Ashley McBryde Interview : We put the fan’s questions to Ashley ahead of her recent Glasgow show
In a first for Six Shooter Country Brian Bennie, through the power of social media, asked fans for the questions THEY wanted to put to Ashley McBryde. Some great topics came through, of course, and Brian put them to Ashley when they met backstage…
Who inspires you, both past and present, in Country Music? (Kevin Asquith)
Oh, wow. The past is really easy. When I was growing up it was Patty Loveless, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dolly Parton, Hank Senior.
Now? Golly, if you watch Cody Johnson and aren’t inspired or Miranda Lambert and aren’t inspired then there’s something wrong with your viewpoint. I’ve even met artists that are younger than me that I find inspiring. Caylee Hammack is one. I came across her doing a thing with Miranda (Lambert) in the studio and I heard her sing and thought she was brilliant. It’s cool when you can see somebody like that and you can be inspired by somebody younger than you.
How do you remain so humble and modest even though you are one of the best singer songwriters in the past few years? (Kevin Asquith)
Firstly, thank you for saying so. Well, I’m short and I’m slightly overweight (laughing) but that’s not the only thing that keeps my feet on the ground. I spent so much time playing in bars, especially bars where nobody cared, for a long time, we’re talking 11 years. Eventually they cared. I spent so much time doing that it’s really hard to get too big for your britches.
There was one time, in the very beginning when things started taking off, and on Tuesday night I was in Kansas opening for Willie Nelson and on Wednesday night I was playing at Sully’s Pizza. (laughing) So there’s no way to get too big for your britches when you remember the times when you were in a giant theatre and then also a pizza place.
What do you say to yourself before gong onstage? (Helen Askey)
I say a prayer, it’s my own little thing. Then I touch this tattoo, the clown tattoo. This is a friend of ours who wrote “Rattlesnake Preacher”. We wrote “American Scandal”, “Tired of being Happy” and “Eldorado” together and he passed away last October when I was over here. I slap the tattoo, point to the sky and say “Watch this shit!”
The number one thing I say when I’m walking up the stairs (to the stage) though is “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall” (laughing)
When is the new Album due for release and how many of the tracks on it did you write? (Chris Hensman)
So, my first record I wrote every single track but I’ve never been opposed to cutting outside songs. This record comes out early 2020, they won’t let me say what month yet, but you won’t have to wait too long. The first single is already out so you have to follow that pretty soon with the record. There are 11 tracks on it and there’s 1 I didn’t write. It was written by 1 of my co-writers Nicolette Hayford so it was a shoe-in. When I heard the song and I saw the title I was like “Oh I gotta play this”.
Your new single “One Night Standards” is such a clever song, I love the play on words. Can you tell us a bit more about it? (Lee Bennie)
Thank you. We got that by accident. We were writing to the hook of “Aeroplane Hotel”. It had a totally different chorus. Nicolette and I had written it together and couldn’t finish it. Next time we were together, we were with Shane McAnally so we just showed him … this is what we have, and there’s something missing, something is wrong. He was like “I don’t think it’s wrong, let’s just play with it a little bit” I said, “You know, it’s the whole thing about being in a hotel, there’s only 1 night stand in there for a reason, it’s a 1 night stander” and he said “Did you just say standards?” I said “No” and he said “Yes, yes you did, that’s what’s wrong with the song, lets fix it”
You have spoken in the past about the expectations of physical appearance in the music business. You don’t appear to have caved into these expectations; do you see yourself as a trail blazer for people accepting themselves the way they are? (Anna McLauchlan)
I think I can identify some people that I would consider trailblazers. I don’t think it’s a title you can give yourself. For me, Eric Church is one. He just kinda stuck to his guns and did what he always did.
Somebody gave me a pin last night, put it in my hand, it said ‘I’m a rebel, what’s your excuse’ and I thought thank you for thinking that. I never set out to be a rebel, I’ve just always done what I know how to do, the only difference is I don’t apologise for it.
