Sara A. Lewis: Welcome everybody to Points South Live. I'm Sara A. Lewis, I'm the Executive Director of the Oxford American and host of the Points South podcast. So this next part may be redundant because if you are not familiar with the Oxford American, which it seems like many of you are, we are a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to exploring the complexity and vitality of the American South. So it makes perfect sense for us to partner with 21c who we're so grateful to work with to bring you tonight's program. 21c’s, like the OA, are committed to exploring exceptional art and the great tradition of Southern foodways. Tonight I'm thrilled to welcome three women who embody the best of what our region has to offer. In conversation with Alice Randall tonight, we have both Jodi Hays—yeah! And Margo Price! And before we segue into the music, I'd like to introduce Alice and Jodi. Our moderator for the evening, Alice Randall, is a national treasure. She's the author of The Wind Done Gone and Black Bottom Saints. Her cookbook co-written with her daughter, Soul Food Love, won the NAACP image award. She is a professor and writer in residence at Vanderbilt University. And co-writer of a number one song, “Xs and Os,” recorded by Trisha Yearwood. Yeah. Yeah. Alice is also a frequent contributor to the OA, serving as the guest editor of one of my personal favorites, our spring food issue. So I hope you'll head over to and pick up a copy because it is evergreen. It's a fantastic celebration of Southern food. And in conversation with Alice first is Jodi Hays, who is—yes. Yes. Jodi Hays is a painter, originally from Arkansas. She was brought into a large cadre of other Arkansans today though, since the OA is based in Arkansas. Her work has been shown at the Wiregrass Museum lab space, Fisk University, Curb Center at Vanderbilt University, and Boston Center for Arts, among others. She is the recipient of grants from Sustainable Arts Foundation, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. She lives and works right here in Nashville and her work can be seen right here at 21c as part of The Future is Female. Please help me welcome my guest and moderator, and I throw it to you Alice and Jodi.

Alice Randall: Thank you, Sara. Jodi, I'm thrilled to be with you here tonight in this space because the opening of Nashville's 21c in the 21st century marked the emergence of Nashville as a home for a growing number of genre-bending, highly innovative visual artists. Your presence, your studio, your work is a part of this transformation. When did you arrive in this city and what drew you to Nashville originally?

Jodi Hays: Thank you so much for moderating this and Sara, you're, I'm besotted with you already. So this is gonna be tough. Um, I moved here 17 years ago and what was appealing was, um, more affordable-ishness. More, a more affordable city. But also, um, it's got a really good placement on I-40, you know, that I can just like take a clip down to Arkansas where my family is and where my husband's family is in Jackson. So, um, we met in Knoxville, so Tennessee was a habit to us, but not Nashville. It was a whole other, whole other animal to, to live here and move here and kind of understand how it works.

AR: Well, it's no longer as affordable as it was 17 years ago.

JH: It's not. The “17 years ago” is a really important distinction.

AR: So what are some of the things that sustain you most about this city as a place for an artist to live and work and have a studio now?

JH: You know, it was a few years ago that I had a new year's resolution. This is before COVID. To, um, see as much live music as possible. I was in a pretty intense, darker place in my studio practice. And despite a really tight-knit visual art community, which so many, so many are here. It's hard. It's really hard when people are speaking a different, kind of adjacent language of music and you're making something else. In order to kind of like garner some love again for the city and for what I did, I thought, you know, I'm just gonna go to everything I can. I also had three children at the time under the age of five. So it was no short order. Um, but that is, it's to walk down to The Five Spot, I can walk from my house and see someone just giving it their all and making something out of nothing. There's a creative bed here in this city that's been laid for no matter what your medium is. Like, there's a, a filter of people that are, that are kind of giving it everything and making things. So it's very rewarding. I have a studio in my backyard too, in my garage. So as unfancy as that is, um, there are so many artists doing the same thing, visual artists here. So you can kind of just have a 20 step commute and you're there. You can arrive at your work that you have to do.

