Ashley Campbell has been winning over UK audiences since she made her C2C: Country to Country debut in 2016.
Following a well-received performance at Nashville Meets London this summer, Ashley has now released her latest single A New Year and is bringing out her debut album in March.
I caught up with Ashley to talk about the process of making the album, the tribute to her dad she’ll be performing at C2C, and her plans for the festive season. Read on to find out more…
Hi Ashley! Last time we spoke to you was just before Nashville Meets London – how was that?
Oh, that was so much fun. I hope I get to do it again! [laughs]
You’re coming back to the UK to play at C2C: Country to Country Festival. Can you tell us more?
Yeah, I’m playing C2C March 10th and I’m actually playing on the main stage, and they’ve asked me to do a tribute to my dad.
Are there any particular songs you’re looking forward to playing as part of that?
Well I haven’t worked out the set list yet but I’m hoping I can bring in at least one deep cut.
This is the third year in a row you’ve been over to the UK. What is it that keeps you coming back?
I’ve always loved the UK. I’ve been coming here since I was 18, pretty much almost every year. I love the culture, I love the food, I love the beer, I love the people… I just love it!
Do you find that UK fans react differently compared to those in the US or other places?
I do. I mean, I love my American fans but when I come over here it just feels extra special, because the fans are just so eager to listen to music. Sometimes when I play in America I feel like they’re going ‘why should I listen to you?’ Whereas over here it’s very kind and receptive and jovial. It’s a listening crowd over here, I would say.
You’ve just released your single A New Year – can you tell us how that came about?
Yeah, so I wrote it a couple of years ago just after New Year’s. I was with my friend Patrick Davis and Jerry Flowers and we just came up with this really cool little rolling guitar riff and just started writing from that. It turned into a song about new beginnings and the hope you feel when you make a New Year’s resolution. But the song is kind of about meeting that one person that makes you wanna be a better person and totally scratch out all your mistakes of the past and start fresh.
Your debut album is coming out in March. What can we expect from that?
The album is called The Lonely One and it’s just kind of a story of my journey for the last couple of years. I co-wrote all the songs on the album. It’s my story in my own words and my growth. It’s a really cool mix of styles as well because I’m a pretty eclectic music listener. I play banjo so there’s a bluegrass instrumental on the record, and I’ve got some pop mixed with country and even Americana. But it all really flows together well because it’s an expression of me as a person.
Do you have a favourite song on the album?
I would say my favourite song on the album is called Nothing Day. That was one that was actually pretty easy to write. I wrote it with my good friend Chris Roberts and we sat down and wrote it in two hours. It’s such a cool song – it’s the last track on the album.
You’ve co-written every song on the album – do you have any favourite co-writers? Is there anyone you’d like to write with in the future?
Well I suppose Chris Roberts that I wrote Nothing Day with – he’s definitely one of my all-time favourite people to write with. Also my friend Tiffany Goss, who’s incredible. She co-wrote two of the tracks on the album with me, including the title track The Lonely One. I basically like writing with people who are actual friends in real life. I feel you can get a little deeper with those people because you have a trust.
Do you have a particular process when you write?
I’m always writing down ideas and having inspiration. Then I go through my notes later to try and make sense of them.
Do you find you ever get writer’s block?
Oh, I definitely get writer’s block. It can be very frustrating!
You co-produced this album with your brother – how was that?
Working with my brother Cal was so much fun. We get along so well and I trust his instinct completely. I don’t think anyone knows what they’re doing in the studio better than him so it was such a joy.
You’ve been out on the road a lot this year. What’s the one thing that you’ve learnt from touring?
Well, being on the road is basically being away from your home for months at a time, so you have to really love what you’re doing. If you’re making music that you’re not really passionate about then you’re not going to be happy touring with it – it’s going to destroy you. So you have to be really passionate about the music that you’re making in order to love that lifestyle and be happy.
When did you know that you wanted to become a musician?
I was a theatre major at my university in Southern California, and I got into a play that they needed someone to play banjo in. So they asked me if I would learn, and Pepperdine University actually bought me my first banjo and my first couple of lessons. And I just totally fell in love with it and continued with my banjo studies and that’s how I got into music as a career.
Are there any particular banjo players that inspire you?
Oh definitely! Well, my mentor and my godfather Carl Jackson is an incredible banjo player – he played banjo with my dad for years. So he’s one of my big teachers. And then one of my favourite players is Nelson County from the Punch Brothers. So if you haven’t heard him you should definitely go check him out!
Where are your favourite places that you’ve travelled to this year?
This year I was fortunate enough to discover this place called Ponza off the coast of Rome. It’s this little island and it’s just the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen – crystal-clear blue waters and beautiful friendly local people and incredible fresh seafood. It was just pure magic. I can’t wait to go back. It was like mermaid paradise.
You’ve also been filming the video for A New Year – how was that?
Oh, it was so much fun! My friend Sean Flynn, who is actually Jane Seymour’s son, directed and shot the video. He’s a good friend of mine. He also shot my album cover. I just finalised the album so I’m so excited about that! But the music video was incredible. We shot it up in Big Sur and Malibu so it’s just beautiful dramatic shots of the ocean and the beach.
Do you have a career bucket list?
Oh, definitely. I’ve always wanted to be on Saturday Night Live so if I get to play that that would be a huge bucket list thing. Also to play the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville as a headliner – I’ve played there as a warm-up – and the Royal Albert Hall, definitely. It’s just so beautiful. I’ve been there to see the Proms and it was like, wow!
You’ve played the Opry a couple of times this year, what was that like?
The Opry is such a fun experience. Every time I get to play they really treat me like family. It’s something I look forward to.
Can you tell us something about you that people might not expect to know?
I’m a huge nerd. I love Doctor Who and anime and video games. I grew up with two older brothers so I kind of had to be one of the boys.
What’s the one song you wish you’d written?
Ooh, that’s tough! Er… oh, this one’s coming to mind [sings] ‘to make you feel my love’. It’s just so perfectly written and emotional… oh my gosh. I love Adele’s version of it.
If you were having a dinner party, which three people would you invite?
Probably Mozart, Jack White and Dolly Parton.
What’s next for you?
I’m just focusing on getting everything wound up and perfect for the album release. We’re working on getting some merchandise like T shirts, and we’re also going to be recording some acoustic sessions and videotaping them before Christmas, so I can have some nice acoustic versions for people to see as well.
And lastly… do you have any favourite Christmas songs?
Yes! My favourite Christmas song is One More Sleep Til Christmas from the Muppets Christmas Carol. That song makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and like it’s really Christmas.
Ashley Campbell’s single A New Year is available to stream and download now. Her debut album The Lonely One will be released in March and she’ll be performing as part of C2C: Country to Country on Saturday 10th March 2018 at The O2 Arena.