Interview: Angaleena Presley – Talking Country Music Week, UK fans, Wrangled and Pistol Annies

Angaleena Presley has fast become one of the UK country music fan base’s favourites and deservedly so. Her slick, quick witted, intelligent lyrics have brought forward some of the best music that the Americana/Country world has to offer. Her most recent album Wrangled has been highly praised by critics and fans and is an absolute must-have album.

Purchase Wrangled by Angaleena Presley here

As a live performer, Angaleena is highly entertaining- she is vocally flawless, hilarious and very honest.

Angaleena has become a regular visitor to the UK and we couldn’t be happier. After a very successful trip here in July including Nashville Meets London Festival, we are delighted to have her back to be part of the very exciting and special CMA Songwriters Series alongside Randy Houser, Eric Paslay and Michael Tyler during Country Music Week.

Get tickets her: http://www.cmaworld.com/cma-songwriters-series/

We caught up with Angaleena and had a very interesting conversation which I am delighted to share with you.

Enjoy!

We will be welcoming you back to the UK for Country Music Week, we seem to be a regular stop for you now, what keeps bringing you back?

The engaging fans, the interesting venues, the attentive sound guys, the culture and even the weather. It gets hellishly hot and muggy in Nashville in the summer months. The chilly drizzle is a welcome break from the humidity and mosquitos.

When you first played here, did you ever expect to have such a connection with the country and the fan base so much say that it has almost built a second home for you?

No way. I had no idea that an album entitled American Middle Class would make an impact. The first time I played the Borderline I thought the monitors were feeding back because I kept hearing this echo. As the show went on, I realized that the echo was actually the fans singing to the top of their lungs. They knew every word to every song and weren’t shy about it. I almost cried. I felt so welcome and appreciated. It’s only gotten better and better with each visit.

How was your last trip? Did you enjoy Nashville Meets London?

Last trip was amazing. I was able to bring my son with me and the fans were so sweet to him. We’d been reading the Harry Potter series together and it was so great to watch him soak up the culture and sights through an aspiring young wizard’s lens. He had a particularly enthralling conversation with Chris Hagen who is at least 20 years his senior. Mark Hagan (BBC Radio) and I had a special parenting moment as we watched and felt like our kids were on a playdate together. Journalist Baylen Leonard, who helped organize the festival, always makes me feel like I’m at home. He was born in Bristol, Tennessee but has lived in the UK for years. When we get together, his hillbilly side aligns nicely with mine. Peter Conway, the promoter for the event, was a very gracious host. The fans were off the chain. They stood in the rain all day long, singing, smiling and lining up at the merch table to support all the artists on the bill.

What was your highlight from the last trip?

I have so many great memories from this last trip. Standouts are visiting with Bob Harris, Mark Hagan, and Al Booth from BBC Radio, visiting with Ricky Ross and Richard Murdoch at BBC Radio Scotland, watching the theatrically epic Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (thanks to Eleanor Lloyd for the invaluable ticket hook up), watching my son do a full body roll down the one of the hills at Alnwick castle, getting to pay tribute to Chuck Barry at the Southern Fried Festival by singing two of his songs with a band led by the legendary Andy Fairweather Low, and of course, the fan response at all the shows… It’s just so warm and welcoming.

What would you say to an artist who was thinking about playing in the UK but weren’t quite sure yet?

I would say book a flight immediately. If you need a band, Jamie Freeman can hook you up. He’ll also feed you tea and some awesome lyrics if you’re in the mood to write a song. I honestly feel like I have a little family over there that continues to grow and blossom. I’m so grateful for everyone who’s made it feel like home.

Are there any places in the UK you want to visit in particular? Any tourist spots?

Definitely. I’m such a sucker for old shit. I’m also a big fan of little out of the way places. On the last visit I overdosed on Kent cherries. I’m intrigued by the history behind the family run, century old pubs and I could eat steak and ale pie every day of the week. I’d love to get to the highlands in Scotland at some point. I’m a descendent of the famous feuding McCoy family here in the states and we hail from the Mackay clan. It would be great to immerse myself in the history of my roots.

Tell us a bit about your background because if I am correct, it wasn’t a straightforward journey to get where you are now?

Well, I’m from a coal mining town in Kentucky. My dad was a miner and my mom was a school teacher. Getting an education was never presented to me as something I might do someday. My mom taught me to read when I was 3 years old and she made it clear throughout my childhood that getting a degree would be a requirement rather than an option. So, I graduated with a BS in Psychology and moved to Nashville a year after. I didn’t move to Music City to become an artist. I moved here to write songs. Over time, I realized that most of my songs tell my story and I’d be hard pressed to find other artists who’d tell it. I also fell in love with the recording process. I began producing my own demos and found that I had a real knack for it. When I met Ashley, I gave her a copy of the record I’d made that had some of my actual demo tracks incorporated in the songs. She played it for Miranda and it wasn’t long before I found myself in the deep end of the artist pond. I developed a love for touring when I was out with the Pistol Annies and the natural progression was for me to build my own artist career. It’s been a whirlwind and I’m grateful for every part of it.

Why do you describe music row as high school mentality? Is your song High School based around that?

High School wasn’t about the music business when I wrote it with Ivy and Sophie Walker (Walker County). They are really young, 18 and 21 I think, and I came up with the idea when I was walking my dog. I thought who better to write a high school song with than a couple of girls who had the experience fresh in their minds? I loved how the song turned out. My husband actually suggested that I include it on the record and it I realized that it was a great metaphor for how I’ve felt at times while trying to navigate the ins and outs of this town. There are cliques, clubs, associations, mean girls / boys, teachers, mentors, competitors, ups, downs, and stereotypes that are easy to fall into. High School always felt like a contest that I didn’t sign up for. I’m grateful for so many aspects of Music Row but there are also some things that I wish were different. High School speaks to the struggle of fitting in yet staying true to yourself in an environment where being a follower is the easier and often times the most lucrative path.