AR: I heard that you have had pieces at Fisk, and you mentioned that, you know, that from the 19th century forward, there's been such a strong music practice, from the Fisk Jubilee Singers and all the country music in Nashville, Jimi Hendrix, but also from the literary arts. Uh, so Dubois finished Souls of Black Folk here. There's a 19th and 20th and 21st century, but I'm thrilled about this emergence. And I see a lot of the people, it's the 21st century that I think that we see Nashville emerging as a significant visual arts culture. And that is a thrilling addition to all of us who've lost other parts of the city, this great gain. And thank you. Let's applaud all of you out there who are part of that. The Italian art critic, um, Germano Celant introduced the phrase “arte povera” in 1967, a time of a lot of economic difficulties and political difficulties in Italy, to celebrate art being created without the usual materials. It was understood at the time, those materials at the time were understood to be oil paint on canvas, bronze, and carved marble. This arte povera movement privileged rather detritus—found objects, building supplies. For me, your work, and you have stated you practice a kind of Southern povera, stands in exciting contrast and conversation with the work of Alan LeQuire, who's given us two iconic classical statues, Athena in the Parthenon, and Musica at the Music Row roundabout, which are quite literally celebrations encarved in painted marble and bronze. Your work announces Nashville as a location of radical innovation, and it announces Nashville as a place art will not require benefactors to be created. It will liberate itself from mediums that tie it to great expense and require literal or figurative Medicis. Who are some of the other artists in your Nashville art community, making interesting use of innovative and accessible materials? And why is it so important to you to live that accessibility and put in conversation with those old Medici-requiring art effects?

JH: Thank you. It was so kind. For me, I, it was a slow drip to arrive at this kind of materiality in my making. I, um, didn't come from an art world. I came from a super rural place. I don't come from rubes, but there were no museums to go to in our spare time. So when I got to art school, it was important to me to learn everything I could about the history that everyone else was talking about and parroting. So I did that for a good 15 years of my practice, understood modernist painting and, um, figuration and abstraction. So this introduction of a new material, of these humility of materials, was somewhat new. And it became once I discovered quote unquote, um, the way that dye finds itself through the rivulets of cardboard, it became a grid that made sense to me, it became a grid that was at once made by me, but also removed. It commented on European painting, but it was so down home, it, it felt like a self portrait. And I, in art school, when I was learning all these things, it did frustrate me that, um, I couldn't have accessed the materials that I had to go get for art. You know, there wasn't oil paints. There was, I called them "oll paints" back then, but I've amended my accent, unfortunately, cuz New Yorkers really didn't like it. You know, there were all these kind of hierarchies with materials even in art school, but it, it took me 15 years to kind of jettison those. And it is a political, um, way of thinking about the world. I mean, I think everything we do personally is political. But to champion a material or something that's cast off or also I think to further that material and to trick the establishment into thinking and knowing that the work is also high work, too. So I think the high and low is what I'm really interested in. and not tricking as a mean joke, but, you know. Um, yeah.

AR: I think you're troubling important lines. That when you include a page from a telephone book you're making us think about the woman who might have used that telephone book and the art of her life. You're troubling the line between artists. At the same time, you are, uh, creating nuanced, complicated, formal work.

JH: There weren't a whole lot of, um, Italian arte povera artists who were women. There were a few. But to bring it back to LeQuire's iconic, um, nude sculptures of women. Um, and they're stunning, but to think about materials as gendered, as well, these are just as gendered as an Alan LeQuire I would, I would think, even if it's not a bright pink kind of suggestion. Um, but yeah, to champion those, um, the labor, the often invisible labor that goes on, um, not just in homes, but in studios and in workplaces. Yeah.

AR: You were born in Arkansas in the bicentennial year. Um, from the 19th century forward, Nashville has been known as a homeplace of groundbreaking music creatives, and literary creatives, as we talked about. Is there a Nashville-based music artist present or past that you listen to while you are creating?

JH: I have to admit that I enjoy complete silence. This is not popular in this town. I listen to all my friends all the time, but in the studio, I'm, it's quiet. I have three children. Did I mention that? And I like any chance I can get for things to be quiet.

