Ashley Monroe, for those who aren’t familiar, is one third of the power all-female country trio the Pistol Annies, a songwriter with a string of hits to her name, and an artist who struck fans with her traditional lean and very real, honest lyrics in 2013. Aged just 27, her musical (and general) maturity and loyalty to the older, more heartfelt country sounds and stories, yet often aimed at women unspoken for in the mainstream, has picked her up a whole host of fans from all different tastes and walks of life. I was lucky enough to interview this charming and talented young lady this week, and we covered a whole host of topics, including her recent wedding and one-of-a-kind gown, her holiday season, an online shopping habit, what she thinks about the lack of women on country radio, plans to come to the UK and Europe, what’s become of the Pistol Annies, her involvement in ABC’s ‘Nashville’ and finally news on the eagerly awaited next album. Phew! Check out the full interview below.
Vickye: We’ve just had the holidays, and you’re a newly married woman, so how did you celebrate?
Ashley: We went to Texas (that’s where his family is from, Northeast Austin), for a couple days before Christmas. And then we went to my family, my Granny and Pappy house, in East Tennessee where I’m from, for Christmas. So we just had several Christmas celebrations.
Vickye: Did you do something special for New Year?
Ashley: You know what? Me and John just got a new house, so we’re kinda making this a big Christmas present to each other. *laughs* He told me to pick out anything I wanted and just go online and buy it, so I got some like, cosy boots and stuff like that. There’s really nothing else I want or need!
Vickye: It’s nice to have a man like that!
Ashley: Yeah I know! I just like the credit cards – I mean I don’t use him for that! But give me a credit card and I’ll pick out my own gift! *laughs*
Vickye: So, you got married at the fabulous Blackberry Farms in Knoxville, what was it that made you choose that location, and that gorgeous dress?
Ashley: Well that location, it’s so funny, I knew I wanted to get married up there, but then… you know, there’s just so many cabins up there. I just wanted it to be… you know, nobody would have to worry about anything. Everything to be taken care of. So I thought, I’ve never been to Blackberry Farms, and so I said Miranda, let’s just see if, by chance, they are available. So, they were! And it was absolutely magical. It’s just paradise up there. And you know, that’s where I’m from, so it was even more special to have that, the backdrop, to have the smokey mountains. We just had 40 of our closest friends and family, it was just everyone that we loved. And that dress, I had worked a lot with Haute Hippie for red carpet stuff, they’ve loaned me a ton of stuff. Almost every appearance I’ve made I’ve worn their stuff. So, I saw this dress in my head, I never really see myself in something frilly or poofy, like a normal wedding dress, or white, even. So I asked them to be my stylist, I said hey, you wanna make me a dress that’s not white and poofy, and you know, cream and beaded? So they said they could, and it worked out perfectly! I got it out the other day and just looked at it! *laughs*
Vickye: I was gonna say, Kelly Clarkson also got married there recently –
Ashley: I know!
Vickye: Was there some friendly competition, like who got the best wedding photos?
Ashley: No, it was so funny, I sent her a message, cause I saw that her and Brandon went up there, and it was only a week before I did. I said, guess who’s getting married at Blackberry Farms NEXT week! But she’s my friend, it was just funny that it was right close to each other.
Vickye: It was some strange coincidence!
Ashley: Yeah, it was.
Vickye: Last year, you broke away from the Annies, and you released your second solo album. Did it just feel like the right time for you artistically, and was it overwhelming dealing with all the critical praise?
Ashley: It was overwhelming at times, but kind of in a good way, you know. We got to test the Annies’ out at the beginning of the year, and then mine right after. I just kinda took it all a day at a time. Looked at schedule and said alright, doing this today. Then this tour, then I’m going on tour with Train in July – it was a really task year. But I didn’t really realize it until I kinda looked back at the year. Some articles I read even reminded me of things I’ve done! I was saying, wow, I have been busy!
Vickye: *laughs* I think it’s always that way, for everyone.
Ashley: Yeah, just stay in the moment, keep going.
Vickye: So speaking of going on tour, during the summer the Pistol Annies cancelled their tour dates, said no time for rehearsals… there have been some rumors going round that the Pistol Annies broke up, and there’s been more speculation as to why that might be… Are you able to clear any of that up?
Ashley: Oh gosh, no I think we’ve told what happened, it’s funny how people just make up things, even after you tell what happened. It is what we said it was, we didn’t have time to rehearse for the tour, and we wanted to be our best. And it’s really as simple as that, but it’s entertaining to read all the different views. All the soap opera stories people can make up!
Vickye: I’ll bet!
Ashley: I understand you know, I’m glad people care! It’s a good sign when people care about your music and care about you, so. But no, nothing else to say about it!
Vickye: So, will we see the Annies go on another tour, like is there a space set aside for another tour?
Ashley: We don’t have any plans right now, Miranda’s making her record, Anga’s making one, I’m making one end of February. We’re all doing our own thing right now, which is fine, it’s what we wanted to do originally.
Vickye: You just said that you have new music coming out the end of February?
