Every now and then a song comes on the radio that is different than all the rest. A song that makes you stop what you’re thinking to reach down and turn the volume up just a little. The droning sound of noise in the background becomes the solace or escape from reality that we all are looking for. That is exactly what I experience when I hear Ashley Monroe.
From the first note of her silky smooth tone you realize you are listening to a real country artist, that not only sings about the life you know, but has also lived it. Even though Ashley is still in her twenties the depth of sorrow and joy that resonates from her songs cannot be duplicated or faked.
For more than half of her life, Ashley has been making music with fans and music industry icons alike taking notice. Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Jack White, Guy Clark and Train are just a few of the giant artists that have offered their kudos and even collaborated with her.
No matter what the scenario, Ashley is an original with a compelling story to tell.
“It took a lot to get here. It’s been a long, hard road,” states Monroe. After losing her father to cancer when she was only 13 years old, Ashley’s roller coaster ride began. Suffering such a devastating loss, she immersed herself in her music. “After he died I started writing all the sadness out,” she says. “That was my therapy, my outlet. There was no way I could have held all that in.” Perhaps events like these are what gives her the ability to make you feel the sorrow in a song as she sings.
The journey of an artist is always filled with ups and downs. Ashley’s journey has been no different. After numerous recordings, label changes and personal appearances, at the age of 20, she found herself back at ground zero once again. There was one difference though, she had lived a lot of life and had even more stories to tell.
For the next decade, Ashley continued to hone her craft. She became a better songwriter, better performer and all around better artist. From her years of hard work and determination, she stepped into what she describes as her most rewarding artistic adventure to date in 2011, The Pistol Annies. Ashley co-formed the group with her friends, Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley. Ashley had collaborated with Miranda before as a songwriter when they co-penned Lambert’s hit “A Heart Like Mine”. The Pistol Annies gave Ashley yet another creative outlet to explore. Even as part of a group she stood out, known and loved by everyone as “Hippie Annie”. The group was met with critical acclaim, garnering rave reviews from the industry elite and fans as well.
Regardless of the previous success she had enjoyed, it was obvious Ashley still had much to say as a solo artist. It was though she was on a path that would lead her to collaboration with industry legend Vince Gill. Like A Rose was the result of that collaboration. The track list ran the gamut of emotions from feel-good songs like the “You Ain’t Dolly (And You Ain’t Porter)” duet with Blake Shelton and the controversial “Weed Instead of Roses” to the thoughtful, heart-wrenching “Used” or “She’s Driving Me Out of Your Mind”, just to name a few. From track to track, Gill produced a record that showcased Ashley’s strength as a writer and performer.
Gill and Monroe wanted to capture the true essence of each song and were committed to capturing each cut in an old school manner. Ashley shares, “We just got the band in a circle and started playing the songs,” she continues, “and once we felt like we had a feel for it, I’d do my vocal live—I never went back in to do a second vocal. Everyone put everything we had into the songs. There was a buzz in the room. We all had fun—it felt like a big old family, the way records used to be made.” You can’t argue with the results. Like A Rose still remains one of my favorite country albums of the last 20 years.
On July 24th, Ashley released her latest musical effort, The Blade. She chose to collaborate with Vince Gill once again as producer, but also enlisted Justin Niebank to produce a few tracks.
Ashley has shared that the nature of the title track from The Blade is a very personal one. “I have been on the receiving end of that pain,” Ashley said. “It actually makes me physically hurt when I sing it … but in a good way.” No wonder we as fans feel the same emotion when we hear her sing it. “I’m so thankful to the writers of that song,” she continues. “They talked about my heartbreak in a way that I’ve never heard. That’s hard to do.”
Cut after cut, no pun intended, The Blade delivers everything Ashley Monroe fans have been clamoring for. Be sure to read our full review for more details about this amazing record!
While hearing Ashley on the radio or watching her on television is awesome, nothing compares to seeing her live. If you are lucky, you can catch her as she performs at a few select festivals this summer, or possibly on select dates of Rascal Flatts Riot Tour. If you miss those, no worries, you can still catch her in the fall as she joins long time friend Miranda Lambert on her Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars tour.
She’s definitely on to something good!