Ashland Craft Talks Sharing A Stage With ‘Big Sister’ Ashley McBryde

Ashland Craft on stage
Ashland Craft is currently out on tour supporting Ashley McBryde. Photo – Brayln Kelly

It’s safe to say that Ashland Craft has had an awesome few months – made all the sweeter when both Spotify and American Country Music Chatter recently named her on their lists of Artists to Watch in 2022.

Ashland’s first full-length album Travelin’ Kind debuted last September to rave reviews, since then she’s been on the road with Zac Brown Band, and is now supporting Ashley McBryde on her US tour.

Six Shooter Country’s Alison Dewar has been chatting to Ashland to find out more about her music and her road to success.

AD: Congratulations on the success of Travelin’ Kind – 10 million streams on Spotify, and it’s featured on plenty of ‘2021 album of the year’ playlists. Now you’re listed on Spotify’s Hot Country 2022 Artists to Watch and on American Country Music Chatter’s Artists to Watch list for 2022, among many other accolades. You couldn’t have dreamed of that success, could you?

AC: I could not have. It has been such a weird and exciting journey so far, just because you move here (Nashville), you don’t know what to expect, you hope for the best but prepare for the worst sometimes (laughter). So just having the traction and people gravitating towards this album and really, really pushing it has been nothing short of a blessing for me. As a musician releasing new music and being new on the scene, it’s all you could really ask is for people to hopefully love and support the record, so all of this outside support has done nothing but make me feel more confident and more solid in what I want to do and who I want to be as an artist. I can only hope that it continues.

AD: Your feet don’t seem to be touching the ground at the moment, touring with Ashley McBryde straight off the back of Zac Brown, that’s pretty impressive.

AC: Yes, honestly it was such a surprise to get to be able to get to go on another great tour right after we finished up with Zac Brown, I was so thankful. Ashley McBryde is one of those women in country music that I look up to very heavily. Even before I moved to Nashville, she was a huge role (model) in encouraging me, so it’s a such a full circle moment to be able to get back out on the road with her and listen to her sing live at night. It’s a blessing.

AD: Is it a bit like going on the road with your big sister?

AC: Yes, literally, that’s so funny you say that because … I feel like for a lot of us gals in country music there’s almost this pressure to be a little bit bigger than life than you actually are. And the reason I love Ashley so much is because of that very reason, she goes on stage with a t-shirt and jeans and people still love her just as much – if not more – for that.

She’s being real and true and it’s relatable to people that are coming to these shows, it’s like they’re almost seeing one of their friends on stage, so it is very much like being on the road with a big sister for sure. I feel that we just get along so well and we have a lot of the same upbringings in some ways.

AD: You were on The Voice a couple of years ago and, as per normal for TV, you were massively ‘glammed up’ – the sequins, the make-up, the fancy dress and everything else. Did that help you realise what you did and didn’t want to be seen as?

AD: Yes, oh my goodness. I love this question! It’s funny because of course, going into that scenario, I had no idea what to expect and I didn’t know how much I had a hand in making those decisions and all those things, but I think for the sake of the show, I was the blonde-haired country girl and it was fine. I think it genuinely got me some great notoriety, I guess, just helping people figure out who I was, BUT it was a challenge because I did not feel like that glitzy, glam kind of girl. I think who I am is much more real, T-shirt and jeans, glammed up a little bit.

AD: What would you say you are learning from Ashley and Zac Brown?

AC: Honestly, it’s just so cool to be surrounded by powerful women, energy…’cos I just think it gives me that much more encouragement to be solid in myself, and really believe in what I’m doing, because I see her doing it so effortlessly and so carelessly, but in the best way. She’s very much ‘I’m Ashley McBryde, this is who I am and this is what I do’. It really gives me the confidence to stay true to who I am and not feel the need to change for anybody.

With Zac Brown, it was amazing to genuinely be there and soak everything in, be a sponge and learn every single thing we can about the industry on that level. They were so amazing to us, anything we have needed, they have helped make this process a billion times easier.

Ashland Craft with Zac Brown - Ashland Craft Travelin' Kind
On stage with Zac Brown. Photo: Brayln Kelly

Honestly, it’s sounds so cliché, but I think just how kind everybody has been. And people don’t realise a lot of the times, but that is what makes the experience for us as musicians, is having kind people to learn from and help us feel like we’re going in the right direction and there are people here that are genuinely here for the love of music and nothing more. So that’s pretty inspirational I know, to all of us, just to have that to look up to and to have a band that goes on stage every night and they look like they’re having the time of their lives.

AD: Following the success of Travelin’ Kind, have you got people knocking down the door wanting to collaborate with you and is your virtual postbag getting fuller than ever?