Ashley: Well I’m gonna be recording it end of February, yes ma’am!
Vickye: So when do you think that’ll be out?
Ashley: Um, I don’t know yet. I think we’re gonna make it as quick of a turnaround as we can between recording and releasing it. I already have a lot of the songs… about five of them that’ll probably be on the record. I’m writing a ton, Brandy Clark is coming over in about 30 minutes and we’re gonna write!
Ashley: I know! It’s fun to just be at home and write with your buddies you haven’t seen in a while.
Vickye: So, do you have any idea how the next record is gonna sound, it is gonna be in the same traditional vein as ‘Like A Rose’, or are you gonna take other influences, what’s it gonna be like?
Ashley: The thing is, I can’t be anything but country. Even if I sing an Aerosmith song it’ll sound country. I’m just writing the best songs I can write. I asked Vince to produce it, and I was just talking to him about how I wanted it to sound and he said you know what buddy, let’s just let the great song speak for itself. And I said there you go, that’s right.
Vickye: So, speaking of Brandy, there’s a predominant point of discussion in country music right now, it’s the place of women. A lot of female artists aren’t getting played on country radio at the moment, there’s maybe some sexist views on women in songs and videos that are charting, why do you think this is the case?
Ashley: Why women aren’t getting on the radio?
Ashley: I have no idea, if I knew I’d make us get on radio. But I’m not bitter about it, I think this year’s been a good representation of women just sticking to what they do, and not depending solely on radio, and still being successful. With Kacey, myself and Brandy It’s not a dig at country radio at all, I understand it’s a business just like anything else, but it’s also important to keep going and not just give up cause they won’t, or don’t play your songs for whatever reason. And not get your feelings hurt, just keep on going and find other ways to get heard.
Vickye: So do you think that there’s been more of a shift in country music the last year or so, to say country pop, and the more kind of traditional country, just splitting the genre apart?
Ashley: Yeah I think there’s room for all of it, people always ask me, what do you think about so-and-so, that’s country pop, honestly I just think that good music is good music, it doesn’t have to have a label. I am very proud of the country records that have come out this year, I will say that. It’s pretty obvious that that’s my style! That’s what I enjoy listening to. It’s made me excited to have Annies, me, and Kacey and Brandy… it’s been a strong year for girls writing real songs. And men too!
Vickye: I think that’s the general consensus. Everyone’s been really impressed with the music that’s coming from the women of country.
Ashley: Yeah! That’s awesome.
Vickye: You mentioned other people’s records. What was your favorite record of 2013 that you didn’t work on?
Ashley: Oh Jason Isbell, ‘Southeastern’.
Vickye: Yeah, that was a big favorite.
Ashley: Yeah, I think that whole record is just pure brilliance. Trying to think… I love Caitlin Rose, I liked, I think it’s ‘The Stand In’ that came out this year. I love that, I always go listen to that. When nothing else is working, I just go to Caitlin. Another good example of a female coming out and kicking ass.
Vickye: Yeah, I also really like Holly Williams.
Ashley: I was about to say that too, another great example. She sent me, I remember when her ‘The Highway’ video just came out not too long ago. She sent out a text saying hey, do you wanna tweet about it? And I watched that video and I started crying. Yeah, we work hard, this is not always easy being a musician. You get a red card and do all this stuff, and stay up all night to get to your next location but the love of music keeps you going, and she’s a fine example of that.
Vickye: Have you heard Lindi Ortega’s song ‘Tin Star’?
Ashley: No, whose song?
Vickye: Lindi Ortega. She’s a Canadian country artist, she’s kind of Americana.
Ashley: No, but I’ve heard her name so much lately! But not heard anything, that I know of.
Vickye: Well, if you check out ‘Tin Star’, there’s a video as well, it’s basically about struggling musicians in Nashville, and it’s really powerful.
Ashley: Now what’s it called?
Vickye: ‘Tin Star’.
Ashley: Okay, I’ll check that out! For sure.
Vickye: I felt that the Pistol Annies record was quite a feminist record in places. Do you feel like, as a songwriter, it’s your duty to write feminist music?
Ashley: Oh, no no no. I feel like it’s my duty to show women it’s okay to talk about things that would normally make other people uncomfortable. Myself or the Annies didn’t set out and say let’s write songs about hating men, or that women are better. We never did it intentionally. But I lost my dad when I was 13, and me and my mom took care of ourselves and saw a lot of life. I’ve seen a lot of life and I can do a lot of things that men can do, so I’m sure somewhere downrooted in me, I root for my girls, because I know it can be a little bit hard on us. But again, we just write about what we know. I think it’s really important for a woman to hear real stories, like I said that would normally make people uncomfortable to talk about, like a dollar short and two weeks late, or ‘A Housewife’s Prayer’, the Annies, Kacey’s ‘Merry Go Round’. All those songs where women are sitting at home saying oh my gosh, I’m not alone, people can relate to me. I write more for that, than saying I’m a feminist or that I’m on this big campaign to stir up stuff, I’m not that smart! *laughs* I just write about what I know, is all.
