(The following article was contributed to Country’s Chatter by Aaron Lee at Nashville Noise)
The past couple years have been a whirlwind for Show Dog-Universal recording artist and songwriter Ashley Ray. The Kansas native spent the better part of last year on tour with Eric Church and has since been touring relentlessly with her band throughout Texas.
Due to a rapidly growing fan base demanding music, Ashley’s debut EP was released May 4. The EP features five songs, including her successful single “Dirt Cheap”, which features Mike Eli of the Eli Young Band. This May, Ashley will embark on the highly anticipated Country Throw Down Tour, which kicks off in Tampa.
I recently sat down with Ashley Ray to ask her a few questions about her new music, her career so far and what’s ahead. The following is an edited selection from and interview Ashley Ray recently granted Nashville Noise.
Ray: Absolutely! Growing up in Kansas was all I could have ever asked for, especially now that I’m older and don’t get to go back that often, I really realize how it’s shaped me as a person. I grew up on a farm so there was always something to work on, be fixed and/or fed. I think that’s why I’m such a hard worker to this day. It’s helped my songwriting of course, because I was and still am a tom boy/country girl. I get to write about what I know, there’s nothing cooler than that!
Ray: That was amazing! Eric hand picked me and really stuck to his decision. Most of the time artists don’t get to go out on a big tour like that unless they have a single out on the radio. I have the highest amount of respect for him because he sticks to what and who he believes in. That’s the greatest character trait an artist can have I think. The tour was craziness. Jonathan, the guys and I hung out and drank all Eric’s Jack every night! We got to be in front of his loyal and crazy fans every night and share our music with them. I’d stay out there with those guys 365 days a year if I could!
Q. For the past year or so, you have been touring hard throughout Texas, and have managed to be successful on the Texas Regional Country Chart with your single “Dirt Cheap”. What made you decide to take your music to the Texas scene? How does it compare to Nashville?
Ray: Texas and Nashville have a completely different music scene. It was fun to see how different they really are. You can tour your whole life in the state of Texas and never leave…its really cool. I decided to head down there for a bunch of reasons…One, I have a bunch of buddies (Randy Rogers Band, Wade Bowen, The Eli Young Band) who kept telling me I should head down and do some shows with them. I couldn’t pass up an offer to hang/party and play music with my buds! Two, Nashville can be a slow business sometimes. I have had a finished record for two years now, all I want and all I’ve ever wanted was to take my music to the fans and play for them. Texas seemed like a place I could do that, so I did. Plus, I’m weirdly connected to Texas in many different ways. My best girlfriends live down there now, my manager is from there and Austin is my most favorite city in the U.S. I followed my gut and I’m thinkin’ it paid off because I met so many wonderful people down there!
Ray: You can expect to hear every part of me, Ashley Ray! I’m tough, when I say that, I hope you know I’m not tooting my own horn, it’s just a fact! I get my strength from my mama mostly and I’m proud of that. I don’t take any bullshit and that’s important to have as a woman in this business, whether it be having meetings or driving my big ass 15-passenger van to every bar in Texas! But I do have a heart and I’m still a woman and yes that means I’m emotional at times…you’ll hear that too…basically you hear these five songs you’ll know who I am!
Ray: Geez, this is the most difficult question I face, having to pick one favorite song, whether it be on my EP or not…its like having to choose favorites with your kids… “I Figured it Out” is my favorite up-tempo probably and “Dirt Cheap” is special to me because it’s my first single. I’m just excited for people to hear it and let me know which ones are THEIR favorites!
Q. The Country Throw down Tour kicks off May 14 in Tampa. You are in the line-up on the Bluebird Café stage. I know that the guy who started Warped Tour started this tour too, so what can the fans expect? Are you excited to be part of a tour this big?
Ray: I’m ecstatic! I can’t believe they actually gave us songwriters/artists an opportunity like this! I feel truly blessed and lucky to be apart of it!! Fans can expect to get up close and personal with us in the bluebird songwriters tent. I want to talk to each and every person who comes through that tent! And I know the other writers will too! I wish something like this would have been going on when I was younger, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to sit right smack dab in front of my favorite songwriters. Songs are where music and artists start. I hope that the fans can walk away knowing that!
Q. What is country music to you?
Ray: Absolutely everything! It’s a release, its a relationship, its my fulfillment. Music in general is air to me! Besides my family, it’s the thing I can remember that I’ve loved the longest!
Thanks, Nashville Noise, for sharing your interview with all of my readers.
I’m going out of town for a few days. I’ll be back soon! You guys enjoy your weekend! Remember, we’ll be donating 10 cents to the American Red Cross in Nashville for each new Twitter follower we get through midnight Friday, May 7, 2010. If you aren’t following yet, head on over – every dime will help!