AC: That is my hope (laughter) I hope that people are still knocking on the door but yeah, that’s something I can only hope for, it means you are doing something right. But you know, I have an amazing label (Big Loud Records) behind me who has been pushing this thing and it’s so nice to have that support and having other people reach out and hopefully potentially wanting to collaborate. Just any of those things, I’m always looking for the opportunity for sure.

AD: Tell me more about the process behind making Travelin’ Kind

AC: Ever since I’ve been a little girl, all you can think about is your first record and what that looks like. I never had a specific idea, we just wrote all these songs when I first moved, some of the songs are almost three-years-old and some were very current and new.

Travelin' Kind has been a runaway success - Ashland Craft Travelin' Kind
Travelin’ Kind has been a runaway success

There was a common theme that kept occurring and of course that was travelling and moving, and somebody else is leaving, you’re leaving…all these songs that were to do with Travelin’ Kind and I wrote the title track the first year that I moved to Nashville. That one just always stuck out to me, I was like ‘oh man, that song just perfectly describes me right now’, so I knew for sure that if I was going to do a record, that had to be the title track. And after that, everything just kind of fell together on its own. I wanted to place them in the order that took you on a little journey, a little story and they all kind of lent a hand to each other.

AD: Your career has been quite rock influenced as well as your country roots, something like Highway Like Me is quite melancholy and I love that

AC: Yeah, that one is the story of my life also and one of the most special songs I have written. Jessi Alexander, she actually brought that title in and we all sat around the table and we were like, what is this song going to be? And in my head, I hear it comparing myself physically to being the highway and that song just turned out so beautiful and poetic in a sense, we definitely wanted it to ride that melancholy line where it could be happy but it’s also the sad reality of ‘this is what I love to do and it’s hard to take me away from that…

AD: It’s not that long ago that you arrived in Nashville, how did you get into the right places and get people to sit up and pay attention to you amongst the many, many wannabees that arrive there.

AC: I had some amazing, amazing mentors and friends that really helped me to get to where I am now because, Lord knows, I did not know anything about Nashville or about writing – other than the few times I attempted to do it by myself which did not turn out well (laughter).

Once I did The Voice and I had some time off to think about what I really wanted to do, I decided to move and Bradley Jordan from Peachtree Entertainment really helped me connect with Jonathan Singleton, Erik Dylan and some other people that were very beneficial to what I was trying to do.

They threw me in the room and I just listened and learned and tried to take in everything and be a sponge, which I still am to this day. But people like Jonathan and Jessi, they were just so kind – I think they knew I was coming in learning and was very fresh, they were the best mentors and they really helped me figure out who I was and what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

AD: Did you spend time doing the ‘dawn to dusk’ gigs on Broadway?

AC: Before we actually moved, we were visiting Nashville one weekend/week out of every month and we were playing in Ole Red, which is Blake Shelton’s bar on Broadway, and that was how we paid for our trip and paid to stay and meet people. I did that for a little bit longer after we moved, but my biggest priority was getting in a writing room which didn’t really allow to play during the day because the writing times are usually from about 10am through to the afternoon. I definitely played on Broadway for as long as I could to get my new face out on the crowd and play songs I like to play but also get connected.

AD Imagine if you could go back to some of those people you were playing to and said ‘see, I told you I’d get there’

AC: It was by the grace of God and some really hard work that I think we’re where we’re at now and I think the biggest thing to say to people is ‘just go for it’. I was very nervous of what was going to come of it and I didn’t even know how I was going to go about doing the things I wanted to do, but I just think throwing yourself into the pile and making it work is really beneficial, it keeps you on your toes and makes you really make sure you want it.

AD: You’ve hardly had a chance to take a breath, but are you doing any writing or getting any downtime to play with Dolly (Ashland’s gorgeous dog)

AC: Oh always – Dolly is always the top priority! I am finally getting back into songwriting, I was on a little bit of a break for a while, just trying to collect myself and really think about what it is that I wanted to say next. This first album was so huge for me, I kind of feel it was like my life up until this point, so I feel like I have a clean slate and I get to start in a new place, and that’s kind of exciting because we’ve told the story of being on the run and being on the go, and I’m curious to see what comes next.

AD That’s great to hear – and given that the album is all about travelling – and we have Ashley coming over this side of the pond soon for C2C and touring at the end of April/early May, do you have any plans to get over here?

AC: I wish I was coming with her, man, I’ll have to try to persuade her to stick me in her suitcase (laughter). I’m so ready to meet everyone over there and it is just eating at me. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I’m going to be over that way soon.

Trust me, the moment I get the opportunity, I’m coming.

Keep in touch with Ashland Craft here:

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Travelin’ Kind is available now on all streaming services

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