You have just released your second solo album Wrangled, which we love. How long was the process creating the album and what are you most proud of?

The process started when I was born. My whole life is evident in the melodies and lyrics of every album I make. I always say that an artist never gets a day off because we are ever absorbing our surroundings and anticipating what art will come. Wrangled is an outlet for me to make sense of being a woman in the business of country music. An opinionated, outspoken woman with no filter and no desire to compromise art for commerce. It began to take shape when I started writing with Oran Thornton, who wound up co-producing. I had been writing songs that were falling into a theme and when we wrote Mama I Tried, I knew that I had listen to what the muse wanted me to do… Losing Guy Clark was another catalyst. He meant the world to me and I wanted to make him proud. I wanted to harness his bravery and carry the torch in a manner that he would approve of. That meant holding nothing back and getting frighteningly vulnerable.

Making and releasing Wrangled and deciding to talk candidly about the absence of female voices in commercial country helped me kill a lot of my demons. I’m proud of every song and co-writer, the musicians who played their genius asses off, the engineers and co-producer, my manager, who laughs at the word “no”, my business manager who makes sure I save enough money to keep the lights on, the A&R folks at Thirty tigers, my publicist, and every single fan who pays their hard earned money to keep this show on the road. There are so many parts and so many things to be grateful for.

Tell us about the title track and why you chose to name the album after the song?

Wrangled is the only song on the album that I wrote “for the album”. I knew that I needed some glue… a song that would tie everything together. I knew I needed cowboys and wide open spaces and a woman who felt strangled by it all. Like a lot of the songs on the album, Wrangled is a metaphor for what it’s like to be a woman in a world where only one woman in commercial country music in the US has had a number one song in the nine months of the year 2017. A world where in 2016, only seven songs by solo, female artists cracked the US top ten. It’s about a woman who does the work to keep the farm running in spite of watching all the cowboys ride off into the sunset with all the glory.

How would you describe yourself as a songwriter because you aren’t shy which is brilliant and write in a very sassy and brutally honest at times way.

I write the only way I know how to and you said it best. Brutal honesty is my forte. I also like smear a little humor onto darkness because laughter can heal just about anything.

What is your view on country radio and females because it doesn’t seem like it is changing anytime soon which is sad. It sometimes seems to be a bit more than that too with the whole recent Lindsay Ell situation which was a very bizarre situation indeed.

I think it’s criminal and I’m doing what I can to shed light on it.

You must have male artist friends, what is their take on it and do they ever voice their opinion because it must be kind of bittersweet for them in a way.

Most of my male friends are in the same situation. Commercial Country radio is fostering a formula. If you don’t match it you don’t really have a chance. My male friends are making music that doesn’t fit the mold and they’re being just as shut out as women. Coincidentally, they also offer more support to women. Chris Stapleton, for example, doesn’t get radio play yet he sells more records than anyone. He also invites female artists to open his shows on a regular basis.

Is it more Important to you to produce an honest record that may never get airplay than be pressured to produce a more pop country sugar coated focused record but guaranteed airplay?

Obviously. I couldn’t fit into that mold even if I tried. I do what I do and trust that it will find a home.

Tell us about The Gentle Giants Project – The Songs of Don Williams- you sang Tulsa Time as part of Pistol Annies – how did the project come to be and how did that song get selected for you?

Jim Burnette and Garth Fundis who run Slate Creek Records asked us to sing on the project. I put my first record out with Slate Creek. The girls loved the idea and had so much fun in the studio recording the song. Don Williams is one of the greatest country artists of all time and I’m so glad we did it.

As part of Pistol Annies, you have done some exciting projects. How did The Hunger Games project come to be, are you a fan of the books/film?

Scott Kernahan, my manager at the time, is a seed planter. He’s had some of the most brilliant, game changing ideas that I’ve encountered in this business. His intuition and awareness are truly remarkable. He’s actually the guy who introduced Brandy Clark to the independent label that put out her first record. That seed blossomed into a sky rocket leap for her career. He’d heard about the Hunger Games series and just knew that I was supposed to read the books. He had a hunch that it would lead to something. I did what he told me and two years later I found myself sitting behind Arcade Fire and Woody Harrelson at the Hollywood premier of the first movie.

After I read the books, I told Miranda how amazing Katniss was and that she was like all of our personalities in one character. She read the books and Ashley followed suit. We wrote the song and it was selected for the soundtrack. We got to record it with phenom producer T Bone Burnett. Working with him had been a dream of mine for years. Scott has been a lantern for me and for so many other artists. I’m grateful to know him and call him a friend.

So Miranda revealed a new Pistol Annies album may happen next year?

I can confirm that we are aching to work together again. I can also confirm that Miranda doesn’t practice bullshit. I’ll let you decide.

What is the best quality that each, yourself included bring to the trio?

Honesty… we all bring it to the table and everything else falls into place.

Why do you not like it when people say ‘Bless Your Heart’ ?

I don’t like it because it’s deceiving. It’s pity dressed up as empathy. To truly empathize you have to experience emotion with someone. I actually got the line from a Brene Brown book. When you bless someone’s heart, you’re telling them that you feel sorry for them and that you’re so glad you’re not going through what they are going through. It creates distance and promotes shame.

Do you have any pets?

Yes, both rescues. A dog named Moonpie (a popular, southern pastry) and a cat named Mango. Coincidentally, both were named after food by their rescuers so we felt like it was meant to be.

Thank you so much for chatting today and we look forward to seeing you during Country Music Week.

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