AR: Love that. Well, let us amplify this conversation by, um, inviting an extraordinary songwriter and singer to join us. And so I am going to introduce to you Margo Price. I'm so glad to see you in person. Midwest Farmer's Daughter, All American Made, That's How Rumors Get Started. And now the memoir. I teach country lyric and American culture and I've spent a lot of time, 40 years, listening to the country canon. And it's clear listening to your recorded catalog, Margo, I have never been able to say these words to anyone. You have earned the right to be compared to four of the greats: Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Gram Parsons. Like Lynn, Parton, Haggard, and Parsons, your songs shock with insight and your voice shocks with beauty. From the Midwest, you remind us that country does not belong to the South. It belongs everywhere and anywhere the British Isles and Africa collide in the environs of evangelical Christianity. Your work brings to mind Springsteen's Nebraska while underscoring why he isn't a country artist. He's missing the requisite evangelical vibe, even if it's only in an angelic voice. And you also remind me of Shakespeare's Coriolanus. You like Springsteen and Shakespeare, and this is I believe true. We must honor this art for its true worth. Your work captures moments that are all kinds of raggedy and many kinds of wrong, but eclipsingly right because a human being transformed the hard into art. Miss Margo Price. So give us a little taste of all that you did turning the hard into art.

Margo Price: This is a song from an unreleased album that I wrote and it's kind of a character study. There are pieces of it, of myself that are in here, but, um, it all is kind of what goes through a woman's head. Um, during the moment she's gotta make a very difficult decision. This is called “Lydia.” [“Lydia”]

AR: Stunningly powerful, important song. Both of you are bringing things into the center of the conversation that have been put out to the sides and have not been addressed. And that's a song that's gonna save some lives. So sticking with where you are there. And I've had one of the good fortunes to be one of the people who's had a chance to read your extraordinary memoir. Swiss dot curtains. Meth you thought was cocaine. 17 red tailed hawks. A roll top desk. You capture the grit and grace of a profoundly curious, creative, and courageous human. You have a way with objects and you use them to evoke interior psychological spaces. What are some of the objects that have made their way into your songs most significantly? And what are some of the objects that have made their way into your songs most recently?

MP: I think I'm always kind of writing about nature. I think, uh, recently, you know, during the pandemic, um, I have tried to find time to go out and hike every day and to just take a moment outside because I think that, you know, as we're all looking at life through our screens and like I just, the more time I spend on my screen, the more time I need off of my screen. It makes me feel very poisonous after a while. So, um, definitely I think nature is, is one thing that kind of keeps resurfacing, um, and, and the country and rural areas, rural people, rural vignettes.

AR: Well, that is a perfect segue to the next question. And then I will be bringing the two of you into conversation, but that was a question about objects in honor of all the amazing objects that you use, a question of the aesthetic of Jodi and Margo. So it's a dual love letter. I'm interested in, um, unexpected alliances. Margaret Winkle and I actually taught a course, 20 some years ago, to young women about writing their autobiographies through recipes. So we are unexpected. You've been an unexpected ally of mine, supporting Laverne Baker, the second woman to go into the rock and roll hall of fame. Margo at the height of winning all these awards—

MP: It was an honor. Thank you for thinking of me.

AR: Reading your autobiography, one of the stories that interested me the most was your relationship with your favorite park ranger. Can you share that story as a little taste of the unexpected alliances? I know you've been an unexpected ally and you've had some unexpected allies.

