The Illinois native dropped out of college in Chicago to move to Nashville, where she totaled her car during her first week in her new city and bounced between numerous odd jobs. “I couldn’t keep a job,” Price, 34, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I have a cousin who lives there and she would always hook me up with some job at a hotel or at the mall or whatever, and I was a terrible employee. It was a tough start.”
The singer-songwriter ended up holding down a gig waiting tables at a restaurant called the Flying Saucer. “I made a good amount of money, but all the girls had to wear Catholic schoolgirl outfits,” she recalls. “It was kind of degrading.”
One bright spot during her rocky transition: Price met her now-husband, musician Jeremy Ivey, shortly after arriving in Nashville. They started a band and went on tour together, and things started to look up even more when Price got pregnant. “I didn’t think we could have kids, so that was a surprise,” she says.
But the elation didn’t last long. Two weeks after her twin boys Ezra and Judah were born in 2010, Ezra died due to a heart ailment. “That was a whole ‘nother period of depression after losing the baby,” Price admits.
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She turned to drinking, with one night of heavy imbibing landing Price in Davidson County jail for three days. “When you lose a child you cope differently,” she says, praising Ivey with providing stability during tumultuous times. “I think it’s amazing that our marriage lasted after that because the statistics are not in our favor. But he’s been there right beside me.”
Price also credits her husband with jumpstarting her career. “He is the one who really broke my career by selling the car, saying we’re going to go to the studio and making this record,” she explains. “He played on it and just believed in me. I really have him to thank.”
Read more about Margo Price’s harrowing journey in the latest issue of PEOPLE.
Breaking big has afforded Price the opportunity to collaborate with her idols. “It’s been really surreal to meet people like Kris Kristofferson and Lou Harris,” she says. “Being able to sing with folks like that has really been the highlight for me because they’re all my heroes. It’s better than winning awards.”