Margo Price rocked the country world in her own uncompromising way with the release of “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter” in the spring of 2016. Predecessors, Loretta Lynn and Shania Twain had both paved the way for a woman to declare independence through song, and praise feminine fortitude, in their own way, but Margo Price did all that and downed a bottle of whiskey, too.

In a moving homage featured in Rolling Stone on October 4, the singer-songwriter describes the personal call she felt from Tom Petty, and how that moment put her creativity and her life on an entirely different trajectory.

A girl and her radio

This morning, Margo Price is still warm from the glowing reviews she is getting for her showcase performance for Third Man Records at Cumberland Caverns. She joined Jack White, Lillie Mae, the Craig Brown Band, and Joshua Hedley. The glow of hers and the other faces assembled on that lovely, worn stage spoke everything possible about a glorious night of music. Fans were treated to a full live performance of the upcoming album from Margo Price, “All-American Made,” along with “Tennessee Song” from her debut album.

If it were not for a radio and a certainly divinely intended song from Tom Petty, it's quite possible that Margo Price would never have ventured to any stage to share her songs with the world. She was a 10-year-old in Illinois when she “very specifically” recalls “Mary Jane's Last Dance” coming across the waves to her very open and waiting soul. Price was yearning for music that was “raw and real” at the time when all the songs of her youth seemed careless and indulgent.

She was simultaneously confronted by the spirit and voice of an artist who made her feel like she had known the song her whole life, and at the same time, wondering how she had ever missed that song. Margo Price became so infatuated with that artistry that she taped the song off the radio (something that typically only those much older than her can remember doing) and sang it into her hairbrush. “I don't know what he was talking about, but he was talking to me,” the songwriter reflects of Petty, and she never looked back from that pivotal moment.

Moving credit

The most moving manner of saluting any artist is to pass his or her gifts on to another generation in a new style, and Margo Price gives honor to Tom Petty in all her captures in verse of simple American life that is far from simple from the inside. In April, while she was in Indiana, another “heartland” location of America, she played her own version of “Mary Jane's Last Dance,” inserting that song was originally titled “Indiana Girl.” Fans didn’t miss a word of that sing-along.

On the morning after she learned of Tom Petty's passing, Margo Price was at her kitchen table, strumming her way through her personal muse and mentor’s songbook.

She recalled the piercing sensation that “he was singing to a girl in middle America, who was maybe a little poor, or a little different.”

Margo Price ingested that singing fully and deeply, like devouring a first full meal after time stranded in the desert. She cherishes Tom Petty's gift with “a sparsely written song” filled with powerful images. Her songs tell similar American stories but with a vocabulary and cadence all her own. Many contemporaries have paid tribute to their friend, Tom Petty. Margo Price cannot say that, but she can assure that the artist who “defies genre” and politics will be appreciated by progeny much beyond his time.

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