Interview: Talking to Ashley McBryde about C2C Festival, Dahlonega, her special Jacket and Home Sweet Highway

Ashley McBryde is a name you are going to hear a lot and for many years to come. With her debut major label single A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega hitting No. 1 on SiriusXM’s The Highway Top 30 earlier this year, being included on Amazon Music Unlimited’s Best Country Songs of 2017 playlist, being recently named to New York Timesallgenre Best Songs of 2017 and being the most added female and most added new artist at country radio week of release, you know that this girl is not going nowhere and is in fact going places and places much farther than Dahlonega.

Ashley will be releasing her album Girl Going Nowhere via Warner Music Nashville later this month (March 30th) and already the hype surrounding the album amongst fans, artists and industry professionals is through the roof. Ashley has already released the title track off the album as well as American Scandal as a single and if you pre order the album, which I recommend you do then you can get those songs instantly as well as tracks Radioland and Tired of Being Happy.

Ashley will be heading over to London this week to be part of Europe’s biggest country music festival C2C. She will be playing on the Spotlight stage as well as various shows across the weekend. Ashley will also be heading out with Ryan Kinder and Una Healy on Monday 12th at The Borderline, London.

We caught up with Ashley to discuss C2C, what drove her to write A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega, how her stolen Jacket lives on and what Home Sweet Highway is all about.

Ashley was a delight to speak with and so funny and friendly and full of interesting stories. We cannot wait to see Ashley at C2C Festival and those of you who are going, please do check her out. We think Ashley will be one of the biggest success stories of C2C and that she is going to be on the lips, stereos and playlists of pretty much everyone in attendance. Not bad for a girl going nowhere….

I hope you enjoy our chat


Hi Ashley, how are you?

I am good thank you.

What have you been up to this week?

I am in New York City at the moment; we played the Bowery Electric last night and we are about to head out in a couple of hours to Virginia.

Oh, nice. How was last night?

It was so much fun – it was my first time to play a club in New York. We had done late night tv here, but we have never done a club and it was everything I wanted it to be. It was down a dark staircase, a small stage in a small room; it was a blast.

I am going to jump right in and say that we are so excited to have you at C2C in just over a week – how excited are you to come over?

I am really excited; this will be my first visit, ever. I have never left the US, which is so strange.

Wow!

Now I get to go to the UK, yeah – and I hear such wonderful things about the love of Country music there and can’t wait to witness it.

You will have an amazing time – will you get to sightsee?

I hope so; also, I am big foodie so I just want whatever thing that I need to try and, of course I am a big fan of bars and cannot wait to drink a beer over there.

You will be playing a few shows across the weekend including the Spotlight stage inside the O2 to 20,000 country fans.

When I think of the word Arena and I hear the number 20,000 it is kind of daunting, but I love to do this. It doesn’t matter if it is in front of 20,000 people or 20 people, I just really enjoy doing it – I am kind of nervous but more excited.

Well don’t be nervous, because we are a very welcoming crowd.

You will be part of the Bluebird Sessions on Sunday with Walker Hayes and Leslie Satcher – we love our songwriters’ rounds here.

Oh, yeah – and I love people to know where the songs come from. After you have written a song and you sing it, then it really belongs to the listener and whatever interpretation they have of it. But it’s also a lot of fun to let people know how it happened; if it was by accident or this is verbatim of what happened that day. I love doing that.

Sticking to the subject of songwriting – do you have a particular process, or can it be an idea anywhere?

I was writing five, six days a week all the time but right now I don’t get to do it as often, because we are out on tour, so I am sort of like a Roomba. I am like this little robot that goes around all day long, picking up different things, watching people for a minute and then writing something down. That way I can put it all in the same bucket, so when I get to sitting down to write, I can sift through it and use those parts. There are so many ways to do it – sometimes I already have the idea and we just sit down and take off on it and then sometimes I sit down with a buddy, and we just talk and catch up with each other, and something can fall out of that pretty easily.

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

I have been making things up since I was really little, and I used to just sing what I was doing. My mum has a bunch of that on VHS. The first song I ever wrote, I was 12 years old, and I sat down meaning to write a song and I did. It’s called Fight The Flames; it was about what you would think from a 12 year old. That was the first time my mum was like ‘Oh, wow, you really do like to write songs’.

