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Interview: Ashley Monroe talks new album Rosegold, how and where melodies come to her, tips on homeschooling and more…

Singer/Songwriter Ashley Monroe released her Fifth studio album Rosegold last week to critical acclaim. So far our album of the year, Rosegold will be incredibly hard to beat.

Just before the release of Rosegold we spoke to Ashley about the album, her life during lockdown and the impact it had on her personal and professional life, how melodies come to her and more.

Ashley was a delight to speak with. Having been a fan for so long of both Ashley’s solo work and her work as part of country trio The Pistol Annies, this was a very exciting interview for us. 

Ashley was very kind and fun and incredibly interesting. She even sang down the phone a couple of times which of course we could not believe. An absolutely stunning singing voice, this was such a treat. 

Deserving of a Grammy, We truly hope that Rosegold gets a nomination.  

Here is hoping for Ashley to come over to the UK again soon. This time though, we want a long visit. A tour and perhaps a few festivals. We know she can easily headline The Long Road Festival.

We hope you enjoy our chat!

Hi Ashley, How are you?

I am doing well

How has your week been?

It has been good! It was my husbands birthday and his parents were in from Texas so we had a lovely day!

How has your year been with all the restrictions? How has it been professionally and personally?

My husband’s retired from baseball and I had been writing some, not a ton but some and successfully when I did. I was writing with people carefully. I am kind of a home body anyway, I do not go out. I would be fine ordering anything in and everything forever to the house so it’s been kind of nice. I got a gym here so I work out at my own house so it’s been kind of nice being at home with my family.

How has your son been with it as he isn’t quite school age yet is he? So assume you haven’t needed to homeschool?

He isn’t quite school age no. We have some help in the week. My wonderful lady that helps with my son brings a little boy so he has interaction with him so I feel he is getting a good routine. It’s a good little system we have.

Part of me doesn’t want to send him to pre-school right now because selfishly I want him around me all the time but I think “my gosh” he will start school soon. In my mind I think I will just homeschool him but my other mind says no. Homeschooling will be a lot of work and they respond to a teacher way better than they do us.

Yes so true, I have found homeschooling so hard and my son doesn’t take it seriously!

You know what I do sometimes? I will switch roles and act like a teacher. I have got like a play teacher set and he responds to it like a teacher, it is actually bizarre. I will put on these little glasses and I will have a hall pass for when he needs to go potty or whatever and I will change my voice. He literally responds to me with more respect.

That is such a good idea, I am going to have to start trying that haha!

It might work

You have the new album Rosegold out which by the way I love! I have been listening to it since I got it. My five year old came into my room today as I was listening to it and he said “I like this”

Oh my gosh, that makes me happy. I have heard a lot of people who say that about their kids and babies and to me that is the purest opinion. That is the purest form of like “I want that”.

Has having children changed you as a Songwriter because I read somewhere that you said you always write sad songs but now that you have so much joy in your life it kind of has changed you a bit. Have you written songs for him?

I have written songs for him and myself. I should record them one day. I definitely started hearing more melodies. My closet is where I hear a lot of melodies and it is where I am right now as it is the quietest place in my house. I call it my Quoffice. Actually Angaleena Presley came up with that and I stole it! I would hear (hums tune to Silk from Rosegold) you know like these melodies, careless whispers and they all sounded heavenly but I would just get chills. With “Flying” (also from Rosegold and starts singing it) I heard that and I always hear melodies like that and I just write what I hear.

I do think it’s a gift, I think that the holy spirit moves and activates that at will if you pay attention to it. I have started to become more open and was kind of receiving the melodies that were coming and I just follow it and write it without thinking much about it. I was thinking actually that in my life I had been really protective of my joy after having my son because I lost my dad when I was 13 and you wouldn’t believe how bad my life was after that. It was really crazy. I hadn’t really felt this kind of joy since before my dad died. It feels like a wave of grief envelopes you and develops you and you’re just always kind of sad but after I had my son it was like, well I feel this surge of joy.

Also as a person I was working on myself and reading the bible more and working out more and taking care of myself. Trying to choose love over fear, all the things you know? So at the same time that all these melodies were coming in I was working personally too and was protective of my joy. I didn’t even watch “dateline” and that was the highlight of my week. I don’t want to hear any unnecessary sad things, I wanted to be protective of that. I wanted this record to frame that feeling, to amplify it and then make other people feel that.

