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Interview: Ashley McBryde talks playing C2C and teases her upcoming new album

The singer-songwriter opens up about her plans to regularly tour in the UK moving forward.

Ashley McBryde
Credit: Daniel Meigs

Ashley McBryde was one of the breakout stars of C2C: Country to Country 2018 and she was one of the highlights of last weekend’s 2019 festival too.

Graduating to the Main Stage just 12 months after her C2C debut, McBryde has built a strong fanbase in the UK. With a commitment to touring here regularly (she’s back for a headline tour in September), McBryde has established herself as one of our favourite Country stars.

I sat down with Ashley ahead of her C2C Main Stage performance in London to talk about returning to the festival, to discuss her upcoming second record, and find out how she feels about the huge success of her album Girl Going Nowhere.

Welcome back to C2C!

Thanks it’s nice to be back.

I think this is the quickest progression we’ve seen in terms of someone going from the Spotlight Stage to the Main Stage…

Yeah. This is nuts. Doing the Spotlight Stage and the small rooms… I loved doing the small rooms. I was really excited to hear that we were doing the festival again but then I found out that we were on the Main Stage and that’s just been crazy.

You were the breakout star of last year’s C2C. I saw most of your sets and I was in tears during most of them because I really connected with you and your music…

Wow! It’s been wonderful falling in love with the fans over here and they’ve been falling in love with us. That kind of warmth and acceptance is just incredible.

The audiences last year connected with every song you sang. I remember you introducing Bible and a .44 and saying it’s one we might not know, but we knew every single word…

Yeah. Everybody knew everything! They knew The Jacket, they knew Fat and Famous… they knew everything, and this was before the record had even really come out. My band is here and I’ve told them what the fans are gonna be like but I don’t think they’re prepared. I cannot wait to show my band off to the fans here but I can’t wait to show the fans off to my band.

Ashley McBryde

Credit: Alysse Gafkjen

This is the first time you’ve been here with your band isn’t it?

Yeah. This my third time over here and it’s usually just me and a guitar but now we’re on the Main Stage we have the opportunity to do a full band.

Are we going to get an acoustic number in there too?

Absolutely. In a 50 minute set… I have to because I’m kind of selfish. I like it when it when it can be just me and you and a guitar so we’ll have to do that.

You’ve already announced another headline UK tour for September. You can’t stay away from us…

No! It looks like we’re going to set me up, moving forward, to be here twice a year, which is awesome to be back every six months. I’m making friends over here and people that I want to reconnect with when I get here. There’s one bar in the entire place that I know how to walk to. I’m starting to make myself at home a little bit and branch out.

Things just builds bigger and bigger for you every time you visit. Your headline show last year got upgraded due to phenomenal demand…

It did, yeah!

You’ve got this headline tour and then after that, who knows?

I know! I can’t wait to see who’s opening. We haven’t even talked about that yet, who’s going to open for us as we headline? Being in a support slot is a lot of fun and it’s an honour, especially with people like Luke Combs who was just so nice to us. Now I can’t wait to do that here.

What’s the status in terms of new music? Are you onto the next record already?

Yes. We started planning the second record the day we were done with the first record. Anything that didn’t make it onto the first record, immediately got put into the pile for record two. Since then we’ve been piling songs on top of it. We’ve probably got 40 or 50 now that we’re sifting through. I wrote all of the month of January. When we leave here we’ll go to Australia and then we go back to Nashville and I’ll spend the rest of April writing and then we’ll start, I think it’s May 4th, we’ll start cutting the record.

When are we going to hear the first taster of the new record?

Everybody’s been asking why they can’t download Rattlesnake Preacher (which has been in McBryde’s live sets recently) and it is definitely going on the second record (laughs). People are asking, ‘why can’t we get it?’ I’m like, ‘well it’s because it’s not on a record yet!’

How have you felt about the incredible reaction that Girl Going Nowhere has received?

