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Interview: Ashley McBryde takes us on a tour of ‘Lindeville’ as she brings her new album to life

McBryde’s third album is a left-turn exploration of southern life in Lindeville

Ashley McBryde Lindeville album
Credit: Katie Krauss

After two fabulous albums in ‘Girl Going Nowhere’ and ‘Never Will’ the stage was set for Ashley McBryde to release album three and continue her (rightful) ascent up through the levels of Country music stardom! Hell, she was even playing new songs like ‘Whiskey and Country Music’ out on tour in her live sets but then a writers retreat, with some of her most trusted collaborators and friends, gave birth to a whole new creative idea and here we are now with ‘Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville’.

‘Lindeville’, McBryde’s, now, third album was produced in tandem with a whole host of special guests playing, singing and producing across the album, an album that weaves an interlocking narrative about a fictional town and its inhabitants. It is released on September 30th and we were thrilled to grab some time with Ashley to talk all about it.

Hi Ashley, it’s lovely to touch base with you, thank you for your time today.

It’s fantastic to talk to you again.

It’s been a while but what a fantastic project you are coming back with?

Thanks, it was so much fun to make. Every aspect of making this record a reality was just fun to do.

Tell me about the inspiration behind Lindeville as a town and an album. I particularly want to know about Dennis Linde, who seems to have inspired the idea as a whole.

We thought it would be best to tip our collective hats to Dennis Linde who was the OG songwriter as far as many of us were concerned. What we have done here, though, is kinda like the opposite of what he did. He created a town and then populated it with characters from the songs he wrote – we wrote songs about characters for years and then found them a town to live in.

(For those interested in the songs, like ‘Goodbye Earl’ and ‘Callin Baton Rouge’, that Dennis Linde wrote, you can find out more about him.)

The first time we talked about it it was me, Nicolette Hayford (also masquerading as Pillbox Patti on this album) and Aaron Raitiere. We were writing a song that will be on my next album, the one everyone was expecting me to turn in this time around! (laughing) The song is called ‘Blackout Betty’. It’s about anxiety and about waking up and kicking your own ass because you’ve gone and down a load of dumb stuff again. We wrote that and I thought that Aaron had the song ‘Jesus Jenny’ in his locker, Nicolette wrote ‘Shut Up Sheila’ on my ‘Never Will’ album and we both wrote ‘Livin Next Door to Leroy’ years ago. I started to see that we had all these cool characters and thought that maybe we should give them all a place to live in! (laughing)

We were all off the road during the pandemic and I thought that we should just all go and lock ourselves in a house for a while and see what we could come up with. We were all very responsible, health wise. We drank booze, smoked cigarettes, ate sandwiches and wrote songs! (laughing) We made it happen!

We were rather pleased with ourselves and watched our friends and colleagues losing their shit over the songs and so we decided to try and get the album out to more than just our close circle of people.

So, at some point, you must have gone to the label and said, ‘Listen, I don’t want to release the album I’ve given you yet, I want to release this!’?

Yeah. I hadn’t told anybody that we’d made the Lindeville record! Warner was aware that I was up to something and working on the ‘other’ record. We kinda just said, ‘Hey folks, here’s two records but I kinda want to put the Lindeville one out first, though!’

One of the reasons I wanted to do it this way round is because your first record is often a snapshot of where you are in your life when you pop on the scene. Your second record, whether you like it or not, has to prove that you were not an accident, you know? Historically your third record is supposed to be your best work, showing growth and you owning your lane, right? The music industry is full of great third records from the 70s, 80s and 90s. I feel like we’ve done that, but we’ve done it in two different ways – What everyone was expecting was my ‘proper’ third record so I’m putting out ‘Lindeville’ first, which I probably shouldn’t be allowed to do for my third album because it’s more a 5th or 6th album project, I think.

My thinking is that if we shouldn’t be allowed to do a record like ‘Lindeville’ this early in a career then that’s the exact reason why we should! (laughing)

Where and when did collaborators like John Osborne and Brandy Clark come into the process?

