Margo Price was a sophomore in college the first time she tried psilocybin mushrooms, and she’s happy to share that the encounter turned her world inside out. Price describes her experiences with the fungi in detail throughout her 2022 memoir Maybe We’ll Make It, attesting that the mushrooms “connect neural pathways in your brain” and have had a huge impact on her career, her quitting alcohol and her latest album, Strays, out today (Jan. 13)
In college, her first trip made her realize she should drop out of school and become a full-time musician. And two years ago, while nursing a hangover, mushrooms gave her the answer for no longer drinking alcohol.
“I’d been searching for a way to eradicate [alcohol] from my life for so long. I would have those mornings where I wake up and be like, ‘I’m never drinking again. Seriously, I mean it this time,’” she says. “I almost checked myself into rehab. I thought about going to a mental institute at times, because I was so out of control.”
But after that trip on Jan. 8, 2021, Price says it was “like a curse was lifted.” Her ability to abstain – from alcohol and cigarettes — was bolstered by reading up on psilocybin and a continued understanding of how alcohol has been normalized, especially in the country music scene. (See: Country’s Songwriters Grapple With Alcohol’s Abundance or Does Country Music Need An Alcohol Intervention?) And Price’s debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is rife with alcohol references, from the certified country banger “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” to “Weekender,” which details her stint in the Davidson County jail after a drunk driving incident.
Her memoir is overflowing with references to her excessive alcohol use and the mistakes and/or songs that resulted from it, but now – sitting poolside at a hotel in Pasadena, Calif., towards the end of her book — she has come to understand that her attachment to drinking came from trepidation about shedding that part of her personality. “’Would people still like me if I wasn’t the fun girl who liked to party, but I still am the same person?'” Price, who continues to enjoy hanging out at bars without drinking, says she wondered.
Mushrooms, she adds, are a different and healthier way to “alter your state of consciousness” and think in “a new way,” without the price tag. And while musicians, including Price and her husband/musician/bandmate Jeremy Ivey, were forced to take time off the road during the pandemic, she used mushrooms to “take a mind vacation” instead.
“Do you want to be different? Do you want to do something that’s not the chosen path? You can absolutely do that,” says Price. “That’s really what mushrooms have taught me.”
Strays is a markedly different path for Price who has spent the majority of her career firmly labeled as a country or Americana artist. For loyal fans who’ve enjoyed listening to Price’s colossal voice drown out crowds at dive bars or even silence them, there is plenty to recognize on Strays – but that’s about it. For her fourth studio album, Price is going eclectic.
There’s the fuzzed-out guitar-driven lead single “Been to the Mountains” where Price looks back on all the lives she’s lived (“a lover, queen and a drifter,” “I’ve been on food stamps, I’ve been out of my mind”). Meanwhile, “Time Machine” is a delectable pop song with its buoyant bassline and “Lydia” is an epic six-minute ballad about a pregnant woman unable to raise a child. Single “Change of Heart” is a stomping rock song that marks Price’s highest-charting single of her career on Billboard‘s Adult Alternative Airplay listing, and the whole album is steeped in the musical mysticism of where it was recorded — Southern California’s Topanga Canyon, where artists including Joni Mitchell and members of Fleetwood Mac honed their sounds.
“I want to be able to explore,” says Price. “There’s so many different kinds of music out there. Why would you get stuck doing the same thing over and over?”
Plus, she has never fully fit into the country mold. She’s never shied away from her liberal leanings, frequently refers to herself as a hippie and readily admits, “I can’t say the Country Music Association has been good to me, and I can’t say I want them to be.” But she does see progress occurring in the country-adjacent genre of Americana, pointing to the well-deserved success of women and artists of color like Allison Russell and Adia Victoria.
“Some people are gonna want me to be making more country sounding records. I will always probably still be classified as country no matter what I try to do,” says Price. “I’m trying to break that, shatter that expectation — but I will make country albums again. I just covered a Billy Joe Shaver song, ‘Ragged Old Truck.’ I’m still doing country s–t.”