CMW - Country Music Week

Interview: Kassi Ashton talks playing the UK, her hometown, not having love for baked beans and more

Rising star Kassi Ashton made her UK debut during the CMA Songwriters Series shows alongside Chris DeStefano, Tenille Townes and Ashley Campbell during Country music Week in October.

With a unique voice and style in country music, Kassi wowed the UK audiences all over and her sass, wit and fun personality made the fans fall in love with her as a person too.

Kassi, so far only has a few songs out but these songs are so powerful and edgy that you know she is going to be a pretty big deal. Kassi sings about her small hometown in her single California, Missouri and has collaborated with Keith Urban on his song Drop Top from his album Graffiti U.

We caught up with Kassi during her trip in the UK and absolutely adored her. What a fun gal and even more amazing artist.

 

How has your trip been so far?

Oh it’s been amazing, I love traveling around and getting to see new places even if it is through a window (currently in a sprinter).

Is this your first time in the UK?

I have been to London once last year for a writing thing but other than that yeah, it is my first time performing.

You have had some amazing responses from the crowds – your name has been popping up a lot, how has that felt?

It feels amazing. When your article compared me to Amy Winehouse and Adele I literally cried. They were a big part of me realising that I had a bit more soul in my voice than what most country songs make you sound like. It gives me the warm and lovelies and at the meet and greet every night when they hug me and say”I love you, you have to come back, you have to come back” and I make promises as much as possible to come back because I love it here.

As you just said with comparisons to Amy and Adele, I also hear a bit of Linda Perry and I hope that’s a compliment?

Oh yes it’s absolutely a compliment thank you.

What has it been like to hear the other songwriters stories on these rounds? Have you seen these guys perform before? Did you know each other?

So I have written with Chris (DeStefano) before so we knew each other but still, hearing the stories that I had never heard before because we had never played a round together is great. I had never met Ashley (Campbell) before so I am loving hearing all of her stories and her sweet voice. Tenille and I knew of each other and had met briefly a couple of times and now we have grown very close over the tour so that excites me. You hear kind of the same stories every night because we play a lot of the same shows but every time you hear them you just love them more. Some people might think we get tired of it but no, you love it more.

So tell us a bit about yourself? Growing up? Did you always want to be a singer? Was it always country?

Oh always country. I always tell the story of of singing before I could read because my mum used to sneak me into a karaoke bar and I would sing My Heart Will Go On from Titanic by Celine Dion. My mum would stand behind me and read the words off the prompter because I couldn’t because I was too small. She said that if the audience cheered too loud I would cry because it scared me. So pretty much since I knew you could have a career as an adult as a singer I knew that is what I wanted to be. I had a whole play room separate from my bedroom that had a little stage with a curtain and I would do shows for all my stuffed animals, play dress up. It has been the only option my whole life.

What happened when you arrived in Nashville? Was it a lot of hard work before getting anywhere? Singing in bars/clubs? Submitting songs? Going to labels?

My trip was a bit different than most peoples. I moved to Nashville to go to Belmont University and I was getting a degree in singing with a minor in music business because my grandma told me that I had to go to University or else she would be mad at me haha. I did a large showcase there that you have to audition for and a lot of industry people came to it. That is actually how I got my publishing deal. That was kind of the loop hole to it all, not easy per se but just much different than what most people come through.

I am hearing a lot of people describe you as and I feel too British to say this but they use “badass” to describe you – what do make of that?

Haha I love the way you say that word haha. I think it is like the biggest compliment ever. If someone was going to use a word to describe me, that’s my number one word on the list. I appreciate that whole heartedly.

Tell us about the song California Missouri, it is fantastic and also very different from what we usually hear in country music.

Thank you!

So it’s a whole different California?