It has those really nice trippy melodies that are hypnotic and I was instantly drawn to it from the first song “Siren”. How much did the songs change from how they were originally written to then the full production that gives us all those additional hauntingly beautiful sounds?

The producers very much added their take. They knew that I wouldn’t let them get out a banjo or anything. I kind of let them do whatever. “Do whatever y’all want”.

“Siren” actually, me and my husband and Aaron Ratitere who is an amazing writer, one of my best friends – we went to our river house in 2018 maybe 2019 one of those years and I always hear really cool melodies at our river house. Must be something about being around water I think but I heard ( starts humming Siren) and so me and Aaron kind of just started on this little nylon string guitar that I have up there and started on this little hook that I had. I think we started on some words too (hums again) I wanted to do some unpredictable phrasing and make it interesting but I wanted to allure people in. We didn’t finish it really and then were writing with Mikey Green. I think that was the first time that we wrote with Mikey when we wrote Siren. I was just so blown away by Mikey, he is so cool and funky and great and groovy and just such a good songwriter. So he helped us and all three of us wrote Siren from that little melody that we started by the river. It was just so seductive and I wanted to start the record with that because I knew people would be like “what is that?” at first and then when you really listen it just draws you in.

That is the word I used to describe it on my album review, “seductive” because that is exactly what it is like. I love that!

You said you got a lot of the inspiration from a while back but was any of it written and recorded in lockdown?

Five or six of the songs were written and the bones of the songs were there but Gena (Johnson)and I worked in lockdown. Gena mixed the record and we took a lot of time to make sure they were all perfect and flowed with each other and all those things but we worked off and on over the past few years. I did write Till It Breaks right before lockdown. That was the newest song on the record but we were still writing in person then so it was right before lockdown. We mainly did the mixing and the fine tuning during lockdown.

Is it hard to do that? Normally when recording an album I guess you can bring in a lot of musicians to play on the record but I am guessing that had to be reduced?

Yeah! Mikey can play everything. They all can – Jake, Nathan Chapman, they can play all the instruments so it’s like when you are writing with these people that are so talented, they can play anything, literally! It was so cool for me because we had the vocal and then them playing most of the instruments. It’s interesting that it worked out that way plus also we weren’t around a ton of people. I wrote these before the pandemic so I could have gone to the studio but I just didn’t want to haha.

How have you found being with Thirty Tigers Label because I assume you have a lot more creative freedom to explore and so on?

Oh yes and I am so thankful that they came in. Dave Macias reached out when he heard the project when I had just five songs at the time. I had a meeting with him and I just saw that fire in his eyes and he was real passionate about the project. I had never put out anything on my own. I had a great management team but there is only so much you can do so they helped tremendously in a lot of areas of this project and really put in a lot of support behind it that it deserved, that I wanted it to have.

Who is the first person you play a new song to for feedback?

My mum. But she loves them all, she thinks all of them are great so she is my safe one haha. I play some for John (my husband), I play them for my friends Amy and Bethany whom I bounce my new songs off always. My management too, I go to my management office and go “guys, come here, get in my car right now, just stop what you are doing and get in my car right now” haha.

Does your mum have an all time favourite song of yours?

I don’t know. Probably “Mother’s Daughter” because it’s about her.

What has zoom writing been like? Do you think that is something you will continue to do? Does it work?

Yeah I think it’s really good to be honest. It can be hard because you can’t really sing with each other so everyone prefers to be in the room but I am actually thankful for it because I have been able to write with people in the UK and LA and we have found it awesome and we say we should do this more often. They go by fast though and you don’t get to eat as it’s too noisy, I learned that the hard way . I have Cynthia the Synthesiser in my closet and I get her out for co-writes and I sit back here and I am nearly done writing a song in an hour and a half . I have written some good ones on Zoom. It’s not the preferred way but it can work.

Good I’m glad to hear that.

When you can, you are going to come back to the UK aren’t you?

Oh you bet your bottom dollar I am. I can’t wait to get back over there.

Can you please play “Used” when you come back? I have never heard you sing that live and it’s my favourite.

Oh, yes I will put it my notes. I have written “Siren seductive” and now I have written down “Used”. My note to self from our conversation haha. I am glad you know that song it’s an oldie

Thank you. Well we can’t wait to see you soon, thanks so much for talking and take care!

Thank you too

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