Angaleena Presley is a name you’ll know as one third of the Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe, and most recently as a solo artist. Late last year she released her debut solo album, American Middle Class, a record full of emotion, stories and beautifully soulful vocals. Lucky for us in the UK, Angaleeena is coming over here on tour this summer, and I caught up with her to chat about that and everything leading up to it.
What role did music play for you growing up, and when did you realise it’s what you wanted to do with your life?
Music was my first love. My Mom sang Scotch Irish folk songs that had been passed down through generations of women in my family and my Dad could play a few songs on the guitar. Haggard, Credence and the Carter Family were his favorites. I had a suitcase record player and a collection of 45’s that I would take everywhere. I also listened to Loretta Lynn every night when I helped my Mom wash dishes..
You started your career in Nashville as a songwriter – was that always the plan, rather than pursuing a singing career yourself?
Yes… I moved here to be a writer and quickly realized that my songs were of the raw, edgy and honest variety and no one lined up to sing them. After my first time in the studio, I fell in love with the recording process and that was the tipping point of my metamorphosis.
How did you meet Ashley and Miranda, and how did the formation of Pistol Annies come about?
I met Ashley through our publishers in Nashville and it was love at first “write”. Ashley and Miranda were friends because they were on the same label. They were camping and writing songs one weekend and Ashley decided to play some of my music and she flipped out. They called me in the middle of the night and told me they were starting a girl band and I was in it. The next week we hung out and were writing songs within an hour. It was magical, artistic chemistry and the rest is history.
During your time in the group, when did thoughts of your solo record start to emerge and were song ideas already in your mind before you went your separate ways?
My solo record had been melting on the back burner for 2 years before we even got started. I made a record that never found a home. Major labels were afraid of it and indies didn’t really exist in the way they do now. Plus, I was in the middle of a divorce and home foreclosure, which you can learn all about in Annie’s record and my solo record… After we decided to take some much needed time for our solo careers, I got serious and made a new record because I felt I had outgrown the original one.
Are all the songs on American Middle Class autobiographical, because they tell stories of some pretty bleak times?
Yes… They’re either about me or folks who are close to me. I’ve lived or held someone’s hand who’s lived every second on it.
I’m particularly fond of Grocery Store and I have to ask, is there a particular significance with Tuesday nights?
Not really… We just wanted it to sound random and real and thought Tuesday was just as good a night as any.
Country music is an ever broadening genre these days, with the boundaries being stretched all the time. Your album, while sounding very fresh, has a traditional country sound. Was it a conscious decision to go in that direction or is that just naturally where your music lies?
Like I said earlier, I love the recording process. I had some trouble when I first got to Nashville because no one could figure out how to produce a demo on me. They were either too slick or too this or too that. So, I bought some gear and started recording myself. I would use iron skillets, cigarette lighters, and cowgirl boots as percussion instruments. I’d create weird guitar sounds and harmony parts. The first song I finished “demoing” was Ain’t No Man. When I turned it in to my publisher he looked at me like I had lost my mind. What he didn’t realize was that I had actually found my sound. The influences are all over the map from the Beatles to Bill Monroe.. That’s why I decided to produce American Middle Class with my husband. I had all these little maps to guide the way and he had the ability to reel me in if I got too far out.
How did you choose the musicians to work on your album, because they compliment great songwriting and singing perfectly?
I knew I wanted Fred Eltringham on drums because he “gets” me. He played on my record that wasn’t released and also on the Annie’s records. I also knew that I wanted Keith Gattis because his guitar playing knocks me out. He has better tone than any player I’ve heard. And, he has a style all his own that conveniently fits perfect with my style. My husband rallied the troops and hired Glen Worff, Audley Freed, Aden Bubeck, josh Grange, David Henry, and John Henry Trinko. The band was absolutely badass.
Although you’ve had previous success, both as a songwriter and as an artist, did you feel pressure with this being your first solo release?
Yes. There’s always pressure involved when you’ve decided to share part of your soul with the world. I wasn’t concerned as much with sales as I was with critic. I just really wanted people to like it. And they did 😉
Reviews have been superb for your a – how does that make you feel and is there a sense of relief when you see how well received it has been?
It feels amazing. And yes, it is a relief. It’s like giving birth. People laugh, but it is.
You are over here touring in July – why the UK?
I am SO excited. I feel like there’s a real acceptance of what I do in the UK. Not that there isn’t one here, but how great the response has been already in the UK with advance sales of tickets and press, not to mention projects like Gretchen Peters and Kacey Musgraves and Striking Matches, just proves that real music can be heard.
Will your approach to gigs in the UK be different to those that you put on back in America, and what can we expect from an Angaleena Presley show?
I feel really confident to come over there because of what I’ve heard from other artists. I’ll play several of the shows solo, and then I’ll have a band for the shows in London and Cambridge. I love both setups. I did my first 150-200 shows solo and love to tell stories, but I also love to get up and rock faces off with a band.
For three years Country To Country has been bringing some of Nashville’s biggest names to London in March – is this UK festival known widely amongst country music artists in America and is it something you’d like to be a part of?
YES AND YES!!! I started hearing about it last year and this year just missed the window I think. I truly hope to get on it next year, it’s such a great opportunity for country to come to town!
It’s been 5 months since the release of American Middle Class – is your mind on a second album yet or does that come much further down the line, and what’s next for you?
I had my second record’s songs in my head before I even recorded the first. “American Middle Class” was the first biographical look into my life up through the birth of my son and my divorce. I feel like the next record will probably deal with a lot of content that has happened since that point. I’m excited to make it.
Angaleena Presley Tour Dates:
25th July – Broadcast, Glasgow – Tickets
27th July – Night and Day, Manchester – Tickets
28th July – The Tunnels, Bristol – Tickets
29th July – The Bullington, Oxford – Tickets
30th July – The Borderline, London – Tickets
31st July – Cambridge Folk Festival – Tickets
I have tickets for the London show, but after hearing that Angaleena be doing some solo shows I’m going to have to book tickets to one of the earlier shows too, and as the 29th is my birthday, that seems ideal. I’ll be catching up with Angaleena while she’s over, to see what she’s been up to and to talk about how her UK tour is going.