MP: Yeah, for sure. Um, well I think one of the really beautiful things about Nashville is just finding that community and I've been so lucky to kind of be able to pay it forward to, um, friends, like, uh, Brittany Howard stayed in my house before she made it. And, um, and then later after she made it, she ended up singing on my record, a record that never did anything at all, but a Buffalo Clover album that was lost. Yeah, one of the people that I talk about in my book is a park ranger who was a Vietnam veteran. And he lived out at the Percy Priest area out there. And I went out there to smoke a joint with my cousin and jump off some cliffs one evening and he came to reprimand us. And then we became really great friends. And this man was in his sixties. Um, he was, we saw, we didn't see things quite eye to eye all the time because he was older. He was, you know, he had different views than me, but, um, he allowed me to stay out there, camp on his property when I was homeless. Um, I brought him a dog that he ended up keeping and naming and, and I came out there to visit him many times. My husband, Jeremy, met him multiple times. And, um, he confided in me that he had cancer from agent orange. And, um, it was just really sad to, you know, see someone who had served for our country and just was living in a, in a trailer and, uh, not getting good care at the end of his life. And we went back one time to visit him and he was just gone, I never gotta say goodbye to him.

AR: But you gave him so many great afternoons and some good pot.

MP: Yeah. I bring him this, the good weed and uh, yeah, we became really great friends and, um, I was devastated. I did not get to say goodbye to him, but, um, a really good friend of mine.

AR: This is a great memoir. I know Jodi, what are some of your experiences with unexpected allies and who have you been an unexpected ally to?

JH: I think it comes from being the youngest of three and kind of just a little bit feral, but I honestly, um, am surprised when I, whenever I have an ally. And that's also, that's also not to, um, understate that I have an incredibly supportive, like, community and family and had a great childhood, but I still am kind of surprised when people are fans of the work or they know about it. Or, um, you know, I, I transferred in college, so like, my professors are amazing, but just kind of, I, you know, I didn't have a whole lot of time with them. So I think I am still surprised when, that anyone is an ally. And so grateful, like, kind of earnest and not cool grateful is my stance .

AR: So who do you like to choose? Who do you, who do you offer allyship to?

JH: Oh man, if someone has never been to a museum, if a young student is like, “I have zero money,” um, I am going to hustle for them and give them like everything I worked hard to, to learn about a system. Like here's where people, here's where people go to school. Like here's the grants that you, you can't get yet, but maybe later. I mean, I'm an open book. I will tell anybody anything to help 'em out. Yeah.

AR: I love that. And I know what you mean when you say, I remember when I, my first trip to Nashville, I had a man who was at that time running Acuff Rose, put his feet up on his desk, shake his head and say, “You need to just go back to wherever it is you came from.”

JH: Mm.

AR: And then he said, “You may be at such a low stage of development. I'm not exposed to people like you.” And then he wrote me this wonderful letter. And it said, “I showed it to two young writers in our company. And they said you had no talent whatsoever.” See, to me, that was an unexpected ally. It made me determined to do it.

JH: Yeah.

MP: Yeah.

AR: And it some know that you get, you find those allies when you can. You talk about arte povera and I've written about trying to keep the balance up between love and money. You talk about the resourceful labor of women. You talk about $57 from broke. All three of us create work that gives witness to the economic hardship that is gender-amplified. What is one practical thing the world or the city could do to make creating while female easier?

JH: How about three each?

MP: You start.

AR: Yeah. Cuz I like that you got that one.

JH: Um, affordable childcare.

AR: Woo.

MP: I second that.

AR: That's the first one.

JH: Do not have meetings at work when you don't need to. Like just, um, have events during the day when possibly someone does have childcare. Maybe have a lunch event. Maybe don't start. I'm gonna get in trouble because I'm not a musician. Maybe don't start at 9:00 p.m., cuz you've got sitters and stuff. Um, so that was my three. Could keep going.

MP: That's really good. I mean.

AR: Affordable childcare was gonna be my number one

MP: Affordable, I would say affordable childcare. I mean, without a doubt. That's um, one of the things that we struggle with, I mean, especially since the pandemic, I have no babysitters. My mother helps me all the time or we would just be totally screwed. Um, yeah, I think, you know, just also supporting other women, supporting other women who are coming up and we are kind of taught this scarcity. And I think as I am approaching 40, I am kind of finally learning that, you know, it doesn't have to be this, like “there's only room for one girl” kind of bullshit. It's um, yeah. Support, support women.

