys.
"It's kind of nice to be away from home. You can fully immerse yourself in the record," Price shared with The Boot in 2016. "The vibes of the city and the energy kind of seeped into us, and we could stay focused on the project. We didn't have to go home or deal with anything else; we were just totally there to make the record and to focus on that."
Price wrote four of Midwest Farmer's Daughter's songs solo and four with Ivey. Its other two tracks are by Mark Fredson and a co-write with Ivey, Fredson and Caitlin Rose.
It was after the album, produced by Alex Muñoz and Matt Ross-Spang, was complete that Third Man Records came calling. Rocker Jack White's record label signed Price as their very first country artist; she stayed with Third Man through her sophomore album, 2017's All American Made, before signing with Loma Vista for 2020's That's How Rumors Get Started.
"[Third Man Records] completely changed my mind about a lot of people in the music industry, because I've not always had the best experience with labels and management and things like that," shared Price in 2016 (look no further than "This Town Gets Around" for proof of that). "This has just been a complete 360 to have them in my corner and have them fighting for me and out there working for me."
Midwest Farmer's Daughter earned Price two Americana Honors & Awards nominations, for Song of the Year and Emerging Artist of the Year (which she won), as well as an Ameripolitan Music Awards victory in the Honky-Tonk Female category. The album also received the American Music Prize for best debut album, an honor decided by music industry and media professionals and which includes a $25,000 prize.
Price, who was 32 when she released Midwest Farmer's Daughter, made her Saturday Night Live debut on the strength of the album, too. She played the famous late-night sketch comedy television show just two weeks after the record's release.
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