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Ashley McBryde interview

Ashley McBryde is an artist experiencing a major breakthrough right now and she’ll be in the UK next week to perform at C2C: Country to Country 2018.

Her single A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega quickly gained traction and it’s made an impact on the charts. Taken from her major label debut Girl Goin’ Nowhere, released on 30th March through Warner Music Nashville, the song has firmly established McBryde as one to watch.

I caught with Ashley earlier this week to talk about C2C, discuss her forthcoming album, and to find out the challenges she’s faced to get to this stage of her career.

Hi Ashley. Where are you speaking to me from today?

I’m in New York! This morning we have chats and then we’re going to head off for Salem Virginia.

Very nice! How’s the weather in New York? We are covered in snow at the moment here….

It’s actually beautiful. The last few days it’s been 46 to 55, around there, so it’s just really pleasant. I’ve needed nothing more than a light jacket, unless it’s dark between the buildings because when there’s no sun shining it gets really cold, really quickly.

Well just to warn you we’re the minus degrees right now so bring warm clothes with you when you come over next week…

Wow! I can’t even comprehend how cold that is. I’m looking at the sunshine outside this window. Yeah OK, I’ll have to pack some layers.

How are you feeling about coming over to the UK to perform at C2C next week?

I’m feeling awesome about being there and performing. I don’t know how long this flight and I don’t function well when I can’t move around. I’m kind of a squirrely individual. I’m just really excited to be there and meet everybody.

C2C is such a huge event for us and Country music has really taken off. What kind of things have you heard about UK Country music fans?

I’ve heard that the true love of country music is alive and well. That gives me so much hope and so much happiness. It’s not that we don’t all love country music over here but to know that it’s this big love (there). I’ve been told that everybody is going to sing back, and that doesn’t always happen, that the arena will sing back to you and they will not be silent. That kind of energy I’m really looking forward to.

Yeah we’ll sing to everything. Even if you said, ‘I’ve written this song last week and I’m going to sing it for the first time today’ we’ll probably sing to that as well…

That’s awesome!

This is the first time you’ll be performing in the UK. Have you seen the excitement about you coming over on social media?

Yes, especially on Twitter. I probably check it a little too much but I try to respond to everything. It’s really just been, ‘I hope we get to meet you at C2C’. I’m like, ‘of course! I’m so easy to get hold of. Just walk up to me and say hi!’

There’s a lot of anticipation for you. When you were announced as part of the line-up, people were very, very excited. It’s going to be a good weekend for you!

Yeah I do too. I’m really excited about it.

Your single A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega was a huge breakthrough for you last year. How important has that song been in terms of getting to this stage of your career?

When we chose that as the first single I was like, ‘wow! I wouldn’t have thought of that’. I would have thought maybe Americans Scandal or maybe Radioland but that’s not how it worked out. We looked at what line we needed to walk and what envelopes we needed to push or not push, and that song kind of raised itself out of the record and showed its face. I thought well let’s try it. The worst thing that can happen is that we’re wrong about it being single. We decided to release it and then I could not believe that it jumped up, grew legs and took off.

I was so excited that it did but when it went to number one on SiriusXM and then people were Snapchatting me and Facebooking me, and saying things like, ‘your song is my song from the band that saves me. You became that band for me!’ I had a lady send me a Snapchat that said, ‘your song just saved my life’ so I Snapped right back and was like, ‘what do you mean? What do you mean?’ She said, ‘I was listening to A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega and an abusive ex called me, and I didn’t take his phone call because I was listening to your song’. That proves that a message from a song like that doesn’t belong to the person who’s singing it or the person that wrote, it belongs to the listener. I think that’s really heavy stuff… that’s some real life stuff. That song is really, really important and now it’s on terrestrial radio and it’s growing legs there too.

The first time I heard the song, the thing that struck me the most was your voice because it packs so much emotion and I felt like I was feeling everything you were singing. Where did your voice come from and when did you first know that you had it?

I haven’t shut up I think since I was born. I tend to talk a lot and I sing constantly, and I know that it can be kind of annoying, but I would say I sound a lot like my mom. Only she sounds more like an angel and I sound more like I’ve smoked most of my life. We all sang in church. I’m the youngest of six siblings. We grew up in a really strict Southern church with no instruments so we relied wholly on voices. I played a lot of bluegrass growing up and that was a really cool way to develop an ear for harmony.

When I was in college I started playing in bars in Memphis, Tennessee and here I am this country girl, this bluegrass girl and I’m experiencing first hand for the first time raw rock ‘n’ roll and real blues. If you’re that close to the mighty Mississippi River that sound, that mud, gets in your bones and it comes out of your throat and I don’t know how that city does it. There is something there in the air that once you experience it, you really learn how to find those places in yourself. How to find those struggles or accomplishments or joy and make sure that that comes out of your throat every night.

Ashley McBryde
Credit: Warner Music Nashville

The tracks that you’ve been releasing ahead of the album are giving a really good idea of your range. Is that indicative that album is an amalgamation of styles?

