"There’s more to being in the country than outdoor parties and trucks and beer. There’s a dark side to it" We chat with Ashley McBryde
Hey Ashley, how the heck are you today?
I’m good! I’m good.
What have you been doing with your day so far?
Haha well, actually today we have been stuck in the Chicago airport since 7am. Our flight to New York was cancelled. We’ve had a nap on the floor... and we had a little picnic at one of the gates. We’re handling it pretty well.
So Girl Going Nowhere has been out for a few months now, what’s the coolest thing that’s happened since release day?
We’ve been playing so many cool festivals! But the coolest thing right now is that we get to play the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon!!
What’s your process for writing songs?
It’s different every time. But generally there are two or three of us in the room...we chit chat and toss ideas around until something good stands out and then we chase that idea.
And did the songs on the record change much when you got in the studio with Jay Joyce?
A lot of these songs we’d been playing for a long time. A few of them stayed pretty much how we’d arranged them for the bar scene. But Jay really helped us refresh everything and in some cases rethink the song entirely. And there were a couple that were so newly written we hadn’t arranged them yet... so sitting down as a band with Jay and arranging it in real time was really a treat. He’s just brilliant.
What can you tell us about the studio you recorded in, and how that influenced the record?
Jay’s place is an old church. He turned it into one of the coolest studios ever. The vibe is just killer. We record in the sanctuary. All close together and we do it live like we would at a show. (Instead of doing it piece by piece in separate rooms.) He even changes the lighting levels and colors to help you get the most out of each song.
I love ‘The Jacket’. What can you tell me about it?
It’s a true story. I was given the jacket when I was 14 years old. It had been in my family since the early 60’s. Each person that owned it added things to it as parts wore out. My favorite part was the blue bandana that replaced the pocket on the front.
‘Livin’ Next To Leroy’ is a great song as well, is that based on your real experiences?
Leroy was a real person. I wrote that with Nicolette Hayford. She lived three doors down from Leroy in a trailer park as a teenager. The part of the country she lived in was a lot like where I grew up. There is a pretty bad meth epidemic. It’s an awful drug. And folks out in the country, where there isn’t much to do, they can get sucked in more easily than they realize. Leroy wasn’t a bad dude. He was a good guy with a bad addiction. Not to glorify drug abuse at all. God no. But there’s more to being in the country than outdoor parties and trucks and beer. There’s a dark side to it. And if you forget that, you’re doing a disservice.
I could ask you about each of your songs, they’re so well written and sung, but to keep this short, why choose a dive bar in the town of Dahlonega?
It’s another true story. Three writers on that one. Nicolette, myself and our friend Jesse. We’d all had a pretty bad day leading up to our write. We started venting to one another and Jesse tells us about this one time his car broke down between Atlanta and Nashville in a town called Dahlonega. He went to the Crimson Moon Cafe there in the town square…He wound up meeting his beautiful wife that night. The “pretty little blonde thing” we reference in the last chorus is Kendra, Jesse’s better half. All we did was make the truth rhyme. Our bad days plus his story about the crimson moon. Bam. We had a song.
What’s the one song on the record that you really want people to hear?
That’s a hard question. I’d say the last track. 'Home Sweet Highway'. Because that means (hopefully) they’ve listened to the whole record. [laughs]
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
There’s no doubt about it, there’s definitely a difference in how things go for female artists. All we can do is make the music that lives in us. And perform it well. And trust it will find the ears that need it. Good music is good music. Hopefully we can be an example of that.
Have you noticed a difference over the last few months as #MeToo and #TimesUp gain publicity?
I have. We’ve all got to be aware. Not just men. Women have to watch it too. It’s a human issue. We need to remember to first, be kind. But take no crap.
What can you tell us about your hometown of Mammoth Springs? Why should I visit?
Mammoth is a beautiful little town. No stop lights. Lots of farm land. Good kind folks. If you visit, you've got to see the Spring! It’s huge of course. And the Spring River stays so cold all year. So cold your joints hurt when you get in it. Fishing, kayaking... speaking of fish... you have to eat at Fred’s Fish House on Main Street. Best hush puppies in the south.
You’re heading back to the UK in October, what’s your favourite thing about this side of the pond?
The fans!! I’ve never experienced anything like that until I got to the UK. As you know, I’m a whiskey drinker. BUT I had some of the BEST beer on my last trip. I didn’t get enough local fare though. I’m really looking forward to that.
Tell us a charity we should support.
I have a big soft place in my heart for lots of things. Animals .... veterans....the homeless. I’d say you should find what speaks to your heart and make a difference in whatever way you can. If you can’t donate money, donate time. If you can’t do that, spread the word about an organization to someone who can.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
The ACM awards last April. I met Reba. I held it together but I totally teared up afterward.
If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?
This week I’d recommend Tyler Childers 'I Swear To God'. Or the Wild Feathers 'Quittin’ Time'.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
I take my coffee black if I’m writing. If it’s a nice leisurely breakfast I’ll use a little sugar and cream.
To find out more about Ashley visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook. Or you can see what she's up to on Instagram.
Her fab album, Girl Goin' Nowhere, is out now and available to buy from everywhere. If you like Ashley you should buy the record so she can make more. To hear it you can stream from all the usual.