Normally when I plan a writer’s retreat it’s me, Nicolette Hayford, Aaron Raitiere and Connie Harrington that get together. Anytime Brandy Clark is available she’s always my first go-to. Even when she’s not available I still call her anyway! (laughing) So it was wonderful that she was available this time around.

I asked Nicolette to bring me someone I’d never met before. I was like, ‘Bring us a bottle of hot sauce to throw into the mix!’, you know? Nicolette brought in the wonderful Benjy Davis. That’s how the gang got together.

Then I started to think that instead of just making work tapes we should make these songs into something that at least resembled a demo. After the songs reached that point the conversation turned to, ‘We should cut this as an actual record.’ My first question was, ‘Will John Osborne be available and be the band leader?’ I love John’s mind. After that it was, ‘John, will you produce this record?’ because I knew he would ‘get’ it, I knew he wouldn’t just ‘slick it up’ and make it as mainstream as possible.

We had taken such care in writing the songs and the lyrics and John was able to match that with his brilliance and his creative spirit.

What is so evocative and fascinating about the behaviours and lives of folks in the ‘trailer hood’ that fuels songs like ‘Brenda Put Your Bra On’, ‘Jesus Jenny’ or ‘If These Dogs Could Talk’?

(Laughing) I mean, why not write a song from the point of view of an animal, right?

I think that most of us are from small towns. We do a really good job in Nashville of telling you about tailgates and tanned legs and we have a tendency to paint this really perfect picture of life in small towns and I love that we honour that. Also, though, those places are full of trailer parks and meth heads and people doing shit they are not supposed to do too! (laughing)

I’ve been using the term ‘human disaster’ a lot lately to describe a lot of people. We’ve all been in that place at some point in our lives. Where I grew up, you might be just walking around the supermarket and some girl will get her ass beaten in the produce department, you know? Do we feel bad for her? Absolutely, but she shouldn’t have done whatever she did in the first place!

We didn’t just want to exploit those people though and go for the whole ‘there’s darkness in them there small towns’, you know? This is not an exploitative project in any way. We are ‘tongue-in-cheek’ celebrating the diversity of life in the places that we come from.

Ashley McBryde
Credit: Warner Music Nashville

I guess you walk a very fine line between patronising or glorifying people who come from areas of economic deprivation and telling the truth of your lived experiences? You are telling the stories of the people you’ve known all your life.

These are all people that we have encountered. Nicolette is from Florida, Aaron is from Kentucky and I’m from Arkansas so we’ve seen all the different types of folks that the south throws up. We’ve even been these people at different times in our lives too.

Just the other night Nicolette and I were talking and I think that I said something that bothered her and hurt her heart a little bit. She said straight back to me, ‘I will fight you. I have nails on and I will 100% physically fight you right now!’ (laughing) This is the people we are dealing with! We’ve been friends for a long time but I would NOT go toe-to-toe with her! (laughing)

Drilling down into some of these fascinating songs. What happened to ‘The Girl in the Picture’ to bring her to the point that she is at in that wonderful song?

There is another song that didn’t get to stay on the record called ‘The Man That Runs the Lift at the White Feather Inn.’ I’m always a big fan of a gigantically long title, right? (laughing) When I was trying to fight for it to still be on the record I was, like, we can tie it into Caroline and ‘The Girl in the Picture’. That song was one of the first that we wrote on the retreat and I remember thinking how sad would it be if this guy was taking pictures at a wedding: his family would be so proud of him, and they would encourage him to enter it into a competition at the County Fair. Right on the heels of that, though, they have to use the picture for Caroline’s missing poster instead! It’s pretty heavy stuff, that thought that all she’ll ever be is the girl in the picture for the rest of time.

I remember us writing that and being, like, ‘Damn! Wow! We can’t write 13 of those!’ (laughing)

There are so many moods and such an ebb and a flow to ‘Lindeville’ that ‘The Girl in the Picture’ fits in beautifully amongst the more light-hearted songs.

Thank you. John Osborne did such a wonderful job, sonically, on that track. The riff is so cool, I think he played it on a sitar, maybe? He gave that song such a cool vibe which made it feel as heavy as it lyrically is.

