Lora Kaelber - OnMilwaukee.com
Thirty-four year-old Ashley McBryde is finally getting her
due in the country music world. As she should. This woman has been
making outstanding music in Nashville since 2007, writing and
playing in dive bars and honkytonks - anywhere to get her music
Her music is this amazing combination of grit and beauty. To me, if
Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson and Trisha Yearwood had
a baby, Ashley McBryde would be it.
"A Little Dive Bar in Dahlongea," the first single from her first
studio album, "Girl Going Nowhere," has made tidal waves
everywhere. Reaching number seven on the U.S. Country Chart, it's
been named to Rolling Stone's "25 Best Songs," The New York Times
"54 Best Songs" and N.P.R.'s "35 Favorite Songs of 2018 (So Far)."
She's had a long road to achieve the musical recognition she rightfully
deserves, a journey she's described as one of "guerilla warfare."
One of the best things about her is that she doesn't fit the 2018
mold of what a female country star should be. And frankly, I'm happy
for it. She's super smart, full of sauce and wit and funny as hell.
She's not standing on a pedestal, nor does she seem to want to.
I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with McBryde before her Country
Thunder set to ask her a few questions about where she's been and
where's she's going.
You grew up on some serious rock music with mom and dad listening to
artists like Van Zandt and The Police.
How did you swing into country?
actually grew up playing bluegrass and listening to country music,
and was really lucky that there was an oldies station - I talk about
it in the song "Radioland" - that we could get in the next
town over. And I just thought it was just regular rock music; of
course, now it's considered oldies. But it was everything. It was
The Beatles. It was Springsteen. It was Joplin. It
was Hendrix. And so, from a very early age, bluegrass,
country and rock were all equal.
What are the two most important things
you want people to know about you?
Well, every time I leave a place, I want people to say that my crew
is a group of nice people that work really hard and we're easy to
work with. You know, I want them to know that all my tattoos have
stories. I didn't just randomly spin a wheel and get tattoos. I'm
being told now - you know the comments sections and everything -
that "that's way too many tattoos for country music." And I think
that's hilarious. So, yeah, you can be country and have tattoos.
It's safe to say you're not a girl going nowhere any longer, but
it's also safe to say that women in country music
are still suffering the effects of
Keith Hill's Saladgate comments...
And that you've heard a fair number of no's. What's been your
and what did you learn from it?
was a writer in town. I was playing a writer's night that was his.
He was opening a publishing company. He came up and stood right next
to me as I'm watching this other songwriter and said, "What do you
want to be?" And I said, "I want to be a songwriter." He said, "I'm
opening a publishing company. I need a girl writer." I said, "OK."
He said, "You want to be an artist or you want to be a writer?"
I said, "I want to be both. I want to be Lucinda Williams." And he
looked at me and he goes, "Mmmm, I can't make you into what I need
you to be" and passed on the deal. And thank God! Because I didn't
have to sacrifice anything about myself to be able to write songs.
was a tough one. And it was a writer I really respected. We've made
amends since then.
do you say to people who think that country music is dying or needs
kind of silly. Country music has always been there, and it's always
going to be there. And we're ... we change a little bit what we look
like. We change a little bit what we sound like. We're kind of
becoming this blurred genre of sub-genres.
awhile, we all resisted it. I resisted it too as a songwriter, being
like, "I don't want to write truck songs." Well, you don't have to.
We build a bigger table. We make room for everybody. Because even
though we're considered on the rock side of things, the way we do
country music wouldn't have as much impact if there wasn't pop
country and if there wasn't bare bones roots country, too.
So, it's all really important. It's not dying. It's not going to go
anywhere. It's just going to change what it looks like and sounds
Who makes you fan girl
and who are your influences?
Influences is really, really hard because every artist is just an
amalgamation of every song they've ever heard. But I always reach
for things like ... I grew up listening to Patty Loveless, Pam
Tillis, Trisha Yearwood, Mark Chestnutt, Alan Jackson. That was
a really good time in country music. But then also, like, Bruce
Springsteen and Lucinda Williams is a huge influence. Wynonna
Who makes me fan girl? I cried in April when I got to meet Reba
McEntire. And I fan girl out every time I see Wynonna, too. Even
though she is so approachable and so sweet. And Reba was, too. And I
shook her hand and I was all shaky. And she said, "Well, I was
wonderin' when I was gonna meet you." And I said, "Don't you dare
introduce yourself right now." And so I stood there.
I always say the most awkward things when I get nervous. We were at
dinner and we were a couple tables over. The words came out of my
mouth: "I don't mean to bother you while your snout's in the trough,
I just wanted to say hello." And then I was like, "Did I just say
that? It was the most Arkansasan thing I could have possibly done!"
She took it really well. She was really nice.
Your first headlining tour starts in September - congratulations.
What are your goals beyond the tour? What's next for you?
the tour, I have one goal: I get an opener - his name is Dee
White - and I get to be good to him the way so many artists were
good to me on club tours. And I'm so excited about that.
Beyond that, it's almost time to start working on the second record,
which we've already got a ton of songs picked out. And that's the
hardest part: watching these songs duke it out with each other. Even
just picking a single, like "Radioland" was duking it out
with "American Scandal." No matter what song wins, you know,
we're gonna be excited about it. But it's a painful and really
beautiful process. I'm ready to get back in the studio with Jay. We
cut this record in two days ... two nights.
two full nights from about 6 p.m. to about 4 a.m. both times. And so
I'm excited. Let's try seven days and see what happens when you make
a record that way.
"A Little Dive Bar
(from Girl Going Nowhere)
Motivated by the words of a teacher who thought her dreams of making music were too fanciful, Ashley McBryde titled her debut album Girl Going Nowhere. Suggesting quite the opposite, the Arkansas singer/songwriter brings a rock edge to classic country, sharing the hard-won wisdom of a decade of singing in bars. Breakthrough track "A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega" is a tribute to the uplifting power of music in tough times, but occasionally the assured swagger in her voice gives way to vulnerability and reflection, most stirringly on "Andy," a tale of enduring love.
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