Ashley McBryde talks with PEOPLE about small-town life, "drunk downloading" and more
It’s noon at bright and cheery restaurant Blake Lane, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and Ashley McBryde is perched at the bar. It’s a good time to chug down their ginger-lemon-cayenne tonic, or perhaps a restorative cortado with almond milk. Or, if you’re Ashley McBryde — floating along on the heels of a record year and debut album — it’s a damn good time to ignore the steady glug of health elixirs around you and down a hot toddy.
It’s indeed been quite the hot sprint for the Arkansas-born singer and songwriter, whose first album, Girl Going Nowhere, was released this past March. Described as a “whiskey-drinking badass” by country star, Eric Church, it’s a mystery that McBryde managed to spend over a decade in Nashville relatively undetected. Hopefully, her poignant full-length debut convinces newcomers — along with the fans who emerged after her 2017 hit single about small-town Georgia,”A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” — that she’s more than earned her spot in the limelight. (This summer, the single was fittingly the Peach State’s No. 1 most streamed country song on Amazon Music.)
Either way, who said 12:30 p.m. was too early for a second round?
Here are just a few liner notes you probably didn’t know about the wildly talented country artist.
1. Growing up in small-town “middle of nowhere” is what made her.
“I grew up on a cattle farm [McBryde was the youngest of six siblings]. Growing up in the Ozarks was good because where we lived was maybe 40 minutes to town. Sometimes I wonder if the reason I play guitar is because that’s what there was to do. My dad had a guitar, and there was a mandolin, and my brother had a trumpet and I learned how to play that too. It was cool to grow up in the middle of nowhere. I loved growing up on a farm. Hard, hard work from the time you’re little bitty, it’s so good for your soul and bones,” says McBryde, waxing nostalgic for days when her biggest worry was taking care of the bird dog.
Sticking to her roots, she just moved to a tiny town outside of Nashville that “doesn’t even have a true gas station.”
2. She’s not bitter about all the years of rejection.
“It’s so hard to absorb [all of the recent success] because it’s all happening at once. After 11 years in dives and bars trying to make this happen, it’s happening. There’s so much joy in everybody in my band right now,” she tells PEOPLE, reflecting on the recent wave of critical acclaim that has descended upon her like tourists upon a gold rush town 90 minutes outside of Atlanta (a happy side effect of her single). “Every ‘no’ I ever got brought me one-inch closer to this ‘yes.’ And now we get to look at the yeses,” she remarks. For a singer who’s gotten rejected from The Voice and American Idol, she couldn’t be happier her path hasn’t unfurled any other way.
Another negative she’s turned into a victory? “I got my first mean tweet the other night!” she exclaims with a smirk. “It said ‘@AshleyMcBryde By far the worst concert performance I’ve ever seen.’ We’re well-known enough for people to hate us!”
3. Her new album is unlike any recording experience she’s ever had.
“We recorded in the sanctuary of a church, [the whole band] together. We went in and rehearsed for three days, and on the fourth day we went in at 6:00 p.m., did a shot of whiskey and did the show down. And then we played it again,” says McBryde. “We played every song four or five times and left around 4:00 a.m.. And then the next night, the same thing.”
4. She’s picked up some great advice from Miranda Lambert.
This year, McBryde is supporting touring acts like Luke Combs and Miranda Lambert (in addition to her band’s own shows and festival stops). Having participated in a writing session together a few months ago, Lambert and McBryde have become fast friends (“That was like a house fire. Every idea caught something else on fire!”).
She’s also gleaned some valuable wisdom from the Grammy award-winning artist. “People had been asking me about meet-and-greets [when Lambert and I were writing], and I said ‘I don’t need meet-and-greets, I’m not famous, but people keep asking me. So how should I handle that?’ And Miranda said, ‘You think you’re not famous?’ And I said, ‘Correct.’ And she said, ‘And they think you are?’ And I said, ‘Correct.’ And she said, ‘And who do you think is right?'” recalls McBryde. “And she said, ‘You need to accept that life has changed.’ That’s the best advice I’ve gotten so far.”
With Combs, beyond de facto Xbox sessions on the tour bus, she’s also been inspired by his on-stage confidence. “He is able to do something I’ve never been able to do and that is sing without a guitar on. You take my guitar away from me and see how uncomfortable I get. Even sometimes when I do interviews I would rather have a guitar in my lap to have something to hold onto.”
5. Her way of discovering new music is a tad unconventional.
“I like to drunk download things when I’m out at night and then I have a surprise the next day,” admits McBryde, who’s used the method to discover folks like Tyler Childers (“I found [his album Purgatory] on Dec. 18 and I have not gone a day [without listening]!”).
And how, precisely, does this method work? “I’m sitting across from you and I go, ‘What are you listening to?’ And you go, ‘Man, this Tyler Childers album is great,” and I say, ‘Great, don’t tell me anything else about it.’ And I download it and I’ll listen to it tomorrow.” Something tells us Ms. McBryde is going to have a lot of new music — and even more new fans — tomorrow.
Listen to Girl Going Nowhere on Spotify above.