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Singer Angaleena Presley Brings Her Truth to Nashville

  • David Byrd

Musician Angaleena Presley

Angaleena Presley is best known – in her own words – as the big brown-haired girl in the middle of the trio, The Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe.

But that’s only to people who haven’t paid attention.

WATCH: Angaleena Presley Talks Music, Nashville, & Being a Single Mom

Presley – a Kentucky-born, Scots-Irish descendant of the McCoy family of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s feud – takes on the Nashville establishment and so-called bro country in her new CD Wrangled.

Making people feel something

A statuesque brunette with take-no-prisoners brown eyes, Presley says her music brings her childhood influences to the modern world, warts and all.

“Yeah, I mean my mama would sing me lullabies about little girls getting eaten up by snakes,” Presley said. “And unrequited love where there’s a girl from a poor shanty town and the boy is from a proper, rich town and she kills herself. So he kills himself to go and join her in heaven where they can live forever,” the singer said.

Angaleena says her songs are meant to make audiences to feel something, and if they hurt, it’s one of the first steps to empathy and healing.

“I mean when you write a song, and you use a melody a certain way, and you can get the words just right, and you can cause someone to feel pain, or feel joy, or feel angst, or anger, that teaches empathy,” Presley said. “And I think empathy leads to evolution,” she added.

Taking on Nashville

Not everyone wants to evolve – as Angaleena has found as she tries to get her music played on modern country radio. She’s been told they’re good songs, they just don’t fit the mold – so many beats per minute, certain subjects off limits – red dirt roads, pickup trucks, cold beer, and girls anatomy described as a ‘sugar shaker’.

But Presley says her goal is to counter that model, to reach audiences with a different message.

“But little boys and girls who are in their daddies’ garages, you know watching him work on his four wheeler, they’re hearing dudes sing about girls shaking their stuff,” Presley said. “So in my opinion, if you’re going to use our stuff to sell your product, then we at least should have a voice, and those little boys and girls should be hearing other things.”

Outlaw or truth teller?

Angaleena Presley doesn’t classify herself as an “outlaw Country” singer – even if other people do. Her current tour doesn’t even have a band behind her – just Angaleena and her guitar. It's a very intimate, revealing experience where she chats with the audience as she tunes her guitar - known as "Little Martin." When the instrument refuses to stay in tune, she says 'y'all pray for him.' She's only half joking. Presley even misses a chord or two every now and then, but smiles, and keeps playing.

But her life comes at a cost – a single mom, Presley has to leave her 10-year-old son at home when he’s in school and she’s on tour.

“It’s a battle every time I have to come out and he can’t come,” Presley said. “You know, like it’s been Little League season, and I’ve had to miss a bunch of his baseball games. But luckily a lot of them got rained out just cross my fingers ‘please let it get rained out!’” she said with a laugh.

“But it’s just a decision you have to make and he can either have a Mommy who’s sitting at home depressed and stifled, or a Mommy who’s there half the time but happy and fulfilled and putting a roof over his head,” she added.

Angaleena Presley is currently on the northern leg of her U.S. tour – playing a different town every night. She will play the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville with one of her heroes - and co-authors – rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson in June and then heads to the UK in July.

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