Although she made her name as a country singer, Margo Price is not much of an adherent to genre these days. That applies to her lyrics, too, as “I’d Die for You” manages to be both the tenderest love song on her most recent album and its most pronounced sociopolitical statement. Since it was her favorite song from the well-received “That’s How Rumors Get Started” record, when she recently recorded a brand new version, naturally, she wanted a music video to die for to go with it.
Variety has the exclusive premiere of the new clip for “I’d Die for You,” which again found Price working with one of her favorite Nashville collaborators, director Casey Pierce. There are images of patriotism and protest, to reflect the strains of depression and dissent that are inherent in the song’s verses, but these are mostly subliminal. The principal “action” of the surreal video has the singer walking on water, before she succumbs to the depths in a big way, where she’s met under the currents by her husband and primary musical collaborator, Jeremy Ivey.
“My husband and I wrote it a couple years ago,” Price tells Variety, “but it’s funny how the theme of this song is starting to feel a little more current” — an inescapable topicality “when you’re writing about gentrification in Nashville and the healthcare crisis and the overall onus of racism that is unfortunately present in our country right now. And we live in such a visual time, people are going to be way more likely to click on a video and watch a video than they would be to just sit and listen to a new recording of the song.”
This new arrangement of “I’d Die for You” isn’t a remix but a completely different rendering. It’s called the “synthphonic” version, but don’t take that to mean that Price didn’t go to the trouble of recording actual strings — remotely — for this new take. “The last time that I really performed was at Carnegie Hall for the Philip Glass/Tibet House benefit. My keyboard player, Micah (Hulscher), wrote the piano part, and then my friend Larissa Maestro wrote the string part. We had so much fun performing it at Carnegie Hall that I really wanted to have that version properly recorded, because although I love the album version too, I thought this song really could breathe and stretch out a little bit more in this frame.”
Making the video amid a national disaster, Price wanted it to reference a literally homespun calamity. “I knew that I wanted to have some footage of the tornado” damage from the deadly twister of early March, “and just kind of the current state of Nashville as it is right now. So we found… well, we actually trespassed. It’s not a good video if you don’t trespass at least once. We went on this abandoned property where there was this house, or maybe even an old school, that had been completely demolished.”
Cut to the middle Tennessee version of the waterfront, combining” walking on water, with some Joan of Arc kind of undertones, being burned maybe for things that you say or do. Casey found this spot out at Percy Priest Lake, and we built a metal ramp under the water I could walk out onto. We were on a very short time frame, because we had been shooting at the abandoned tornado house, so by the time he put up the plank, the sun was going down, and it just looked so gorgeous, the way that the pinks and the oranges were coming out. All of a sudden, a giant storm rolls in, and Casey’s in the water without a waterproof camera and I’m standing on a metal thing in the middle of the water, just kind of asking to be struck by lightning.”
Thankfully, Price was a conduit only for inspiration. “It ended up being so cinematic, and it went along with the words, which say, ‘The kids want something worth a damn; they’re just pissing in the flood.’ And then the whole idea was to fall in, because I think a lot of people right now have a feeling of being really helpless. You’re drowning in the problems that are going on around you. So we transitioned into the underwater stuff, which we shot at home in my pool late at night. It was really cold, but I convinced Jeremy to get in there with me, because I felt like the message of the song is that we have each other through all this and can be there to try to save each other from some of the evils in the world.”
As for what overtly topical images made it in, the video has “flashes of soldiers and people who are hungry and the American flag and Statue of Liberty and all those things kind of peppered in there to (reflect) what’s going on now. But I didn’t want it to just be really obvious with the protest thing. One of my favorite lines in it is, ‘I don’t have a side to take.’ Obviously I have a side that I’m going to vote for, but I think then at the root of my message is that we are all the same. This country is called the United States of America for a reason. We’re so divided right now, and I would love to see people come together and lift each other up and think about what’s going on. because I feel we’re at such a turning point.”
Is this Margo Price who has at least a glimmer of hope that there could be a national reconciliation the same Margo Price who has to deal with trollery on Twitter because of her unabashedly frustrated comments about the direction of the country? It is.
“So many times,” she says, “if I’m speaking out about something that I’m passionate about, people attack me and say, ‘You hate America,’ and I think, no, I love America. I’m still here. I’m fighting even though I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next couple years. And I want my children to grow up in a safe place. I want to feel like they’re protected, and it’s just really hard because you want to do something that matters, and I think a lot of times people just misunderstand what I’m saying. I do have a feeling of patriotism, and don’t want to be called unpatriotic just because I want to make changes. That’s been the entire history of our country, people fighting to maintain their freedoms, and that’s where we’re at right now, especially after Ruth Bader Ginsburg passing.”
