2019 is finishing on a high note for Ashley Taylor.
After the release of her debut EP Bakersfield in January, which charted in the top 60 on iTunes’ country albums’ chart, the Bakersfield native is capping off her year with “Family,” a song that has quickly elevated into one of her signature songs.
The thing Ashley has taken away from her 2019? Hard work pays off. Her hands-on approach to her music is paying its dividends as she prepares to make 2020 another big year.
Read along as Ashley talks about her move to Nashville, the validation that comes with winning awards and having Bakersfield chart on iTunes, the inspiration behind “Family,” her plans for 2020, and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Ashley Taylor: Being from Bakersfield, California, it was definitely artists like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. I would say my biggest inspirations musically are Brandy Clark and Loretta Lynn.
PC: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
AT: I can probably pin it down to one moment. I was 13 and in my grandparents mobile home. My grandmother was a massive country music fan, so she would put on Country Music Television and let it run all day long. I remember one day I was sitting there and watching, and this lady named Gretchen Wilson came flying off of a four-wheeler and started singing about being a redneck woman, and right then and there, I said, “That is what I want to be when I grow up.” It was really just from watching her, and for whatever reason, I was relating to what she was all about. I started wanting to write songs and study country music, and it just all clicked at that moment.
PC: Can you talk about the move your move to Nashville and if there was a level of pressure you were feeling at the time as you were preparing to make your move?
AT: It was an exciting time! I was living at home in Bakersfield, and I literally sold everything I owned, got on a plane, and came to Nashville. I had never seen the town, I’d never made a trip, and I didn’t really know many people, so I really just got on a plane and said I was going to make it happen. That was about four years ago. It’s pretty scary when you don’t have a job and don’t know that many people, but it was the best decision I ever made. I’m really happy that I had the guts to do it and let whatever was going to happen happen.
PC: You’ve been nominated for several awards, including two Josie Music Awards and 7 KICMA Awards. What does that recognition of your artistry mean to you?
AT:It means a lot! I never really wanted to be a star, I just really loved making music. The fact that people acknowledge that and appreciate it, and for them to think that much of me to give me awards like that, it means a lot. It makes you feel like you’re doing something right, and I think everybody loves to feel appreciated.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music for the first time with your Bakersfield EP?
AT: I took three years to make that record. There was excitement to put music out there, but it’s also a little bit nerve-wracking because you put so much time and effort into it, and you don’t know how it’s going to be received. I remember the day it came out at about three in the morning, my phone started blowing up. It was all of my friends here in Nashville telling me that I was on the iTunes country chart. I didn’t believe them, so I pulled out my phone, and saw that we got up to number 60 on the top country albums chart. We sold the couple thousand copies of the record in the first week, which was insane to me.
PC: Is there a level of validation that comes with have that level of success on your debut EP that you had put some much time into?
AT: For sure. I sit down in my room and write songs, whether it’s with a friend or by myself, and I try to write songs that are really personal or something that’s a true story. I take those songs into the studio and I put a lot of hard work into them and try to make them be the best that they can be. To have all of those people go out and buy the songs, it’s an amazing feeling!
PC: “Cake” became one of the signature songs on the Bakersfield EP, and features a humorous, yet clever lyric. How true does the story element of that song mirror your real life, and what was it like to see people reacting to that song?
AT:That song is a completely true story. I was dating this guy that was a big jerk, and the last and final straw was on my birthday. I was having a party, and he totally stood me up. Later, I found out it was to be with another girl. My friends and I were having cake at the party, and they were asking me what I was going to do, and I just said, “I don’t know, but I want a man to look at me like I look at cake.” We all started laughing, and the next day, I sat down and wrote that song. I wrote it not thinking anyone would ever hear it. Lo and behold, I played it out one time and people were telling me that I had to play it again. It’s crazy to me that that’s considered my signature song, and up to this point, I can’t imagine my career without that song. Everywhere I go, that’s the song people request. Girls come up to me after shows and tell me about their experiences, and it makes me glad that that guy did that and that I wrote the song, because seeing the reaction is priceless. Who would have ever thought? It’s silly, but it’s great [laughs].