AR: And we know that particularly artistic groups, we talked about the Harlem Renaissance. There was, you know, Fitzgerald, Hemingway were quote unquote competing, but they also supported each other and shared editors and agents. Artists do rise in groups and I think we have to open the doors and work together. And I think I love, um, I don't know, Allison Russell has been a great champion for that.

MP: Oh my goodness, amazing.

AR: One of the, you know, great girl team people. And um, I love this, that we are doing this together cuz also to be allies across art forms. I think one thing that women need to do while standing up for our political rights and our payment rights and just decent conditions in the, um, and that includes not being sexually harassed in our workplaces. Which, actually, more non-in-person meetings helps with that. That we have so much. But we should also have the freedom to be in our spaces and be exactly who we are and be respected. I think another important part is shifting the conversation. That song that you sang, that's looking at audience and what is the subject of, of all art and making the audience and empowering the diverse audience to stand up for what it wants to hear and see, not just what it's always being given. By privileging the audience, we often empower women and non-gender binary voices.

JH: Amen.

AR: By privileging the audience, we do so much good work. Um, in a moment we're going to get right back to a little bit more music. But I wanna say this, ask you both two, my hard questions. One hard question for you. One hard question for you. Margo you've turned the city into a text that you use to instruct yourself in the art of songwriting. This was not something that just came down to you. You worked hours and arduously and in the construction of what we've been calling this beauty out of hard days and harder nights. A thing that interests me about you is your extraordinary ability to instruct yourself. You taught yourself the guitar. You taught yourself to write songs, locking yourself into rooms, and not particularly nice rooms, for days. And you did it with what I would call a wild and radical discipline. I was gonna ask you what advice you would give a person trying to summon their own radical discipline to write. But I realized before I got here, I wanted to ask you, what advice would you give a person to summon their own radical discipline to live?

MP: Mm, to live.

AR: You are as profoundly an artist of life.

MP: Thank you.

AR: And formed as you are an artist of songs. You, where does that radical? What, what can you say?

MP: Um, well, I think finding strength in vulnerability and also being able to transform your crisises into your strengths. And you know, uh, I think this is a, I'm trying to remember who said this, but before transformation often comes crisis and everybody's going to encounter hard things in their life. And you know, it sounds very cliche to just be like, it's what you do with that, that builds your character. But um, you know, there's many times where I just wanted to leave Nashville because it just wasn't working for us. And we did, we would sell all of our things and we would leave and then we would come back and it was like, I just could not let this city kick my ass. And you know, even during the pandemic, when I found myself here, way more than I wanted to be and you know, just how I was looking at, um, just how the South, you know, has, has been handling things. And it's, it's been very frustrating. And at times like I have, I have really wanted to leave, but I think ultimately, um, being in the South for all of my adult life and staying through those hard times, um, gave me all the tools that I, that I needed.

AR: You applied your discipline to things that mattered to you, not to what other people thought mattered. You allowed yourself to mess up on some strange jobs, mess up this, mess up that. But when it came to songwriting, when it came to taking care of the child that you have, when it came to this relationship you wanted, you were just radically disciplined.

MP: Yeah. I mean, I made huge mistakes. I made huge mistakes in our marriage. I made huge mistakes after losing a child. And you know, I have struggled with all sorts of substance abuse. And I know that putting a lot of that into this book, even when one chapter was released, I had all these people kind of hating on me online saying, “You're a terrible mother. You're a terrible person. You're all, you know, you're this and that.” And really what it comes down to is what I have learned from myself and how I have learned to keep going. And, you know, having, having, um, strength and confidence, isn't walking in the room and saying, “Oh, these people are gonna like me.” It’s walking in the room and saying, “I don't care if they like me or not. I am proud of myself.”

