Just about 500 miles southwest of New York City, on the border of West Virginia, is the tiny town of Beauty, Kentucky. Beauty is the birthplace of singer-songwriter Angaleena Presley, who was in New York this week to tape a performance on the Late Show With David Letterman.
Presley, who came to country-music prominence as one-third of Pistol Annies, with Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe, will sing the title track of her upcoming solo album, American Middle Class on Friday’s Late Show on CBS. Like fellow Kentuckian Loretta Lynn, Presley was also born a coal miner’s daughter, and although her upbringing wasn’t nearly as poverty-stricken, it still meant putting on a brave face and adopting what she calls a “fake-it-’til-you-make-it” mentality.
“It was, ‘OK, we beat poverty, but we’re still right beside it,” Presley says. “We’ve got one foot out and, by God, we’re not going back. My mom used to take a razor blade… go to the dollar store and get me a pair of white shoes and hot glue a Keds sign to the back of my shoes so that people thought I was all hoity-toity with my Keds. The poverty monster was just right outside our door and that was just one of those things that she would do to keep it at bay.”
Another way Presley says her mother helped her keep the poverty monster at bay was by encouraging her to graduate from college, where she eventually majored in psychology.
“The reason I chose psychology was because it had 48 hours of free electives, which meant 48 hours of whatever I wanted to pick,” Presley tells Rolling Stone Country. “I picked things like creative writing, women’s studies, floral design, bowling, basket-weaving. But it worked out to my advantage because I felt like I got this really well-rounded liberal arts education. A lot of it has come in handy in the music business and the psychology comes in handy all the time. Because, let’s face it, a lot of this business is knowing how to manipulate situations and knowing when you’re being manipulated.”
Angaleena Presley’s American Middle Class features her dad, coal miner Jimmy Presley, on the title track, as well as another Kentucky coal miner’s daughter, Patty Loveless. The album will be released October 14th on Slate Creek Records. Come back next week for more of our exclusive interview with the singer, who opens up about songwriting, young motherhood and those crazy Pistol Annies rumors.