It kind of is yeah because you have your whole life to write your very first full-length album. Everything you’ve ever written gets to be sifted through and looked at and so we went through everything we could. We picked around 50 to 60 songs and we tried to get that down to 30. Then we tried to get that down to 10 and then we wound up settling at 11. You have to look at each one of those and go, ‘well, what if this is the only time we ever get to do this?. This had better be a really nice snapshot of who we are as a band and where we are right now in our lives’. I think we did a good job doing that.

When I wrote the song The Jacket it was kind of an acoustic stripped-down song, a little bit of like Bible and a .44, we looked at it together as a band with Jay Joyce, the producer, and it wound up sounding more like a Tom Petty song. We really thought about what this song contains and what should it sound like and it just fell out that way. Kind of like Radioland did. It wound up being a little more on the rock side and I wrote it definitely as a Country song very result. I’m excited that hopefully my listeners… we won’t get bored listening to this record together.

Your album Girl Going Nowhere is out at the end of this month. I’ve been speaking to a lot of Country artists recently about the challenges of getting people to listen to and to buy into an entire album. What challenges getting to this point and getting to put out this record?

Wow! In the last few years instead of being focused on an overall album, a lot of artists only focus on singles and just want to do a single here and a single there, and that’s important too to and I know it has to be that way sometimes. I grew up listening to an album start to finish and you don’t skip songs. You don’t listen to a Paul Simon record and skip a song, you listen to it the same way you would eat a meal… the way the person who prepared that meal for you means for you to experience it, that’s how you should do it before you add salt and pepper to it.

My goal here was to do something you could listen to front to back . As far as challenges… Warner Music Nashville has been so wonderful. We presented them with this record complete and said, ‘please don’t tell us to change this, just listen’ and they listened to it and they said, ‘by God they’ve done it. Let’s just go ahead and release the record the way it is’. Jay Joyce and John Peets had a lot to do with that. Being able to pick their brains and trust their direction, and ultimately we all get to land the plane together, and it’s nice to be able to trust the people around you like that.

It must be gratifying for you to be having your major label debut coming out and to have fans interpreting and in some ways owning your songs. Have these kinds of success made all the effort feel worthwhile?

There are lots of moments every day where I go, ‘I can’t believe this is my life. This is amazing’. There are some moments where I go, ‘I told you’ and I think of all the naysayers and I’m like, ‘man I told you I was going to do this for a living. Look at me now’. Then there are lots and lots of moments where I think, ‘there are miles to go before we sleep. We have not conquered the mountain, we have gained access to the mountain and now it’s time to learn how to climb it’. That takes a lot of work and a lot of time. We are so completely committed to it. I’m so excited to do whatever the next thing is and whatever the next mile marker is, we will just bust our backs to do it.

You ticked off another milestone last summer when you played the Grand Ole Opry for the first time. What was that like?

Oh, Wow. Of course in the video you can you can see me get all choked up and not really make it all the way through the song. Ultimately I did get to finish the song. That was kind of my Hollywood growing up. I mean Porter Wagner and just every Opry member that there ever was… and you get to go and stand where they stood. It’s a weird feeling to think, ‘I shouldn’t be here. This is the Grand Ole Opry for God’s sake’.

Then you think but I wouldn’t be standing here if I hadn’t earned it because I had to be invited to play. No one was pushing for that. The Opry heard us and wanted us to come and play. It’s then that it doesn’t feel like all the Opry members of the past are on your shoulders and weighing you down, it feels like they’re standing right behind you and patting you on the back and saying, ‘welcome home. You’re here, do this’. The way that gravity calls on your body when you stand in the Ryman circle. There’s no other feeling like it. It’s like baptism. When you go underwater, you know you’re going to change but you don’t know really how and then when you come back out of and you step out of that circle, you know that life is just different now.

I imagine that getting invited to play at the Opry is a sign that you’re on the right path?

Yeah. I told the band that night, ‘guys life changed tonight’ and I’ve had to say that a few times. Our first time at The Ryman I said, ‘life changed again today’ and then when we did late night TV I said, ‘boys, life changed again. Don’t forget to stop and remember that yes that was fun and yes let’s go have some beers but don’t forget that we’re still doing something right because life keeps changing course’.

What can people who are going to C2C expect from a typical Ashley McBryde live show?

I spent years trying to make dive bars feel like arenas and now I get the opportunity to try to make an arena feel like a diva bar. I’ve had people ask my bandmates, ‘what is Ashley like when she’s not on stage?’ and they say, ‘exactly the way she is when she’s on stage. She cuts up. She makes fun of herself’. It’s really laid back. The main thing you can expect is… I know that my hair is supposed to stay perfect, my makeup is supposed to stay on my face but I prefer to leave everything on the stage for every single performance. I’m going to be sweaty. I’m going to look like I’m going to pass out sometimes. I’m going to be fine. I just promise to give you absolutely everything I’ve got, you’ll just have to excuse how sweaty I am in the selfies later.

Ashley McBryde’s debut album Girl Goin’ Nowhere will be released on 30th March 2018 through Warner Music Nashville. Watch the video for A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega below:

[brid video=”205989″ player=”531″ title=”Ashley McBryde A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega (Official Video)”]

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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