Vickye: So, would you say that, on the other side of the coin, do you believe in writing just what you know, or do you also like to try and explore topics and characters that you’re not familiar with?
Ashley: Oh I love to explore characters I’m not familiar with! I love people watching, I always have. I love writing from other people’s perspective or how I imagine they’re feeling. Yeah, that’s a bit part of how I write too.
Vickye: So you’ve had your music featured on the TV show Nashville. Both as a cover of ‘You Ain’t Dolly’, and the songs ‘A Life That’s Good’ and ‘Consider Me’, which are amazing by the way.
Ashley: Thank you!
Vickye: When I asked out on Twitter, if anybody had any questions, there was a lot of love for those songs. Do you have more songs lined up for the show, and would you cameo if you were asked?
Ashley: I think I do have one coming up on the show, but I can’t remember if I dreamed that up, or I got an email! But I think I do. I don’t think I would do a cameo because I’m not good at acting. I’m not good in front of the camera, I freeze. I remember one time [when I was younger] I did one audition for this movie, and it was so ridiculously bad. *laughs* And I thought, I am never doing this again, I’m just gonna sing. I think the closest thing I’ll be to acting is in music videos, that’s it! *laughs*
Vickye: A lot of country stars do go into acting.
Ashley: Oh they have. A lot of people in [Nashville] I’ll see, even extras, I’ll go oh my gosh, there’s Kate! One of my best friends Kate, I see her in the audience in that show all the time.
Vickye: It’s a small town!
Ashley: It is! It sure is.
Vickye: So, I wanted to see if you could tell me something about yourself that none of your fans know, for example hobbies, interests, passions, secret talents or funny anecdotes?
Ashley: *laughs* Oh, let me see. Um… I can’t really think of anything!
Vickye: One of your weirdest anecdotes from last year.
Ashley: I can’t! I really can’t, I’m blanking, I’m so sorry! Just make something up. Make something cool up. *laughs*
Vickye: Well you could say… what do you like to do on your days off?
Ashley: On my days off, I normally go get my hair done, or do something girly, get massaged. Or just sit there on the couch and online shop. When I online shop a lot of times I just put things in baskets on all these websites, and never check out. Somehow that’s fulfilling and saves money!
Vickye: *laughs* me and my friend, we do the exact same thing!
Ashley: It kinda makes it feel like it’s yours! If you’re still thinking about it, like three days later, four days later, that means you can get it.
Vickye: So… you’re on Twitter. How do you deal with your critics, because the internet can be a really horrible place. And do you ever consider going all Blake Shelton on them?
Ashley: No! I think about it sometimes. But I don’t… cause Blake can do it. I probably get my feelings hurt too easy. One time I did text Blake cause someone wrote like Blake Shelton you’re ugly, or just something so silly, just to be mean. And I remember texting him a picture of it and I said get him! And he did. He went after him on Twitter! *laughs* I think I was bored that day, and I was just watching Twitter. But that’s funny, my mom, she watches anything anybody ever says about me. I try to ignore it, you know, I really do. It does bother you when you see it cause you’re a human being. You gotta be cold-hearted for it not to. But one time my mom texted me something somebody said that was mean, and she said “make Warner Brothers take it down”! I was like mom, I can’t make Warner Brothers take down everything somebody says bad about me! I was like mom, it’s okay, just don’t go looking for the bad stuff and you won’t find it! But yeah, I remember one time, I did get fired up, I was on the Hunter tour and someone in the audience wrote “Ashley Monroe get off the stage!” It was just so mean and so rude, and I’m from East Tennessee so I can get a little redneck at times, so I was like that’s it! I’m going to find ‘em! They’re out there, I’m gonna go find ‘em and let ‘em say it to my face! But I thought, eh, maybe that’s a bad idea.
Vickye: You could just do a Miranda Lambert and write a song about them.
Ashley: Ha yeah, that’s safer. *laughs* And taking the high road.
Vickye: So, one last question. A lot of your fans in the UK and Europe want to know if you’ll be coming over any time soon. There are more and more country artists coming over here, we’ve got the second Country to Country festival in March. Is that something that’s important to you? Cause I know you don’t have any initial plans to do it this year.
Ashley: Oh my gosh, I want to go so bad. And I feel like… I don’t have any hard dates or anything, but I really have a feeling, and it’s kind of a hunch that I will be coming over, I just don’t know when. This year, I really wanna come over there this year. Cause I’ve just heard so much about it, I know that you all love real country music, and that means a lot to me. I get tweets and fanmail from people who really care over there, and I’ve never been! I’ve never been to Europe before, so I really want to come.
Vickye: I’ll show you around!
Ashley: Yes, please do! Let’s online shop, and not check out.
Vickye: Will you bring Miranda?
Ashley: Yeah! Actually, maybe. I don’t know, she’ll be putting out a record but yeah, her and I talked about even just going over there for fun, sometime, we’ll see.
Vickye: You should.
Ashley: She’s been over there, I haven’t.
Vickye: Well it was really lovely to talk to you.
Ashley: Thank you! You have a good day.