Price is, as would be expected, simpatico with her friend Tyler Childers, the traditional-leaning country singer who released a song and video statement last week to urge his fellow rural Southerners and especially fellow Appalachians to try to empathize with frustrated and frightened Black Lives Matter supporters. “I was texting with his wife yesterday,” Price says. “I’m sure it’s not been easy for him to say that and to really finally come forward and try to reason with people. I think it’s really brave of him, and I’m very proud of him.”
In July, Price appeared on the current, audience-less version of the Grand Ole Opry, a stage that typically lends itself to performers much further inside the current mainstream country box than she is. Rather than play it safe to win over a viewing audience that might be a lot less familiar with her than they are with a Brad Paisley or Vince Gill, Price played a cover of the socially conscious ‘60s country hit “Skip a Rope” and tied it to the present day in a way that wasn’t bound to be universally accepted. “I would just like to commend the Opry for coming out and saying ‘black lives matter.’ I think it’s so important at this time,” she said on the live broadcast. “And I hope that we can continue to go one step further in so many of these Nashville institutions and support the voices of our Black brothers and sisters when they need it most.” (She also had something to say about the Lady A situation.)
So, how bad did she get it after that?
“There was definitely a backlash,” Price says — to say the least — “but I think that maybe the Opry deleted a lot of the comments on the post that they put up about me” on Facebook. (The responses on other platforms are still there, for anyone who wants to look them up.) “It was just a photo of me and everybody was like, ‘How dare she come on here and disgrace the sacred circle.’ But the Opry, themselves… they all came by my dressing room afterwards. And I mean, I was shaking. I was trembling. I was really nervous because, days before I even played the Opry, I knew I was going to say something, and I kind of had it planned out what I was going to say. And then, yeah, there were all sorts of nasty things hurled at me through Twitter and Instagram. But like I said, the Opry members came by my dressing room, and they thanked me for my performance. And then they sent me a very nice letter thanking me for my speech. So that really meant a lot.”
The affirmation didn’t stop there. “Probably the coolest thing that happened after that was when I was going on a jog.” she says. “I live in a very rural area out north of Nashville and I run a lot. And when I was just running, my neighbor came out, and I’d never spoken to him before; we just kind of waved from the porch. He’s an older Black man, probably in his seventies, and he said, ‘Hey, my name’s Frankie, and I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your performance on the Opry last night and I’m really grateful for your words. Keep it up.’ And that one moment made it all worth all the other negative comments. That really meant a lot to me. And now we’re friends, and we talk in the driveway when I go by. I’d say it was an affirmation that I’m making the right choices.”
Another choice Price made that wasn’t necessarily destined to receive 100% universal support was the one to leave traditional country largely behind with the “That’s How Rumors Get Started” album — that recent Opry appearance notwithstanding. Price never picked up country airplay, per se, so there wasn’t a lot to lose there. And the fact that “Rumors” is currently the No. 1 album on the Americana chart, months after its release, suggests the bulk of her audience is just fine with her exploring a sound that’s closer to the softer side of classic and/or Southern rock. But the evolution has required some adjustments in expectations for some who really fell in love with her as more of a country traditionalist when she first made the national scene with “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter” on Jack White’s label in 2016. Two albums and a label change (she’s now on Loma Vista) later, she’s harder to peg, but not really a harder sell, as it turns out.
“I think it varied from person to person,” she says of the reaction to the change of sound on her third album. “But I was upfront about it in the press release, even saying, ‘This is not a country record.’ I had people on the team that were kind of like, ‘Oh, we don’t know if you should even talk about the genre — let them figure it out.’ But I wanted to shake people up. I wanted people to be nervous and excited: ‘Oh, she’s not doing country? Oh my gosh! What’s it gonna be like?’ But the reaction has been amazingly strong. I just want to remind people that it’s just about having good songs. You don’t have to be this purist who’s married to one sonic palette. That would be such a boring way to live.
“I don’t think that genre is something that people should worry themselves over,” Prince continues. “Good music is good music. And country music will always be there for me to go back to, to make another album at some point that is very country. But in the meanwhile, I’m wanting to keep myself artistically fed, and that’s what makes me feel satisfied, branching out into lots of other places and territories.”