Grammy nominated Ashley McBryde is fast becoming one of the UK’s favourite country artists. With a cameo role in the upcoming movie Wild Rose starring Jessie Buckley and Julie Walters, a UK & Ireland tour announced for September & October 2019, which will be her biggest solo headline shows here so far, Caroline Gulla & Kate Willis got to catch Ashley before her headline appearance at London’s Country to Country Festival this year for a chat.
Caroline: Lovely to see you Ashley and its fantastic to see you back at C2C Festival this year.
Ashley: Nice to see you too and it’s good to be back!
C: We saw you last year bring the Indigo down…
A: Yeah, it was my first performance ever..
C: You were absolutely incredible and full of emotion…
C: How did that performance feel?
A: I didn’t expect to walk into a room with 1800 people that all knew my music already. It’s like thinking you’re the new kid in school and then getting there and you are everybody’s favourite person to talk to you know, that was just that – the warmth and the acceptance was overwhelming.
C: How does it feel to be playing on the Main Stage in the Arena this year?
A: To go from playing the Spotlight stage straight to the main stage, it’s a compliment to be able to come back – after the first time you’ve played anyway – so even if you’re doing small rooms, now to come back and do the main stage it’s just crazy. Plus, I mean, it’s us and Drake and Lyle Lovett and Chris Stapleton, it’s a really good bill to be on.
Kate: There’s always a stand-out star at C2C, somebody we don’t know much about, and right from that Friday you were the one everyone talked about.
A: Thank you! It sure felt that way..
K: I’m a big Eric Church fan so I first heard about you when he brought you on stage at Red Rocks to sing A Bible and a .44…
A: It’s really taken off from there and its mutual, the fans over here falling in love with our music and us falling in love with them.
C: So, you had the biggest selling debut album by any female country artist in 2018?
A: By ANY debut artist in 2018! (looks pleased as punch!)
C: I read a lot of articles from US female music journalists talking about the male domination that seems to be recurring in the American Country Radio Charts. Do you feel this has affected you in any way?
A: When I first started doing radio tours and everything, I thought surely, it’s not that bad, surely this is some sort of exaggeration? It’s NOT. I’m not sure what the trouble is, I’m not sure why it has to be that way. In the 90’s there were as many women artists as there were male artists and they all seemed to get along well and they all got radio play, otherwise, I wouldn’t have heard them. So I’m really not sure what happened and what the problem was, but it seems like the pendulum is starting to swing back in the other direction. I think it’s a really good time to be a chick.
K: I assumed it was just a youth thing – young boys singing about what young boys sing about! Then I read recently that the main age bracket that listen to country radio (apparently) is 25 – 44, so it’s not that age range at all, so I was really surprised! If you listen to the radio music it all sounds the same, a good one here and there but…
A: Yes, it’s pretty much the same. Same thing, same picture different frame…
K: She was standing there in her cut-off jeans….
C: Oh, the best tonic for me was the Maddie & Tae video….
A: The Girl in the Country Song video!
C: Kind of sums it all up nicely…
A: I LOVE those girls! They’re great.
C: Talking of great artists, is there anyone on your bucket list that you need to write or collaborate with?
A: Ray Wylie Hubbard is on my bucket list to write with. I’ve had the pleasure of writing with Matraca Berg in the last few months and Lori McKenna is on my calendar and I’m freakin’ out because I’m not cool enough yet to write with Lori (lots of tuts from us and choirs of ‘ooh you really are!’), but I feel like we’re really going to get along like a house fire I think! I got to write with Miranda not too long ago and that worked really well too. The second record is mostly the writers I’ve always written with but with these other ones added in, and if I can sneak in – if I can just get a hold of Ray Wylie Hubbard. I just think that would be amazing…
C: Talking about new music, when can we expect to hear new material from you?
A: We go in and start recording in May so…
K: Ooh, so when you come back in September…
A: I doubt the record will be out by then but definitely the live show will be made of a pretty nice mix.
C: Talking about just YOU Ashley, what do you do to relax when you’re not making music?
A: I haven’t relaxed in about 10 years! (much laughter!!) I am an outdoor person, so I like to kayak and ride four-wheelers and stuff. I like to….do you call it whittling here? Where you take a stick and scrape the bark off it with a knife? I have a porch and so I feel like it’s my duty to whittle! I grew up with my grandpa who always whittled. If you ever walked up my driveway you may find me on the porch with a lapful of sawdust just from, you know, scraping away…I’m not good at it, but I can scrape stuff off a stick! (laughter again).
C: Is there a song that you wished you’d written?
A: Ah, Hold my Hand by Brandy Clark. Absolutely. When I heard it for the very first time when she says “reach out with your fingers and get them tangled up in mine”, I was like damn gummit! How did I never think to…it’s just so brilliantly written. Yeah.