PC: “Bakersfield” is one of the standout songs on its EP and gives an autobiographical take on your upbringing. How important was it for you to release that song first and name the EP after that song?
AT:To me, that was probably the easiest decision I had to make. I wrote that song by myself on my very first day in Nashville. I got off the plane, and I had never seen the town before. I went down to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Bakersfield is the birthplace of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and I grew up listening to the Bakersfield sound, and I walked into the door of the museum , and they had a giant banner that said “Now Exhibiting the Bakersfield Sound.” I spent my whole first day Nashville literally having everybody here, the place that I had dreamt about moving to, telling me how cool my hometown was. I sat down that same day and wrote that song. I knew it was something I was going to record, because it’s literally my life in a song. When it came time for me to release music, I thought the best way to name it would be about what gave me my start.
PC: Can you talk about the inspiration behind your newest single “Family”?
AT:I grew up with four brothers, and I’m the only girl. I always said growing up, I come from a family; we fight, argue and bicker, and we don’t always see things the same way, but my mom was very clear that family is family. There are still days where I want to kill one of my brothers for something they do or say, but there’s not a day that goes by that I wouldn’t kill for them. Family is just this amazing, beautiful thing. I got to thinking about that one night, and I sat down at my kitchen table, and the song poured out of me really fast. I wasn’t looking to write a single or hit or anything like that, it was just something that I knew really well and believed in. When I was done writing it, I played it out a few times, and people seemed to really connect with it, so I thought it would be great to release it as a single.
PC: While Bakersfield featured a mostly rocking country sound, “Family” sits closer to a folk/bluegrass sound. Was that something that you did intentionally or something that happened naturally when you were writing and recording the song?
AT:It was pretty intentional. I love country music so much. With Bakersfield, it was a lot of country/rock influence, because that’s a big part of who I am. With “Family,” that’s a song I wrote by myself with just me and my guitar. I wanted to have a really country and Bluegrass feel on it. If you listen to the song, when you hear that dobro in the beginning and it plays that riff, it immediately takes me to a very reminiscent place of home and family. I couldn’t get that done with an electric guitar. While cutting it, I was telling my producer that we had to have a dobro on it; it had to be a really country record, because that’s what the song is about. We had a guy named Curly, who played and toured with Loretta Lynn for many years, playing the dobro. He did such a great job! It was a really intentional to have that sound. It was important to show that other side of me.
PC: In just a few weeks since its release, “Family” your second most-streamed song on Spotify. What does it mean to you to see people connecting with the song in that way, and what do you think it is about the song that is relating to people?
AT:I was so happy to see that. My heart got all warm and fuzzy [laughs]. I think the reason why people connect with it is the same reason people connected with “Cake.” We all go through things; we’ll go through a breakup and we’ll hear something, connect with it and think it’s funny and great, but with “Family,” I think when people hear that song, they think of home. They think of their family, and why they may not be perfect, but at the end of the day, it’s still family. Especially with this time of the year as people are going home for Christmas, you’re reminded of how important family is. I’m really happy to see that song resonate with people the way it has!
PC: 2019 was a year that saw you release your first EP and another new single. What has been the biggest thing you’ve learned this year?
AT: I try to be very involved in every piece of music I release, so I’ve learned that hard work pays off. I’ve learned that if you’re honest and vulnerable with people, they’ll appreciate that perspective and reciprocated it bacl. I’m really looking forward to 2020! This year has been insane, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner.
PC: What are your plans going in to 2020?
AT: We have a lot of really cool things in the works! We just started a fan club a couple weeks ago called “The A-Team,” so we have a lot of cool things going on with that. If you listen to my music, you’ll notice there’s a lot of things that revolve around the theme of good people. We started a charity called “Good People,” which is a way for people to get involved, do good deeds and be good people in their community. We’re working on that, which is really exciting! We have a lot of shows coming up in 2020 as well; a lot of full band stuff, so I’m really pumped about that. It’s shaping up to be a really great, jam-packed, busy year!