When promoting her first album three years ago, Angaleena Presley frequently fielded questions about what it's like to be a woman in the country music mainstream.
And she would lie.
“I was afraid to say how I was really feeling and how it really was,” Presley said during a phone interview ahead of her show Friday at Daytrotter . “The truth is women are being squeezed out of country music today.”
Sometime between her first album and the making of her second, “Wrangled,” which came out on Friday, she had a “wake up call.”
“I decided it's time it gets talked about,” Presley said. “There are so many women making amazing country music, and yet they somehow aren’t getting played on the radio.”
That's not the country radio Presley remembers listening to while growing up in Beauty, Kentucky, where her childhood revolved around camping, fishing and riding dirt bikes. She also paced around her house after school, waiting for her father, a coal miner, to get home safely.
“There were parts that were really wonderful about growing up there, and then there was this really dark component,” Presley, 40, said. “You know, the good and bad ... that's kind of my style.”
The Nashville based singer-songwriter got a glimpse at how the industry works in 2011 when she joined Pistol Annies, a trio with Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe.
As she started to build her solo career and pay her dues, she was met with reactions such as: “We really like your style, but we don't have anywhere to put you because you're a woman,” or “Sorry, we already have two girls on the label” or “All they're playing is bro-country.”
In response, she decided not to pitch “Wrangled” to country radio. Instead, in her songs, during interviews and on stage, she would tell it like it is.
“I think everyone is afraid of it; country radio is like this godlike entity,” Presley said. “You don't speak out against it because there's this spark of hope that somehow, some way, they’ll play your songs. The moment you speak out against it, there's no chance. I figured there's no chance for me anyway, so I might as well be truthful, whether it was my songs or what's coming out of my mouth."
Presley wrote all of the 12 songs on “Wrangled” and collaborated with Lambert and Monroe as well as Chris Stapleton, Wanda Jackson and Guy Clark.
“This is my Hail Mary,” she said. “I wanted to take every risk and every chance because I'm not getting any younger.”
“Country,” the first song she wrote on the album, is a rap-filled satire on “bro-country” tunes on the radio. “Mama I Tried” is a twist on Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.” And then there's the title track, which Presley penned about a lone woman living on a ranch with a bunch of cowboys.
“She's tired of it, and yet she feels like she belongs there,” Presley said. “Lord knows, there's a lot of women feeling that way.”
Presley didn't set out to make a purely feminist or politically charged album.
“I wanted to create an album you could listen to over and over again,” she said. “I wanted it to be timeless. I want it to be something that in 2040, a 20-something will find the album and it'll be her new favorite thing.”
Maybe, by then, she won't have to explain the reasoning behind "Wrangled."
"I'm not against any type of music," she said. "I just want there to be balance."
But for now, she'll keep telling the truth.
“It's me coming to terms with being OK with where I am,” she said. “I went to all of the right parties, shook the hands, showed up to the meetings and wrote amazing songs, but I'm still kind of an outlier. And there ain't nothing wrong with that."