It’s kind of hard to absorb because a career like this is built mostly off of nos. Here we are getting all these yeses and we make this record and we hoped you guys like it, and then you did! It’s just been really, really cool but it’s hard to process a lot of the time. We’re of the mindset of just keep your head down and do good work. Over here everybody’s like, ‘oh yes, we love it!’ We’re used to having to try to jam it down your throat and try to get you to listen to it. It’s awesome here.

We take the whole record and learn it all…

Yeah! Every song.

One of things I love about this record is that every time I listen to it my favourite track is completely different….

That makes me happy!

Credit: Alysse Gafkjen

I was obsessed with Girl Goin’ Nowhere for weeks and then all of sudden I’ll love The Jacket. I think that’s what’s so special about the record…

Thank you! That makes me really happy because my favourite song to sing right now in our live shows is (Living Next to) Leroy but if I were to listen to the record today I bet it would not Leroy it would be another one.

There’s something about your songwriting and your voice that just connects with people. I was really moved when I saw you last year because even though your stories aren’t my stories, I somehow felt they were…

Good! It’s done its job and sometimes I think it’s the specificity of what we are writing about is what makes it relatable. Even if you’re not a girl with a guitar, somebody told you at some point whether it was a paint brush or a camera or a microphone at a radio station, that you can’t make a living doing it so Girl Goin’ Nowhere becomes your story. Bible and a .44… maybe your father didn’t carry a .44 pistol and a Bible but you knew somebody who was like that. I think sometimes we’re in danger of watering things down so that everyone understands it when really the real gift there is that we all understand the things when you write the real thing that it’s about. No frill, no fluff… just the simple thing that it really is.

It helps your fans get to know you too. We feel like we’ve been on your journey with you now listening to these songs…

Right, that’s part of the whole purpose of writing music and performing it at all. If you were to meet me in a bar somewhere I’m probably seated and I’m not acting like a monkey or anything, and it’d be hard to get too much out of me. As long as there are songwriting and performing, it’s the best way to get to know us.

These songs are really honest. Is it hard to open yourself up in that way?

I think some things scare you when you start to write them or decide to put them on a record but then I think that’s how you know it’s the right thing to do as well. There are a couple of people that I write with, that we don’t even write anything down that day until one of us cries, whether that’s we’re laughing so hard that we’re crying or we found a nerve that we hit. When one of us goes, ‘oh’ we pounce on that nerve until we figure out why did that hurt and let’s go ahead and write that. I think it is scary sometimes to be that honest but it’s also super necessary.

A lot of artists after they’ve had a big record, make their next one even more personal. Is that even possible with you?

It’ll be at least as personal. In fact we just wrote a song the other day that was super close to home for me and really was more therapy than anything else to get that written. We got done and I said, ‘man, it’s just gotta go on the second record’. It’ll be really obvious when the record comes out what song I’m talking about. Just to take something that’s really painful and hard to understand, and get it out in song and then go, ‘yeah we have to (put it on there). If I feel that way somebody else feels that way’ so you have to put that out there.

What else do you have coming up this year?

We’re doing Glasgow then Dublin then London and then we’ll fly to Australia and do CMC Rocks and do a show with Luke Combs in Melbourne. Then we get back home. We’ve got seven shows with George Strait. One of those is in Atlanta coming up at the end of March and the other ones are in Vegas. Playing in Vegas is so cool. Vegas is just a cool town. I don’t gamble or anything but just the vibe and the scale of everything and just how it’s so legendary without being gaudy.

People watching in Vegas is the best. Getting up at 6am and seeing the old ladies on the slots drinking whiskey…

In like a wind suit and a visor thing. It’s priceless. I do love Vegas especially with George Strait. He’s been very generous to us as far as time goes. We get a 45-minute opening slot, which is unheard of. That’s a lot of time.

Well I’m expecting some great songs from you when you’ve been people watching…

Oh yeah. Oh yes. Always taking notes.

Ashley McBryde’s Girl Going Nowhere is available now. Watch the highlights of Ashley’s C2C performances below:

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