Tell us about the process and story behind A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega.

That morning, I had had a bad morning. It is only 11am at this time and it is hard to have a bad day when you have only been awake for a few hours, but I had broken my windshield on the way to work and I had screwed up my guitar and I just didn’t feel good. I knew I needed to write that day (as I had a scheduled co-write) and then in comes one of my very best friends, Nicolette Hayford, who had had a really bad morning too. She had suddenly found herself single after three years of being with this guy and she was kind of in a bad mood and upset – and then Jesse Rice was late, an hour and a half late. I might be the only punctual songwriter in Nashville because you say 11 o’ clock and nobody shows up till 11.45, but this guy was an hour and a half late and I was thinking ‘I am not going to like this guy at all, he is really wasting my time today’.

Then he showed up and he was so disheveled, so cute, and I said ‘Dude, what happened to you? Did you sleep in your clothes?’ But he had had a long night and he had dropped his phone in the toilet at a bar and he didn’t know where to be, he didn’t know who he had to write with or what time or what address to go to. So, we got all that worked out and I said ‘You know? This is just bad ju ju – we have had, in combination, the worst day ever, so why don’t we just get some beer and sit around and talk about how crappy today was and let’s make it better for each other’.

I asked if they had had a more inconvenient or worse day than today and Jesse tells Nicolette and I about his car breaking down outside of Atlanta and having to take this exit called Dahlonega, Georgia. He winds up going to The Crimson Moon Café, because that’s where a parking spot was, so he parked up, went inside and Shawn Mullins was in there playing a show, so he stayed. He didn’t just stay, he got a beer and a burger, and he met a girl that night – a little blonde girl named Kendra and then wound up getting married ultimately.

Oh, wow!

He stuck it out on a really crappy day and it was the best thing that ever happened to him and so his true story of meeting Kendra and with all of us commiserating together, all of a sudden we were like, ‘Oh, all we have to do is make all of this rhyme’ which didn’t take long at all.

So I looked at Nicolette, who had just had a break up, and I said ‘ How about “ Here’s to the break ups that didn’t break us” ‘ and she was like ‘Oh, yeah.’. So, then we start talking about Dahlonega and after sifting through all the notes we’d made of the stories we’d told each other, it really just came together pretty quickly.

That is amazing. Have you been to the bar yourself now? The Crimson Moon Café?

Yes, absolutely. We went last September, and we played at a vineyard in Dahlonega, Georgia and as we were done, with the whole van loaded up, we went to the Crimson Moon and met Dana LaChance, the owner. Most of the band had to go back to Nashville that night but me, Nicollette and Chris Harris, who plays mandolin for me, did not have to go back, so we stayed an extra night just to hang out in Dahlonega. We really just had a ball, and we ended up playing that night.

Wow, I would love to go there.

Oh, yeah – it is such a cute little place. Dana says ‘You know, I wouldn’t consider this a dive bar, I think it is a pretty nice establishment ‘ and I said ‘No, dive bar means small, intimate and cosy – it doesn’t mean dirty. It is very much a compliment. I built a career on just dive bars – so I don’t ever want anyone to be offended by that term’.

The song has done exceptionally well, as it should, because it’s wonderfully catchy and brilliant lyrically and musically. New York Times named it as best All Genre Song of 2017, and you were the most added female and most added new artist at Country radio the week of the songs release. Did you ever expect the song to have such an impact?

I hoped that it would do well, but it exceeded my hopes there. It kind of grew legs and ran off, it jumped up and started doing well listener-wise and chart-wise, but it also started affecting people – which is the whole point of us making music: to try to help somebody the way music has helped us. I have been getting twitter stuff, facebook stuff and snap chats off people who the song is affecting; I had a lady tell me that whilst listening to the song, an abusive ex was calling her and she decided not to answer the phone because she was listening to the song. That’s powerful, that is way bigger than anything else.

Your album Girl Going Nowhere is out March 30th. and on that album is a track called The Jacket. Forgive me for bringing it up, but is that track, as I have not heard it yet, about your jacket that was sadly stolen?

