“I’m writing from my heart and life experiences,” Price says. “I knew I wanted to start the record with this song, but everyone in the band said, ‘No, no, that’s a bad move.’ And then Third Man said, ‘We think this should be the first song,’ and I was like, ‘Yes!’ It really just lays it out. If you can get through ‘Hands of Time,’ the rest of the record is going to come very easily.”
And indeed it does. The honky tonk comeuppance of “About To Find Out,” the rockabilly-charged “This Town Gets Around” and weekend twang of “Hurtin’ (On The Bottle)” all add fresh twists to classic Nashville country, while sounding like they could’ve been hits in any decade. Meanwhile, the hard-hitting blues grooves of “Four Years of Chances” and “Tennessee Song” push the boundaries further west to Memphis (the album was recorded at Sun Studio). Throughout, producer Alex Munoz, engineer Matt Ross-Spang and the ace band help frame the material with spare, spacious arrangements, keeping the focus on Price’s soulful vocals.
Her tastes developed early. Growing up in Aledo, Illinois (pop. 3,612), Price was surrounded by music — everything from Tom Petty to the Statler Brothers. By middle school, she was singing in the choir and doing the national anthem at local football games. “I was one of the only people who could sing it without changing keys,” she says, with a laugh. With money from her eighth grade graduation, Price bought her first guitar and started writing songs, influenced by Joni Mitchell and Maria Muldaur. After dropping out of college, she moved to Nashville in 2003 and began the usual apprenticeship of open mic nights and networking.
Though she loved the friendliness of Music City, she says, “I didn’t feel like the glossy country music at the time had any space for me.” On the advice of her great uncle, Bobby Fischer, a successful tunesmith with over 500 cuts by artists including George Jones, Tanya Tucker and Reba McEntire, she kept writing and honing her voice. She soon met bass player — and future husband — Jeremy Ivey, and formed a band called Buffalo Clover. They self-released three records and built a local following. Of course, the music biz being the minefield of dreams that it is, there were false promises and glittering temptations along the way (humorously catalogued in “This Town Gets Around”). “I’m so glad that I didn’t sacrifice my integrity five or ten years ago,” Price says. “I had opportunities to. I remember meeting this one guy who said, ‘I’m a big producer and I know all these people on Music Row.’ So Jeremy and I tried to write some mainstream country songs. We created pen names because we didn’t want anyone to know it was us — Sylvia Slim and Sam Pickens. Together it was Slim-Pickens. We wrote a couple things, and I felt gross doing it. The producer guy didn’t like it, and we didn’t either. So it was, ‘All right, I tried that, now I’m just going to write for myself.'”
A year before, she had visited the legendary Sun Studio, as a tourist. “The first time I walked in the room, the guide said, ‘This is where Elvis stood.’ They have the X on the floor, and she said, ‘It’s rumored that Bob Dylan came in and kissed the X on the floor.’ So I waited for everybody to leave, then I got down on my knees, and thought, ‘There, now I’ve kissed both Bob Dylan and Elvis.”
Her curiosity piqued by a “Make Your Own Demo at Sun” sign, Price met the house engineer, Matt Ross-Spang. “He and I clicked right off the bat. I liked his energy. He had great ideas. We did a single, and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. But Matt was persistent about us working together again.” To finance the sessions for ‘Midwest Farmer’s Daughter,’ Price and Ivey skipped the usual crowd-funding route, instead selling one of their cars, some instruments and even pawning her wedding ring. Price says, “My husband said, ‘This is all or nothing. I believe in you. I believe in this record. I’ll sell our house if it comes down to it.'”