C: I’ve got some silly questions for you now…I think people like to hear them!
A: I LOVE silly questions! YESSS (very enthusiastically!)
C: Your house is burning down, you already have your guitar out – what else would you grab?
A: (no hesitation) My ball cap!
C & K: Really? Is that it? Any particular one?
A: So, I was in college and I met a guy who had a 1972 Chevy Truck, and it was in disrepair of course, though it sounded pretty good but it was kind of a dirty, nasty truck that he was going to fix up. After class, I got in this truck with him and I looked down and there’s this disgusting piece of cloth. So, I reach down and grab it to see what it is and it’s a ball cap. I think it used to be khaki coloured but it’s just various shades of mud and khaki now, and I shook it out and I said, “who’s hat is this?” and he says that it was in it when he bought the truck. I put it on my head and I’ve still got it! The bill is barely hanging onto the ball cap, but at this point it’s worth risking your life to make sure that disgusting piece of cloth survives a house fire! So, I’ll be fine with my guitar and this disgusting smelly ball cap!!
C: If you were a superhero, who would you be and why?
A: My favourite superhero growing up was Rogue. I loved her because she was funny, she was from the south and she was incredibly dangerous if you got too close and it was something that a teenage girl can identify with. Then I was 24 years old when my hair turned out it’s grey on most of one side, so I was like yeah, Rogue is definitely my favourite.
C: So, it seems like most of the celebrity country singers are opening their own bars in Nashville…and obviously you are going to want to do the same…(eyeroll)
A: They are! And of course….
C: What would you call yours?
A: (not a minute’s hesitation) The Southern Babylon.
C: You sound like you’ve thought about this!
A: Maybe not in Nashville but around the area.
C: What would your signature drink be?
A: I’ve discussed this with…I’ve got a friend who we like to drink together, but there’s a way to trap smoke if you were to burn a piece of Applewood. And so I’m not sure what we would call it, but it would definitely only be served in The Southern Babylon. It would be a Bourbon-based drink of course, because I’m big Bourbon fan, nothing too sweet and nothing too dry, but to be able to take smoke and pour it in a glass and serve it – that’s just COOL. Yeah..
C: Who are you listening to at the moment?
A: Well this week has been Cardi B and Ray Wylie Hubbard. What was the last thing I downloaded? Oh, I still haven’t stopped listening to the Brothers Osborne Port St Joe record. We fly a lot and we’re on a bus a lot and there are times when you’re like, I really don’t know what I want to listen to today you can always, when you’re scrolling through your iTunes, you come across the cover of Port St Joe – I click it. That and the Desperate Man record!
K: I going to see Eric Church this May when I fly over to Nashville. I’m hoping he’ll bring some special guests on (wink, wink!).
A: That’s going to be awesome! When is that show?
K: 24th May, I think.
A: Ok, I’m home!! Speaking of Ray Wylie Hubbard, he was a co-writer on Desperate Man.
C: You’re playing CMA Fest this year too aren’t you?
A: (excitedly) Yeah, I just I just found out when my hair and make-up pal out here sent me the poster! I was like oh (nonchantly) looks like we’re playing River Stage! Haha! We’re doing River Stage and the Chevy Breakout Stage. I’m also going to be in the stadium for one song with Brooks and Dunn from the Reboot record.
C: Tons of people from the UK are flocking to Nashville to hear live music. Where would you send them to hear real country music, so real Nashville, not Trashville!
A: I really like Trashville! If you ever use that for something that’s really brilliant! Everyone always insists on going down Broadway and you should, it’s one of the staples of Nashville – once you’ve done it you never have to do it again!! But if you’re gunna go down Broadway go to Robert’s, that’s where traditional country and rockabilly meet, that’s all you’re going to hear there – they don’t put up with anything else. Then if you leave Broadway you should go to midtown, there are two bars next to each other – Winners & Losers. Just go in Losers, they’re owned by the same guy and it’s similar and the food is the same in both places, but Losers is where all the songwriters that I write songs with, that’s where we always hung out.
C: They’ve got a Losers in Las Vegas now too!
A: Yes, they do, and it is very, very similar. If you’re there for the ACM Awards then the house band from the Nashville Losers will be the house band at the Vegas one.
K: Last question Ashley, what’s the first song you performed in front of an audience paid or otherwise?
A: Somewhere Out There from a Disney film called An American Tail…
C: Wonderful. I remember Linda Ronstadt singing that and taking my little sis to that when she was little! Thanks so much Ashley, enjoy C2C and we’ll see you back in the UK in September.
A: Thanks Guys, that was fun!