Alongside songs like ‘Bonfire at Tinas’, which might well be my favourite song on the album, ‘The Girl in the Picture’ feels like an actual Ashley McBryde song that you could play in your live sets for years to come.

Thank you, yeah. I feel the same about ‘Gospel Night at the Strip Club’ too. I could go to a writers room tonight by myself and play that song. A lot of the songs can stand on their own outside of the narrative of this project.

‘Brenda Put Your Bra On’ is in my live set already. That’s such a fun song, especially when you can watch people’s faces when you sing the line, “I knew she shouldn’t have let that bitch watch her baby!’ (laughing)

I love the concept behind ‘Bonfire at Tinas’. A group of women sitting around offloading about all the pressures and grievances in their lives. You guys must not have been short of things to say?

Noooooo, not at all! (laughing) This song came out at a part of the retreat where Nicolette and I were butting heads. It happens because we trust each other so much that we are not afraid to hurt each other’s feelings. We were trying to get somewhere with this song and I was, like, ‘Nicolette, I’m trying to contribute to this song but you won’t tell me where you are or what page you’re on.’ She was, like, ‘Dude! Back off for a minute will you? Nicolette starting playing the ‘small town women’ part on a keyboard and I had to run to the rest room and I ran back in after and just sang, ‘Bonfire at Tina’s!’ (singing)

‘Gospel Night….’ and ‘Bonfire at Tina’s’ are probably my two favourite songs on the album. You are right, too, we were not short of things to complain about either! (laughing) We’ve all had the issues we mention, or know people that have. You know, my step kids hate me, that sort of thing, that’s a real thing. Brandy and Nicolette’s verse about not getting paid enough or laid enough still cracks me up, even today! (laughing) All the women put aside their differences in that song and come together to offload or mourn whatever it is they need to mourn and then on Monday, they’ll go back to being catty with each other again! (laughing)

The cover of the Everly Brothers’ ‘When Will I be Loved’ is outstanding. It has a great energy to it. What place does that have in the Lindeville story and who brought that into the mix?

My manager, John Peets, brought that into the mix. At the time, when we were talking about it, I was playing ‘When Will I be Loved’ in my live set. We don’t do very many covers but that’s not because I don’t love covers, it’s because if we are going to do one I want it to be something we really love for the right reasons.

John Peets said that he thought we should put it on the Lindeville album. I asked him why because there is already so much going on on the record. He said, ‘Listen to what the lyrics are saying.’ I listened and realised that it fit perfectly – it’s a song that asks when is life going to be good? We wanted to put it right before ‘Bonfire at Tina’s’. The story arc explains that Tina got cheated on and her life exploded and we encounter a couple of other people cheating and at some point the phone tree starts, right? Eventually all the women converge at Tina’s house and it’s during the phone call that the women all begin to sympathise with each other and ask the question, ‘When will I be loved?’

The album ends on quite a hopeful note with the title track. The clock is watching over the town. Betty, Patti, Leroy and Patience are all having what is quite a calm and settled evening. Is that how you wanted the album to end, on a hopeful note?

Yeah. Someone asked me recently why I didn’t start the record there but there’s just no way that song could open the story. It was important for me to try and round off this look at this town and these people. Number one was Betty, because that’s me, that’s those of us that tend to drink a little too hard, right? Patti, meanwhile, has her pills and cigarettes.

The song gives us the chance to say, yes, everyone is a wreck but there are also times when everything is ok for a little while too. Whilst we are poking fun at how screwed up everyone is and who is cheating on who, it’s also really important to celebrate that the sky over Lindeville is just so beautiful tonight. As a matter of fact, our town square is really beautiful and there is a lot of good in the world if you look for it. Patience, the dog, got adopted just by waiting outside the diner and the meth head guy that works there feeds her sometimes and now they are really happy together and have found friendship with each other.

It makes so much sense that it is the clock tower that is singing the song, watching down over the town for all those years. It’s seen everything that Lindeville has gone through and it endures. That last verse, when it says ‘at times like this, I wish I could just stand still,’ it’s kind of magical. It gives me goosebumps, even now, to think about it.

‘Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville’ is out on Friday 30th September. You can buy, stream or pre-order the album now.

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