Strays

Margo Price

Strays

Margo Price’s fourth album is a record born from journeys. There’s the physical one, in which the Nashville-based singer-songwriter and her husband/collaborator, the musician Jeremy Ivey, traveled first to South Carolina to focus on writing new material, much of which made it onto Strays, then to California’s Topanga Canyon to record the final LP. And, perhaps more consequently, there’s the spiritual journey, as Price and Ivey spent part of their writing retreat taking intentional, exploratory psilocybin trips in an effort to tap more deeply into their own creative wells. Accordingly, Strays is Price’s most expansive, adventurous LP yet, employing an intricate, far-reaching soundscape of rock, psychedelia, ’70s pop, and subtle flourishes of her earlier brand of left-of-center country. The shift in sound didn’t shift Price’s focus, though, which is, as always, crafting songs that stand the test of time. “Sonically, it’s a little bit different,” she tells Apple Music. “But if you strip away all the instruments, what you have left at the end of the day is still a song that’s great that you can play on the piano or guitar and it’ll stand up on its own.” Opener “Been to the Mountain” is part origin story, part battle cry, as Price chronicles the many roles she’s played—a mother, a child, a waitress, and a consumer, among others—before defiantly declaring, “I’ve been called every name in the book, honey/Go on, take your best shot.” The Sharon Van Etten collaboration “Radio” is Price at her poppiest, pairing melodic hooks with frank observations on womanhood and motherhood. “County Road” grapples with mortality and pays tribute to late drummer Ben Eyestone, envisioning the afterlife as an escape from earthly troubles. And closer “Landfill” opens with a gut punch of a lyric—“I could build a landfill of dreams I deserted”—before ultimately ending the LP on a hopeful note. Below, Price shares insight into several key tracks on Strays. “Been to the Mountain” “This was one of the very first songs that flowed out the next day after we came down from our mushroom trip. I just really wanted to incorporate poetry. I wanted it to be really psychedelic, and I wanted this album to be able to serve as a record that people could put on if they were going to maybe dabble in psychedelics. I think it can be a companion piece in that regard. I feel like whenever I have taken a psilocybin trip, there’s always that moment right before everything starts happening in your brain and your body, and you feel like you’re about to go on a roller coaster. That’s what I wanted—to capture that feeling.” “Radio” (feat. Sharon Van Etten) “The melody to the song came to me when I was walking in the woods. I just started singing the melody and the words into my phone and made a little voice memo. I got back home, picked up the guitar, and I was really proud of what I had, but I really wanted the label to be excited and to trust in my ability to write a pop song. So, I said that it was written with somebody I had planned to co-write with, and it just didn’t happen. But I did send it to Sharon Van Etten, and I was like, ‘Does this need a bridge? Do you like this song?’ And she’s like, ‘I absolutely love this song. It’s incredible. I don’t think it needs a bridge, but I would change these lines.’ She began co-writing on it and then put all those incredible harmonies and just added her touch to it. I think she’s one of the greatest writers that’s currently out there right now. I love her and I think everything she touches gets this beautiful, I don’t know, chrome feeling to it. There’s just a little bit of magic in everything that she worked on.” “County Road” “This is a song [for late drummer Ben Eyestone] that means a lot to me and my band collectively. We truthfully all have to hold back tears when we play it; we just miss him so much. But we know that he is still around, and sometimes we’ll feel his energy when we’re playing that song. It was just really tragic how he passed. A lot of things were at play. I think the American healthcare system and a lot of things just worked against him. He died [from cancer] so tragically and so suddenly. But at the same time, it was pre-pandemic. It was before everything changed in our world in so many ways during that year of 2020. It’s a dark song. We say things like, ‘Maybe I’m lucky I’m already dead.’ But really, I think that there is this freedom that has to come with death. You’re not suffering here and going through all these incredibly difficult life lessons.” “Lydia” “It’s strange sometimes how you have this premonition that you don’t want to come true, or you don’t think it’s going to go this way. I never saw this Handmaid’s Tale future. I thought things were fucked up, but they weren’t this bad. That song was written after walking around Vancouver and seeing a lot of people there that were struggling with opioid addictions. They all seemed like they had this vacant, ghostly quality, and so did the city and the area of town that we were in. There was a methadone clinic really close by, and the venue owners literally told us, ‘Be really careful. There’s a lot of needles out the back door. You guys go that way.’ It was just a really heavy mood. While it has pieces of me and little vignettes of who I’ve been at times in my life, I think this is definitely a character study. It was a person that I created, something that was fictional but that is ultimately a portrait of what it might be to be living in the lower class and struggling in America right now.” “Landfill” “I think we go through such wild territory throughout the album, and we’re definitely getting some high highs and some low lows. I really just wanted to end the album with a little bit of clarity and a little bit of peace. I wanted the last word that I say on this album to be ‘love.’ I wrote that song also in South Carolina, and it was at the very end of our trip, after we’d been there for seven or eight days. We were trying to find this abandoned lighthouse and passed a landfill on the way. I just started thinking about the metaphor of how your mind can be that way; you have so many memories and difficult things that you bury and push down. But I wanted it to still be hopeful.”

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