As avid country music fans, we’ve been listening to (and loving) Ashley Monroe for a while now. So, when we got the chance to catch up with her when she was in London, we couldn’t wait. While she was here, she did two intimate London shows and talked to us all about her love for performing here, how it feels to be on tour after having her son and what she’s planning for the rest of the year.
Ashley Monroe first started singing when she was really young to cope with the loss of her father, who sadly passed away from cancer. She made music her life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way: “I sang in church and then I would go to a talent contest and basically just sing everywhere I could – rodeos or tractor pulls, all kinds of places,” she tells us. She pursued music ever since, and has turned into one of country music’s brightest stars.
Having recently had a son, she took a bit of a break from songwriting. But, now she’s back with her new album Sparrow, and she’s loving performing more than ever: “It’s an emotional roller coaster for me, but I like it. It’s a release.” She’s also one third of the power house group, Pistol Annies, alongside Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley.
We sat down with Ashley and chatted our way through her music career, family life and how she finds performing country music in Europe…
Taylor Magazine: How did you get into music, and specifically country music?
Ashley Monroe: I was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee so I grew up listening to country music a lot – all kinds of music, but when you’re from the country, you listen to what you know. I started singing when I was really young – I never did anything else! When my dad passed away when I was 13, I started writing songs and that’s when I knew that music was going to be my whole life.
Taylor Magazine: When you’re writing songs, where do you pull inspiration from? Do you ever get writer’s block?
Ashley Monroe: It always depends on what I’m living through at that moment in time. Since my son was born, it’s kind of crazy and struck a fire inside of me – a breath of innocence and a feeling that I really haven’t felt in a long time. Right now I’m writing songs from a happy place – it’s so interesting and I’m really excited about it. I did get writer’s block and I just could not write when I was pregnant. I don’t know if I was just too hungry in general but I couldn’t hear anything! Then, soon after that the melodies started coming back.
Taylor Magazine: Would you say that having your son has changed your song writing process, or your experience with music in general?
Ashley Monroe: I feel really inspired right now. I’ve written so many songs and I’m excited to write a lot more this year. Somehow, they all feel so fresh to me. I can never turn off my songwriting – I’ve heard two or three melodies since I’ve been over here in London. It’s one of those things – someone will say something, or you see something and it will inspire you to write.
Taylor Magazine: How do you find the UK crowd and country fans over here? Would you say performing in Europe has a different feel?
Ashley Monroe: Honestly, I’m blown away by the crowds here. I had a feeling before I met anybody over here that I just loved the town. After my first concert I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I really love this city!’ I definitely feel a connection here. I feel that I’ve been lucky enough to have audiences over here that were really into music, not that you don’t get that in the States, but my first experience here I was introduced to that kind of audience right off the bat. It’s the new faces, new places, new accents. I soak all of that in while I’m here!
Taylor Magazine: Have you had any time to explore London?
Ashley Monroe: I had a walk around Marylebone – it’s just so beautiful. We’ve had a chance to ride around and see places on the way to the hall and stuff – it’s amazing, I love it!
Taylor Magazine: Do you have a favourite song you love to perform each time or is it dependent on the crowd?
Ashley Monroe: It just depends on the vibe – I go all the way in whatever song I sing, so if I’m singing a funny song like ‘Weed Instead of Roses’ then I’m really having fun. But then for the heartbreaking ones, I have to really dive into those too. It’s an emotional rollercoaster for me, but I like it. It’s a release.
Taylor Magazine: What would you say has been your musical or career highlight over the last year?
Ashley Monroe: I had already made the album Sparrow when I was pregnant, so once my son was born, I was just waiting to put it out. Once Sparrow was released, I got together with Angaleena Presley and Miranda Lambert, and we got to make a record and release it that same year, which I’m so proud of. Looking back, I just feel really proud – I’m definitely on the onward and upward trend right now. I’m just dreaming big and in a good spot!
I love all kinds of music and I think it’s fun to not have a boundary, to just write the songs and see what happens.” – Ashley Monroe
Taylor Magazine: When it comes to performing, it must be so fun being on the road but also quite hard with a child. How do you find that?