Yes, that is the name of my small town, home town in Missouri. I guess they weren’t original when they named it haha. It is tiny, it is like 4,000 people. Nobody leaves, everybody knows everybody’s business. Growing up there as an artistic kid who wanted out was hard – even though half of me was on a farm in jeans and cowboy boots, I would reject that because everyone else was like that. It can be a bit difficult for a kid who is into ballet, fashion and music and has big dreams so I always knew that I wanted to write that song to get a perspective that is a little different to what is usual in country music hometown songs. I knew that there were other people in the world somewhere that felt the same way that I did.

What do the people of California Missouri make of the song?

My dad he laughs because I think it’s split down the middle. There are people there who felt the same way I did but they still love it enough to stay. They have come up to my dad in the grocery store or gas station and have been like “You know she’s right, that song, she’s right” and my dad is like “Yeah you know? I never really realised it as much until she (Kassi) was growing up and I saw kind of the bad side”. Dad was born and raised there and loves it and stays. The other half of the people are mad – they will literally walk up to my dad and say “I can’t believe she wrote it bla bla bla” they are very negative but I don’t mind at all. I figured that there would be some backlash.

There always is. Especially when you are successful.

Oh yeah.

You seem to be very much into fashion too?

Oh yeah, definitely. I love clothes. I love art and I feel that clothes are a wearable art that you can kind of put your feelings into and show the world who you want to be each day and what mood that you’re feeling. You can kind of be a mix of different people on the outside through clothes. I started making clothes in middle school just because I live by the saying “If It doesn’t exist, make it”. So when things pop into my head and I can’t find them , I am forced to find a way to make them or else I think I would go crazy. It has helped out as far as my artist career goes because when I come up with a vision for something, whether it is an award show or a photo shoot or video shoot, I can have the ability to bring it fully to life exactly how I see it.

That’s cool.

Tell is about this baked beans thing?

Hahahaha. You have seen my tweet. When I came to London last year I went to this breakfast place because everyone said I had to go. I saw eggs and bacon on the menu and I was like “Oh that’s just what I want” so I ordered it and one, I quickly learned that the bacon here (UK) is not the bacon that we eat for breakfast in America. Your bacon is what we see as ham, country ham which I like so it was fine. I asked the waitress if she knew what American bacon looked like and she said yes. Also, my plate was filled with baked beans, the whole plate and I don’t like baked beans haha. I was kind of confused and thought “did baked beans spill on my plate and they didn’t notice?”. Then I looked over and I think the girl beside me knew that I was quizzical about the whole baked beans thing and she said “ It’s a breakfast staple” and I was like “Oh, that’s kind of strange”. My dad loves baked beans so I am sure he would be thrilled haha. I have to ask for eggs and bacon sans the baked beans next time haha.

Haha yep! Big thing over here – we have it on toast, jacket potatoes and even pizza.

Wow, that is amazing!

Are you working on an album and if so, can we know anything about it?

Yes! I will be putting out a lot more music next year, hopefully a radio single and am working towards an album. I am totally an album girl because they are whole pieces of art from start to finish that you should listen to and in the order that the artist intended you to hear it.

Well the UK is perfect for you as we love albums too.

Perfect, oh good!

You have the song Taxidermy out right now?

Yes! So that is the only song that I have recorded that I didn’t write myself. One of my very dear friends Natalie Hemby wrote that song. She called me the day that she wrote it and said “ I wrote a song for you today and it’s called Taxidermy” and I was like “What?” Haha. It is quite jarring of a title which is why I came to love it because I knew that on a list of songs, if people saw the word Taxidermy they would click on it. Once I heard the song, it perfectly embodied the two worlds that I grew up in; with my dad on the farm and how big deer season is with my family and then my mum the more artistic side where I would dance ballet my whole life and go to beauty pageants and do fashion and it perfectly moulded those two worlds together. It was threatening in a comical way and I am all about that haha. You used the word badass and that song is actually that.

Well Natalie Hemby herself is pretty badass.

Oh she is, she is such as badass.

Any plans to come back to UK?

As soon as possible.

Oh good, please do come back. Thanks so much for your time, hopefully see you soon.

Thank you honey!

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