Some of the expectations are really hard to deal with because you do get a lot of crap. Just being a female, period, you get all kinds of crap about being short or being plump or any of those things. You know, even how long I was in Nashville before I got a record deal. Not long ago another musician from a different band said “I don’t think being in town for 11 years before getting a record deal is anything to brag about” and I just looked at him and went …. “I do”. I’ve known people who’ve gotten a record deal after 2 months of being there and that doesn’t work. You have to put the work in. You have to know who you are before you put it on a vinyl and give it to someone else.
What are your views on people saying what is and isn’t Country music? (Rob Feander)
I used to love this discussion. When I was just a songwriter and wasn’t an artist yet I would complain and piss and moan about a song on the radio that was doing really well that wasn’t Country. Just because you own a pick-up truck doesn’t make you Country. Just because you’re from the South doesn’t make you Country. None of those make you Country. It’s the song content and the values and the way it’s presented that makes it Country.
I’ve decided now to not hate any type of music or anybody who’s doing well. I’ve identified 2 types of music in the world, the kind you wanna listen to, and the kind you do not wanna listen to. So that makes it a little easier.
That discussion is rampant, all the time, “that’s not Country”, “no that’s not Country” and you know what, it doesn’t matter. You’re either going to listen to it or you won’t.
How do you deal with the heavy schedules when you are on the road? When you do have time off, do you manage to switch off and what do you do to relax? (Fiona Miller)
Today’s scheduling has been really relaxed. I only have one interview; I get to sit down and be calm with you and not worry about other people needing our time. One thing that helps me is I have Dayna Johnson now. I didn’t always have her on the road with me. She can paint anything onto my face (make-up), so it saves me a lot of time.
When I’m off … I kinda switch off, but usually when people ask what do I do when I’m off? I say I play guitar and sing songs. I also like to kayak. I have a very very small farm outside of Nashville so I like to go outside and do things, use a chainsaw, dig a hole, anything with my hands that can kinda turn my brain off.
Can you tell us a bit about “Southern Babylon” (It’s my favourite song)? How did you write it? Where did the idea come from? (Sharon Bowen)
I was writing with a guy named Tommy Collier and we were actually discussing conspiracy theory. We should have been already starting a song but we were talking about all kinda crazy conspiracies and what do you believe and what do you think is plausible. We’re going through our little lists, sometimes you have a book of words of things that pique your interest, and we saw Babylon. There was already a song called Babylon so we had to make it something else like … Western Babylon or Eastern Babylon and then we were like … Southern Babylon, that’s really cool!!
But what is it? What will we do with that? So, I said “What if when you’re a musician and you pass away, you don’t go to Heaven or Hell, you either go to Northern Babylon or Southern Babylon. One of them is a Martini bar where everything is pristine and one of them is a Rock Club where everything is dirty and grungy, either way you’re entertaining for eternity. So we just built this story about a young woman having a car crash, waking up, walking into a bar and finding out she was in purgatory in “Southern Babylon”.
If you could sing a duet with anyone (alive or dead) from any genre, who would it be and why? What would you sing? (Susan Harris)
Oh Wow, there are a lot of duets I would choose to sing. Top of the list would be Willie Nelson and any song he wanted to sing I would sing with him. I wouldn’t care if it was “On the Road Again” or “Stardust”. Any song with Willie Nelson. I wouldn’t mind doing a duet with Lizzo, I think that would be a lot of fun. She’s got some pipes. I think another one would be Elle King, that girl can sing. I wouldn’t even care if she mopped the floor with me. Just to go at each other musically would be really exhilarating.
So, the President of The United States and the Queen have a song …. If you had to choose one song to play every time you walk into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? (Roy Smith)
“Snake Farm” by Ray Wylie Hubbard. I would just wanna hear “Snake Farm, it just sounds nasty” That would be my song!
What is your view on the “Highwomen” movement? Do you think Women are deliberately ignored by mainstream radio because of their sex? (Myra MacVicar)
To answer that part of the question immediately, absolutely. Part of the reason Women don’t get played on the radio quite so much in the States is because radio is fuelled by advertising. Women tend to prefer to do songs that make you think and that make you feel and songs that make you think and feel don’t sell trucks, beer or mattresses very well in a commercial. They definitely deliberately leave out females.
The Highwomen, that’s a really cool project. I’m glad they came up with that concept and did it. It feels a little bit exclusive though. I think the project is really good and the idea is really good, but if there were several pods maybe, of Highwomen, then you could get the first one being this group of Artists and the next this group of artists. I think that would be a cool way to do it. I was like “Man, what a cool thing but there are more than 5 of us”.