AR: Jodi, one of the things we started up by talking about Nashville and this podcast is centered on Nashville. But one of the things that really interested me about your work was one empowering your audiences. That I think that your, to encounter and engage your work is to actually have almost a therapeutic intervention of putting you as audience into some artistic space, as well as putting you as audience into awe of the formal things that you are able to do with informal media. But I'm also amazed by looking at the body of your work that you are local, but you manage to truly have a national and global identity. There's a quality of abstraction that I think allows your work to travel around the world to have impact. And I noticed that when I looked online, there are people all over this country interested in your work. And there are people I think, growing numbers all over the globe that are interested in your work.

JH: Please give me their numbers.

AR: But how, is that something you consciously see? But you do seem to manage to have both a local and global—

JH: I am stunned. Thank you. I do think that what is tricky about being a Southerner or being from someplace rural, what's tricky is that your, your work can be seen in only, through only one lens. So maybe only through the lens of quilt making or, um, you know, kind of Ellie Mae Clampett like cliche. I think the trick of making and, and gaining those eyes that are, um, elsewhere are, are working, like, knowing your history, and, um, understanding that the work can transcend the space where you're from, but also bring that in. Um, I know Margo likes, uh, The Wizard of Oz or at least it was one of the first things.

MP: Mm-hm.

JH: Um, I'm a little older than you, but I did grow up also seeing it come on, like TNN once a year and then like recording it. But Dorothy had her friends around her, like that's how she got there. Um, and if you think about, like, materials as home or, or language as home as in a book or something, um, I think James Baldwin said you, uh, “Home isn't a place, but it's an irrevocable condition.” So I think what people are tracking with probably Margo is, I am not a music critic, work and then other people—

MP: Thank God.

JH: —here. No, I would be so good. Um, there, I think people track with, um, something they can relate to that feels like home and it's, it's a condition. It's not a pin on a map. It's not, um, it's not even necessarily a building or it's, it's the, the feeling of people around you or, yeah. So I, I think that there's a way for materials to become political and I hope that that comes through in the work.

AR: I think sometimes, you know, I had a crazy mother and not a happy home. I found home and shelter in songs that I didn't, it wasn't something familiar. It was something, um, at times astoundingly new in the structures of the beauty. I want to make a sort of, not a pre-concluding remark that this is a dangerous world. Your work acknowledges that, your work acknowledges that. You both write outside the fairytale, you paint outside the fairytale. We each create what I experience as a new kind of mythology in which women find the liberation space to investigate and take risk and be beautiful as an aspect of self delight and encounter beauty that is a far cry from pretty. To create art that walks the interior distance from anywhere but here to no place I would rather be. There is no place I would rather be tonight than with the two of you in this space. So Margo, will you give us a little bit more of that hard turned into beauty?

MP: Sure. I'm actually gonna invite my husband to come up and play with me.

AR: Absolutely.

MP: Okay. So this is, um, actually a song that, um, it's called “Every Time I Hear A Motorcycle” and, uh, it's an unreleased song. [“Every Time I Hear A Motorcycle”]

AR: Margo Price. Jodi Hays. Everybody order her memoir, everybody pick your favorite big Nashville company like Asurion, Oracle, and tell them to buy a piece for their building. So we are at the end of our evening and I want to invite Sara Lewis to the stage. Sara is the founder of the evening's world feast, which has been like all things Oxford American: thought provoking, Southern and fun. I hope.

SAL: Well, thank y'all so much for joining us tonight and I just wanna get another round of applause for the room, for the tape, for these three women. Fantastic. Awesome. And I have to point out that you can read part of Margo's memoir and the next issue of the Oxford American. So also thank you to 21c for hosting this event and creating a space, creating a space for conversations like these to happen. I have to put my Executive Director hat on and talk about Oxford American being a non-profit for a second. We are able to freely present events to the public like this, thanks to the generosity of folks like 21c and, and folks like you. And if you can, head to and give, we would greatly appreciate it.

SAL [VO]: This event was produced with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and 21c Nashville Museum and Hotel. The episode was produced by me, Christian Brown, and Christian Leus. Special thanks to Jodi Hays, Alice Randall, Margo Price, and Danielle Jackson. You can keep events like these free by making a contribution at