By Sally Zarafonetis
Margo Price is a self-made woman who rose from the depths of heartache to the top of the stage. Her hit single, “Hands of Time,” has been described as a “tour de force” and draws listeners into her personal story full of grit, tragedy, love and longing.
The 32-year-old’s alluring voice and soulful performance have been compared to that of country queens Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. Her debut album, “Midwest Farmers Daughter,” has garnered plenty of well-earned attention; last month, she was awarded the prestigious 2017 American Music Prize, an honor that recognizes the year’s best debut album, and the American Music Association recognized her as the Emerging Artist of the Year. On April 6, Price will arrive in Grand Rapids to perform at St. Cecelia Music Center. A special post-concert reception is free to all ticket holders, where they will have the opportunity to obtain signed copies of her album.
Growing up in a small town in Illinois, Price was surrounded by music— everything from rocker Tom Petty to gospel quartet The Statler Brothers. By middle school, she was singing in the choir and performing the national anthem at local football games. She purchased her first guitar as a teenager and learned how to compose her own songs. Feeling called to music, Priced dropped out of college in 2003 and moved to Nashville, where she met her future husband. She cut her teeth on the music scene by playing at open mic nights. After testing the waters of mainstream music, she dedicated herself to writing songs that came from deep within her heart, regardless of their popular appeal, and to draw on her own profound experiences.
Around that time, tragedy struck: Price lost her firstborn son to a heart ailment. She emerged from the loss with a renewed inspiration to allow her integrity to light the way as she walked her musical path.
“Coming through that, I thought, ‘I’m just going to write music that I want to hear,’” Price said. “It was a big turning point.”
She decided that Memphis, not Nashville, was the place to create her debut album.
“I once heard someone say, ‘Nashville has glitz, but Memphis has grit,’” Price recalled. “And I’m like, ‘Hey, I’ve got grit too!’ I’m going to go to Memphis and make this record.”
“Midwest Farmer’s Daughter” took shape at Sun Studios, the legendary recording studio that produced the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. Price felt right at home.
“It was such a relaxed vibe at Sun,” she expressed. “It felt haunted in a good way, like Elvis and Johnny were watching over us.”
As the album came to life, Price and her husband committed to seeing it through, no matter what the cost. To finance the recording sessions, they sold one of their cars, a number of instruments and even pawned her wedding ring.
“My husband said, ‘This is all or nothing. I believe in you. I believe in this record. I’ll sell our house if it comes down to it,’” Price said.
When asked to reflect on what she hopes listeners will get from the album, Price replied, “I hope that the record helps people get through hard times or depression. That’s ultimately what music did for me in my childhood, and especially in my early adult years. It’s about being able to connect personally with a song, and hopefully, it makes you feel not so lonely.”
What: Margo Price performing from
her debut album
Where: St. Cecilia Music Center,
24 Ransom Ave. NE
When: Thursday, April 6
at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20 and $25