Being the daughter of legendary country music star, Glen Campbell, Ashley Campbell was born to be a country music artist. Having been surrounded by music growing up, the genre has always been something that has brought her family happiness.
Studying musical theatre at university, Ashley always thought that this was what she was destined to do, but after discovering the banjo and learning to play, her desires turned to creating and performing music. She had the opportunity to perform banjo alongside her father on a tour around Australia and New Zealand, and since then, she’s never looked back.
After playing C2C two years ago, Ashley came back for more. This year, she had her own music to play, and a very special tribute to her late father. We found out more about her journey so far, the inspiration behind her music, her debut album ‘The Lonely One’ and staying true to herself…
“You can’t be everything for everyone, but you can be everything to someone. Honestly, I didn’t come up with that quote, but it’s one of my favourites!” – Ashley Campbell
Taylor Magazine: Start by telling us about your music, how you got involved and a bit about what you do as an artist.
Ashley Campbell: I’ve always played music ever since I was a little kid, and my dad (Glen Campbell) was obviously a big artist so it’s always been a part of our household and something we do for fun, something that brings us joy. I started piano when I was in first grade, then started playing guitar when I was 15. All of my brothers played guitar, and I didn’t want to be the only one that didn’t play but it is a really hard instrument to play!
I never really thought that music would be a career for me – I was really into musical theatre at school and so I was really focused on that. I went to Pepperdine University in Malibu and was a theatre major there, but most of my roles were mainly because I could play an instrument. In my junior year, I got involved in a play that they were taking over to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and they needed someone to play banjo in this show, and because I was known to be able to play instruments pretty quickly, the director asked me to learn the banjo!
The university bought me my first banjo and paid for my first couple of lessons and something just clicked when I started playing banjo… I completely fell in love with it. I started playing more bluegrass type stuff, singing more, writing songs and it all just fell into place. My dad was also touring in Australia and New Zealand right after I graduated, so I asked if I could go along as a vacation, to which he suggested I play along in the show. His song Gentle On My Mind is a banjo song and he didn’t have banjo for the tour, so I played for him. After that, I kept touring with him!
Taylor Magazine: How was the whole experience performing with your dad?
Ashley Campbell: Terrifying – it was so scary at first! I had never done that kind of thing. It’s different when you’re doing musical theatre because it’s so rehearsed. Playing on a big stage with your dad is completely different! I say it was terrifying, but for that first tour it was a really great experience to perform with him because I knew he was such a pro at it. It was definitely a relief not to be at the front and instead just standing back and playing the banjo for my first stage performance of that kind!
Taylor Magazine: Why do you love country music so much – why this genre?
Ashley Campbell: I’ve always loved the songwriting process with country music. Dolly Parton is one of my major heroes – her voice is so unique. Her songwriting is so pure and simple, usually only two or three chords, it’s just beautiful and it strikes me.
Taylor Magazine: You’re doing a special tribute to your father during C2C. Are there any songs that have a special meaning to you?
Ashley Campbell: Yeah, in Glasgow and London I’m doing a tribute to my dad on the main stage, where I have to squeeze a lifetime of hits into 10 minutes! It’s not a long time… so I developed a medley of all my Dad’s most-loved songs, like Gentle On My Mind, Southern Nights, Wichita Lineman and Galveston. Those are the main ones, and of course there are more so it was so hard to choose! They’re all being played on banjo, so it will be the songs like you’ve never heard them before. I’ll also be playing my song Remembering, which I wrote for my Dad.
Taylor Magazine: Talk to us about Whistle Stop Records.
Ashley Campbell: I parted ways with Big Machine Records in Summer 2016, very amicably I must say! I was so relieved I didn’t have to please everyone and I was just able to make my own music and records just how I wanted to make them. My mum was very generous and loving and funded the album and I did it with my brother because he has such an edge to what he produces, which isn’t country at all. He definitely brings edge to my music. My brother and I would spend hours in the studio and it was such a cool woodshedding process. I hate having a time constraint on making music, so it was such a good opportunity to have time to try things, make mistakes and not worry about it costing a fortune.
Taylor Magazine: Where do you find inspiration for your music?
Ashley Campbell: Everywhere! Especially my own life – but I also use other people’s experiences too, like my friends. Recently, I wrote a song about my friend’s experience with some really terrible men. The song is called P.O.S (Piece of Shit), which is about this awful guy who lied to her. We both really wanted to stick it to this guy, so I told her I’d write a song about it… and here we are!
Taylor Magazine: What do you think is the future of country music? Where do you think it’s going?
Ashley Campbell: It’s definitely heading back to the roots… it’s going back to a more Americana vibe, which is awesome. I hope radio gets a little more diverse, that’s what I want. There is definitely room for everyone!
Taylor Magazine: What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?
Ashley Campbell: That’s a tough one… my career was really special last year when I got to sing a Jimmy Webb song at Carnegie Hall. I played Carnegie Hall with my dad a couple of years back, but I was just in the background back then. When I got there to do my sound check for Jimmy’s show, the stage hands and technicians said, “Welcome back, Ashley!” That was so sweet. Just to be included in a Jimmy Webb tribute at Carnegie Hall was incredible.
Taylor Magazine: What do you like to do when you have some time to yourself? How do you relax and wind down?
Ashley Campbell: When I’m at home in Nashville, I love to go to my gym, work out and feel good. I love to cook dinner and do a time-consuming recipe as well. I wish I could have a garden… I want to have a beautiful garden with fresh vegetables!
Taylor Magazine: What do you enjoy about touring?
Ashley Campbell: I love getting to see the world, and I love going back to places. What is really cool is making friends in different places and being able to have friends all over the world.
Taylor Magazine: What should we look out for from you over the next few years?
Ashley Campbell: I’m just riding the wave! Hopefully I’ll make another album. I would love to do a full-on bluegrass album at some point, so look out for that.