I do think it was really well done. The songs were well written and the production is really cool and there is not an artist in the Highwomen that I look at and go “they don’t belong there”.
In light of criticism of shows like “The Voice”, do you think this dilutes the pool of genuine talent or is it an acceptable, different route to success? (Myra MacVicar)
I think shows like “The Voice” and “American Idol” are really interesting ….. game shows. They are really good exposure and you can use it as a platform but I don’t think you can use it to gain a career. Because you don’t earn a career on a game show. You don’t earn retirement on a game show. You don’t earn hard work on a game show. You don’t get to earn your career on a game show.
There have been some artists that came through (American) Idol that really did well, I mean Carrie Underwood and of course Kelly Clarkson, but those 2 artists would have been phenomenal successes regardless.
Those shows can be an accelerator and a launching pad but I don’t think they’re the be all and end all.
Did you actually sing “Fat and Famous” at a school reunion? If so, how did it go down? (Valerie Paterson)
I did. I got up and sung it and part of the room laughed, and part of the room looked at me the way they’d always looked at me in school. By the end of the night though we were all really chummy about it and they were like “You got us!”
When it came time to make the EP, the person who was helping to produce it at the time said “Fat and Famous” needs to go on the record. I was like Noooo, they would be so mad, but they said it had to be on the record so we did it. I trusted it.
Now that you have had success, have you traded in your jalopy and bought an expensive guitar? (Tony Boertien)
I still own the same 1971 Chevy C10. My daily driving truck that I use at the farm, the engine blew up, so I did have to get a new truck. I did not get the top of the line anything. There’s not a lift kit on it, there’s no computer giant screen in the dash, it’s just a regular truck.
I suppose I’ve always played expensive guitars. Part of the culture when I wrote “Luckiest Son of a Bitch” and had that line in there is, we all had really nice sounding guitars and we all drove pieces of crap. The trade-off was that making music was so important to us, we would rather spend any bit extra we had upgrading our guitars than making sure the car has new tyres.
What award (that you’ve not won yet) would you like to win most? (Gillian Fisken)
(Without hesitation) Entertainer of the Year. Of course, Female Vocalist of the Year would be awesome but there are so many great Female vocalists, that’s always gonna be hard.
So, this year we’re looking at New Artist of the Year. That’s awesome and also a really hard category.
But it’s been a long time since there’s been a Female Entertainer of the Year. I wanna say the last one was Reba McIntyre but I don’t know what year that was. I don’t chase awards, its simply recognition from your peers, but when it comes to ignoring Women on radio, even when we’re putting on great shows, I think Entertainer of the Year needs to go to a Chick and it doesn’t bother me if it’s me.
Do you ever sit down and think “I’ve made it” and if not, what would you have to achieve to say it? (Gillian Fisken)
The first time I thought I’d made it was the first time I played the Opry, and then the bar raised itself. Then I thought well, I’ll probably feel that way when we play late night TV. Played late night TV and thought, OK boys we’ve made it, and then I felt the bar raise again. I get to play in a Stadium with Brooks and Dunn and surely that’s making it, but then the bar raises itself again. So, I think you get to have many moments in this career and in this life. Every ‘making it’ is permission to grant yourself a promotion to up your game just a little bit.
What advice would you give to a 7-year-old who is learning piano and loves music? (Nicola Plenderleith)
Hopefully the 7-year-old is learning piano because they want to learn piano. Just in case that kiddo doesn’t want to learn piano, PLEASE keep going to your piano lessons! It’s the one instrument I wish someone had made me take lessons on.
If you love music and you love an instrument, the first bit of big news for you is, you’ll never be bored a day in your life. You’ll never be without a friend as long as you have an instrument. The other thing is, play, sing. If you are standing in a grocery line and somebody tells you to sing then sing. That’s what you are and that’s what’s inside you.
There’s gonna be times where you get frustrated with it but get past that because you have one of the most precious gifts in the whole wide World if you know how to create music. If you can take what lives inside you and let somebody else hear it, that’s one of the coolest gifts the Universe has ever given out.