A few miles west of the high-rise corporate offices of Nashville’s many major record labels, and the glitz of the tourist trap honky-tonks along Broadway, the trip to Margo Price’s house takes you off the interstate onto a quiet two-lane road. Before long it begins to feel like you are traveling through a Smoky Mountains town in eastern Tennessee, as the only landmarks seen are the steep drop-offs into thick forest where sidewalks would normally be, and you realize this would be the perfect place for the highest-profiled proponent for legalized marijuana in modern country music to light up comfortably without fear of being busted.
Well, not as much fear, anyway.
“Yeah, its kinda reached a point where I’ve started wondering if my house is going to get raided,” Price admits with a laugh when asked about her public love of weed. Through both mainstream and social media, the singer isn’t shy about partaking, with pictures of the performer lighting up with the help of a magnifying glass posted next to tour stop announcements.
“I look forward to a day when I can be completely open with preferring to just smoke.”
“Does it feel a little ‘extra’? It is seriously so good, because there’s no butane,” Price explains with zeal. “Butane is terrible for my voice, and sometimes—depending on the batteries being used – vaping irritates it, too. With the magnifying glass, all you taste is the weed, which is a bonus as well.”
If the makeshift use of the glass as a lighter feels a little too much like a Twitter gimmick, it would be the only aspect of Price’s life — whether personal or creative — where the singer did something less than genuine for the sake of someone’s approval. 2016 saw the release of Price’s solo debut record, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, which finally catapulted the singer from the trenches of Nashville’s music scene onto Billboard’s Top 10 Country Album charts in its debut week.
With Jack White’s Third Man Records promotional team behind the first country artist signed to their roster, she was seemingly everywhere for much of the year, from being invited as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live — still a rare occurrence within country music — to winning Emerging Talent of the Year at the Americana Music Awards.
She returns to the Americana Honors & Awards event this September as a multi-nominee on the strength of her latest disc, All American Made. Nominated in the categories of Artist of the Year; Album of the Year; and Song of the Year (“A Little Pain”), the three nominations cements Price firmly within the upper echelon of roots-based talent, not that the singer believes mainstream country is putting up much of a fight to have her within their family; when she is asked if she has any CMA Fest (the Country Music Association’s music festival that brings in country music fans from around the world to take over downtown Nashville’s streets each year, and occurring at the time of our interview) appearances scheduled, she notes that the pairing hadn’t gone terribly well in the past.
“I played CMA Fest a couple of years back, and it just wasn’t my vibe. I got the feeling I wasn’t their vibe, either, so it all works out,” Price admits. “I moved here about 15 years ago, and one of the first things that I did was go to CMA Fest because I was dragged there by a guy who thought it would be a good spot to busk. We played in the street all day for something embarrassing, like $24.”
Price’s failure to be embraced by the gatekeepers of the modern country genre is mirrored by the side eye she gets from some Nashville performers toward her pot usage. Many of the same entertainers who have scored big hits built around their love of getting drunk on truck tailgates down by the river become teetotalers once a joint is lit at a party.
“Nashville is just such a drinking city,” she explains. “It honestly feels like if you don’t drink, you’re just not going to be considered ‘cool’ by a lot of the performers here. I do drink, but I practice really strong moderation because it makes me feel like shit, but I look forward to a day when I can be completely open with preferring to just smoke. I think it makes everyone completely peaceful, along with all the other benefits. There’s just such a grey area for it around here: I feel like it’s pretty socially accepted, but it’s really not in certain circles here. That’s why I mostly hang out with musicians; they’re outsiders and weirdos, anyway.”
Among the musicians Price has had the honor of befriending over the past few years is Willie Nelson. She has performed with him on many of his yearly outings, like Farm Aid and the touring Outlaw Music Festival. Nelson’s cannabis brand, Willie’s Reserve, has announced in an exclusive to High Times that later this year they will be releasing a new strain chosen and named by Price (though a date and name haven’t been officially decided yet).
Says Elizabeth Hogan, lead brand developer for Willie’s Reserve, “It’s a natural extension of Margo’s love of Willie and weed, and our love of Margo’s music and outlaw attitude. This started where a lot of collaborations do – as an idea backstage, around a joint. She’s been a regular at Willie’s festivals since before the Willie’s Reserve brand launched, with us first meeting her in March of 2016 at the Luck Reunion in Texas. Margo has been so enthusiastic, curious and outspoken about cannabis legalization, eventually it just made sense to make it happen.”
“I mostly hang out with musicians; they’re outsiders and weirdos, anyway.”
“It’s been a long time in the making,” explains Price. “At the Luck Reunion, my manager came up to me and said that [Willie’s Reserve] was inviting a few people to test some of their weed, and there was the chance that they may offer someone the opportunity to name their own strain. I immediately wanted to do it, but a huge tornado came through on the day we were originally supposed to go, so it kind of fell through. So I just kept writing them afterwards, asking about the naming offer; it was like, ‘Guys, some [musicians] want to sell clothes on the Home Shopping Network, but I want to sell weed.’ I just wanted to do it legally this time.”
Price elaborates on her strain, “It’s an indica, which is great for my insomnia, as well as back pain. I hope that it’s just the first of a venture that will lead to my being more involved in weed [retail]. I have found that a little taste from a weed gummy will put me right to sleep. It’s so much better for me than taking melatonin, and I hate taking NyQuil or Tylenol PM. We don’t know what those are really doing to us, but if I can take a tiny piece of weed that tastes like a strawberry gummy bear and go to sleep, count me in.”
For what it’s worth, Hogan is open to continuing the Reserve’s relationship with Price, as the singer continues to fight for cannabis within Tennessee.
“Musicians supporting cannabis is nothing new, and artist voices are incredibly powerful for building support, but it takes an extra dose of boldness to speak up about cannabis in a pre-legalization community like Nashville. As a badass woman living and working in a more conservative place, Margo definitely helps shine a different light on the topic.”