Ashley Monroe: It’s really important for you and your child that you get to do something that you love. I do what I do for him, as well as for me, and I want him to be proud of me. I really do think of him every night and he would probably be mad at me if I just stopped singing. When he gets a little older, he can come with me, but the toddler phase is not very fun for trying to travel!
Taylor Magazine: When you think about what you want to achieve in the next year or so, what’s on the top of your list? You’ve accomplished so much already, but is there something you really want to make happen in 2019?
Ashley Monroe: I want to keep singing the Pistol Annies songs, because we’ve just got started and Angaleena was very pregnant when we did our four gigs, so I’m excited to sing those songs as they still feel so new! I’m excited to write with a lot of different people and I have such a love for music in general, not just country music.
Taylor Magazine: What are you looking forward to this year? You’re doing Stagecoach, but is there anything else you’ve got coming up that you’re excited for?
Ashley Monroe: I’m excited for Stagecoach, definitely! I’m also excited for Loretta Lynn’s birthday party that I get to play April 1st and the Pistol Annies are doing Country LakeShake in Chicago – I’m really excited about that because it’ll be our first gig with Angaleena after her pregnancy and it’s a big show, so that’ll be fun!
Taylor Magazine: How have these changes changed the dynamic of the group?
Ashley Monroe: We’re pretty solid as friends, so we just go with the flow with each other. We’ve all changed, but we’ve known each other for so long. Even though there has been such a plethora of changes, we’ve just learned to roll with them and hold hands the whole time.
Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give for other young females who want to get into the music world?
Ashley Monroe: Have confidence in it.
“Don’t be afraid to take advice, but also know who you are and be proud of it.” – Ashley Monroe
Taylor Magazine: What do you like to do to switch off? If you have an entire day to yourself and you can do anything you want to, how would you spend it?
Ashley Monroe: I like walking around and exploring the city. I love to find new shops and I love fashion. My guilty pleasure and something that makes my mind so calm, (and makes me laugh all the time!), is The Real Housewives. I think it’s so funny and when I want my mind to just calm down, I’m right there.
“Music is the purest bond you can have.” – Ashley Monroe
Taylor Magazine: If we went through your Spotify, who have you been listening to?
Ashley Monroe: My last Spotify plays were Bobbie Gentry and Fiona Apple! I’ve been listening to Bobbie Gentry this whole trip because she’s a woman who can do it all, but I listen to different people. Sometimes it’s Eminem, and sometimes it’s Bonnie Raitt. I’m all over the map, but I do hone into different people and allow myself to be inspired by them.
Taylor Magazine: Who’s the last person you saw perform that really inspired you?
Ashley Monroe: I saw Bob Seger at the Bridgestone Arena and I was shaken to the core. I love him, I even have Against the Wind tattooed on my forearm! He just had so much joy in his heart when he was singing – everyone in the crowd saw it and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
Taylor Magazine: Is there anyone you would love to see who you haven’t had the chance to see live yet?
Ashley Monroe: Eric Clapton hands down, or Billy Joel. They’re on my bucket list but Eric Clapton is just amazing – my son loves him too! Ever since my son was a really little baby, I knew he always wanted to hear Clapton. It was the strangest thing, it would always calm him down if he was crying when nothing else would, and it still does! Eric Clapton would be my dream collaboration.
Taylor Magazine: If you could tell your son something that you’ve learnt along the way, something that you really want him to know as he’s growing up and finding himself, what would that be?
Ashley Monroe: You’re stronger than you think you are. I think that we as human beings are really strong. I look back at my life and I can’t believe I have survived all that I have. It’s important, especially for young people, to know that they’re strong, they’re alright, they can get through stuff.
“You’re stronger than you think you are. I think that we as human beings are really strong. I look back at my life and I can’t believe I have survived all that I have. It’s important, especially for young people, to know that they’re strong, they’re alright, they can get through stuff.” – Ashley Monroe
Taylor Magazine: What has been something that you’ve learnt from your experiences so far from this career?
Ashley Monroe: I’ve learnt that you can plan things out in your head, but you should live in the moment everyday and put both feet on the ground because you never know what’s going to happen. You can have your destination and not really know the way yet, but have faith that you’re going to be alright.