“We have to be a voice for what we believe in,” says Price, and recently she and Carlile -- both of whom had their best touring years as headliners in 2018 -- have done just that onstage together. In July, they played a cover of Dolly Parton’s anthem of women’s empowerment, “9 to 5,” at the Newport Folk Festival. “Love this, ladies!’” Parton later tweeted with a blue butterfly emoji, to which Price, whose voice is often compared to Parton’s, replied, “Ahhhhhhh! This made my day/week/year/life!” In September, they sang it again on the roof of Third Man Records, Price’s hometown label in Nashville (Carlile is signed to Elektra Records), as part of Americanafest. Earlier that evening, they had attended the Americana Awards, where, among the six awards voted on by Americana Music Association members, just one woman won. “That night was odd,” says Carlile, shaking her head. “But I felt a change in the room happen right then. I said, ‘Something’s going to happen at the Grammys.’”
Whether they win or not, the prospect of collaborating with more women seems to be just as exciting to the duo, if not more so. The weekend before the Grammys, Price was to perform at Carlile’s inaugural Girls Just Wanna music festival in Mexico alongside Indigo Girls, Maren Morris and Patty Griffin, among others. “I have so many girlfriends who will be there,” says Price, who later had to cancel. Carlile lights up.
“I have these matriarch tendencies. My grandmother did too,” she explains. “Everybody comes to my house for the holidays. I just love it. I want to lift other women up. I want to put bands together, I want to produce records, I want to curate lineups, you know? That’s just who I am. I want to order for the table.”
The two of you have been good friends for a few years now. Did you feel an immediate kinship when you met?
Margo Price: She was so warm and inviting. Her whole band just let me in.
Brandi Carlile: We started talking about music and Nashville, not being in our 20s anymore and feeling older than everybody else. We saw each other as peers. I was already getting to a point where I was feeling like I’d heard just about enough from male country singers. I wanted to hear somebody that was loud and fierce and able to hold their ground, who had real grit and who could just deliver on all levels -- emotionally, intellectually, vocally. Margo could. You can hear her strength on her records. That is not a tiny voice.
That must have felt refreshing.
Price: Definitely. The air in the room is different when two women respect each other. It was refreshing to go out and open for someone who was not from mainstream male country. Now, every time we bump into each other, we wind up singing together.
You’ve been singing Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” Why that song?
Price: It feels timely.
Carlile: Will you be pissed if I cover that a couple times? I love singing it with you so much that now I want to do it [myself].
Price: Hell no! Go for it. I think everyone should be singing that. It has been more than 30 years since it came out, and it feels every bit as pertinent.