It’s been a big year for Nashville country maverick Margo Price. After winning Best Honky-Tonk Female honors at this year’s Ameripolitan Music Awards in Austin in February, she played NPR Music’s high-profile showcase at Stubb’s in March, before appearing on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in April.
On Monday, she’s back in Austin for Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic, and she’ll return this fall to tape “Austin City Limits” and play both weekends of ACL Fest. That’s a far cry from north Austin’s funky old-school hangout the Carousel Lounge, where Price’s old band Buffalo Clover played their first show here in 2008.
“Is that place still there?” she asked by phone on Friday. Yes, we told her. “Wow. It’s got that elephant inside,” she remembered. Elephants never forget, but one never forgets elephants, either, especially when they’re in the form of a big pink statue behind the stage.
READ MORE: Fifty years at the Carousel Lounge
Originally from Illinois, Price moved to Nashville with her husband and bandmate Jeremy Ivey, a native Texan, around a decade ago. Playing Willie’s Picnic is special, she says, in part because she identifies with impulse that led Nelson to move here from Nashville in the 1970s.
“I’ve long been a fan of Austin and every time we go there, I feel a connection with that city,” she said. “After you read about Willie and how he kind of had a hard time in Nashville and then he moved out there, I always had that idea in back of my mind.
READ MORE: Willie Nelson talks about this year’s Picnic
“We’ve always kind of talked about moving to Austin. I probably would have done it, but my husband doesn’t like the heat. It’s not like it’s not hot in Nashville, because it certainly is!”
True enough. But her husband has a point: While the July 4 forecast calls for a tolerable 89 degrees in Nashville, those heading to the Picnic at Circuit of the Americas are facing a high of 102.
“Yeah, I’m bringing a cooler and filling it with Topo Chico,” Price says.
As for that Ameripolitan Awards show, which was held at the Paramount: Price didn’t attend, but she taped a colorful short thank-you speech in her kitchen that aired onscreen at the show after her award was announced.
“I’d never had to make an acceptance speech before, so I sat in the kitchen and tried to give myself some liquid courage,” she recalls. “I think I was drinking bourbon or something.” There might have been a smoke break as well; maybe that’s how she ended up on the bill for Willie’s Picnic.
READ MORE: Review of the 2016 Ameripolitan Awards
Give Price a little extra Ameripolitan credit: Though she wasn’t there when she won, she DID make the trip the year before, when she was nominated but didn’t win.
“It was a wild event,” she says. “It was like more of a Hee-Haw version of [Nashville’s] Americana Awards. Everybody is so prim and proper at the Americana Awards, and at the Ameripolitan Awards, everybody’s hooting and hollering and having a good time. It’s pretty fun.”