We had actually considered not putting that song on the record, to make room for another song – but after my jacket was stolen we thought that there is no better way to pay respect to that beautiful little piece of denim. It was given to me originally when I was a teenager and I really did think that it was handed to me to throw away, because it was in such disrepair. The left side pocket was made of mostly bandanas, so the pocket fell off. The inside pockets on that jacket were patches off a beer truck uniform that my grandfather wore. Never drunk a day in his life but drove beer trucks. The jacket originally belonged to my mother’s cousin who was killed in an accident and so that was the one thing they had of Sam that they were all connected to, so it eventually went to my uncle and made its way through our family. Every time something would fall off it, they would add something to it, even leather to cover a hole or a patch; it sort of became a scrap book of my family history and it went everywhere with me. I even had it on stage with me the very first time I played with Willie Nelson, so it just had all this cool energy about it. It was really sad and I was really torn up when it got stolen, but in the song the jacket lives on to have other adventures.

What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing it – and I am so glad the jacket gets to live on in a way.

Tell us about your Grand Ole Opry debut.

That was life changing. It is earth shaking to be invited at all to play at the Opry and I knew that my knees would shake when I stood in the Circle, but I didn’t know how much they would shake or how you can feel all the past members who have played there. But you feel supported by that feeling and the gravity of that moment. I will never forget it; it still makes me tear up, especially when I watch the video.

Have you had anymore airplane shout outs?

I haven’t, thank goodness – but one of my representatives at Warner has promised to embarrass me even more than that representative did. I am not sure how she is going to accomplish that, but I am sure she can do it.

I saw on twitter a shout out to Dropkick Murphys, who I love and have seen a few times – well worth it – have you seen them live?

I have not gotten to see them live but it’s a goal.

They are worth it, and you should try to get up on stage during the Spicy McHaggis Jig.

Tell us about Home Sweet Highway.

Oh, yeah. I was in Quincy, Illinois out playing acoustically, opening up for the Brothers Osborne. We were gassing up the truck, and my friend Blue said “Are you ready to go?” and I said “I am ready to go, man – Home Sweet Highway”. We looked at each other and said “When we get home, we have to write this”. So, we got back to Nashville and sat down in this place we called ‘the space’ and invited a friend down that we hadn’t seen in years. We said “Come write with us and hang out” and he said “You know I haven’t written in a long time and I don’t know if I am going to be any good today.” So I said “No, listen to me; ‘Home Sweet Highway’ ” .His eyes lit up and I said “I know this song is going to have some power to it; there is some kind of ju ju behind that title – let’s write it.” We wrote it top to bottom right then. I love that song, it is kind of an anthem for the band; we love to be out playing and we do miss our families, but gosh, we sure do miss the crowds and each other when we’re not playing music.

And you have done YouTube videos with the hashtag #HomeSweetHighway, too?

Oh, yeah; a guy that helps us drive, Brad, is also a wonderful videographer. He started travelling with us a little bit and he just keeps his camera on at all times and has all this amazing footage of us all behind the scenes. It’s all organic, just us hanging out and he started to put it together and it became Home Sweet Highway -The Series. There are a couple of scenes where my hair is wet when we are at soundcheck and I don’t look my best, but that’s ok; I like that. I like that you can tell we are real people and this is our lives.

Well thank you so much for talking to me today. I am so excited to see you at C2C and think you will walk away as one of the success stories of the entire weekend – and I hope that you come back to play for us every year.

Oh, gosh, I hope so! I am so looking forward to shaking hands and giving hugs and getting to hear all new stories from all new people. I am a sponge for the human experience and just cannot wait to get over there.

 

Ashley will be playing on the following stages during C2C Festival

Saturday March 10th

BBC Radio 2 Stage (Indigo) – 12.10

Spotlight Stage – Inside O2 Arena – 17:50

Sunday March 11th

The Bluebird Cafe – 13:30

Tickets for The Borderline Mon 12th March can be purchased here

Pre order Girl Going Nowhere here

Pre Save Girl Going Nowhere here

Purchase exclusive bundles here

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