As much as we’d like life to be one joyful moment after another, there’s sure to be a handful of trying times that test us. It’s those trying times that make us unique; make us human.
When coping and trying to find a way through those difficult stretches, songwriters are going to do what they do best: put pen to paper and write their feelings out in verse and rhyme. That’s exactly what Ashley Anne did during a time of soul-searching, with the result being her newest single, “Dear Dolly.” With lonesome guitars and bending steel behind a smooth, yearning vocal, the Virginia Beach native navigates her way through real-life struggles with the help of Mrs. Parton’s classic songs, culminating in finding strength through the country legend’s example.
We chatted with Ashley all about “Dear Dolly,” as well as her musical roots, studying at Belmont University, her mindset for 2023 and more!
Pro Country: Who were some of your earliest musical influences that had an impact on your sound?
Ashley Anne: I grew up wanting to be a rockstar like Hannah Montana. Therefore, Miley Cyrus had a huge impact on my sound early on. I think subconsciously, I admired her country background, as well as her pink leather rockstar energy. Besides, that is basically who I have always been. Dolly Parton had a huge impact on my songwriting, telling stories through lyrics. My admiration for her goes beyond words, as I am positive it does for most people around the world. She is just absolutely incredible; everything she does is done with grace, poise, and kindness. She reminds me to lead with kindness and never forget where I came from. Where: being the spot on the map where I came from, the village who raised me, and the experiences that have made me who I am.
PC: What emotions were you feeling are you were preparing to release your debit single, “Cowgirl on a Beach”?
AA: I was honestly just filled with excitement during the preparations for “Cowgirl on a Beach.” I was still living in Virginia at the time and knew I would be moving to Nashville within the next two years. To say it’s my favorite song I have written would be false, but to say I love the connection I have with that song would be true. It is like my baby, my first single, the start to something really cool. Just being in a Nashville studio and getting to meet Ryan Youman, who also produced “Dear Dolly,” was so exciting for a 17 year old girl from Virginia.
PC: Prior to its release, you posted several clips of your new single, “Dear Dolly,” on TikTok, with one video being viewed more than 1.5 million times. What was it like for you to consistently see the positive reception to the song as it continued to reach new people?
AA: Seeing the feedback I was getting on “Dear Dolly” initially was an ultimate shock. A part of me has always been so secure in my music and my character, having confidence in who I am as an artist, but I never would have imagined that song would blow up like it did. I was overwhelmed in the best way possible. Blessed is truly an understatement. To reach people and heal them through music is all I have ever wanted to do, and that video gave me just that.
PC: “Dear Dolly” was released about a year and a half after “Cowgirl on a Beach.” As release day way approaching, how much were you looking forward to having “Dear Dolly” out into the world after a bit of a layoff between releases?
AA: I was just insanely eager to get this song out as fast as I could while still holding great quality. The attention it was getting on Tik Tok pushed me to do something with it super quickly and efficiently. As the release date was coming, it was all about planning and being creative when it came to promoting it. I spent every single day, and I still continue to do so, driving around and filming content. As I go to bed, I think of what idea I am going to follow through with the next day. It is all about keeping your head down and grinding it out until you get results. I knew “Cowgirl on a Beach” was not the way I wanted to be viewed by the world as an artist, but rather just a little insight to who I am as a person. That time in between the two releases was a time of identity searching, remembering my roots, and pouring out my life into these lyrics in hopes it would act as an angel to anyone who would listen.
PC: You were the sole writer on “Dear Dolly.” Can you take us in the room and talk about how the song came together?
AA: This is a story some may find silly. “Dear Dolly” was written by myself, in my car on a late night drive. I was struggling to resonate with the term “home,” and I was so stuck in that period in my life. It was about a year ago that I wrote this song, I would’ve been 17 just turning 18. I was in a really dark place and my relationship with Jesus just felt empty. I looked to Dolly as a physical being who had wisdom and advice in her lyrics of which I could use to get through my every day. I remember it was a really late night drive, and the lyrics and melody came out like no song I had ever written before. I got home, grabbed my guitar and put chords to the song. “Dear Dolly” was born in my Toyota FJ Cruiser on a dark night in good ole Virginia Beach, VA, driving over the bridge above the bay. I sympathize with who I was then, but I am so proud of where that girl is now. I thank God for that period in my life, because this seems to be one of the best things to come out of it.
PC: On release day, “Dear Dolly” landed on a handful of playlists across streaming platforms. What was it like for you to watch the song being picked up and reaching its audience so soon after its release?
AA: With the love the song was receiving on TikTok, to say I wasn’t expecting much would be a lie. Never did I expect these accounts to post my song, my followers to go up, countless messages, and features on playlists. I woke up the morning it dropped and my friend Carson was like, “check instagram.” After seeing what was online, I was literally shakin’ in my boots. I was overwhelmed with happiness and definitely had that moment with my song thinking, “wow. WE did that.” I could not thank these people enough for the attention they have brought to “Dear Dolly,” I’m eternally grateful.
PC: You’re currently enrolled at Belmont University. What kind of asset has it been for you to be surrounded with the collective talent from both the students and professors at the school?
AA: Belmont University is a dream. I know everyone’s experiences are different, but I get to live my dream every single day while being in college and keeping up my grades. Between my part time job, school work and music, I have to say music takes up most of my time. That is exactly why I picked this school. I was terrified to come here, yet so excited to be challenged in my artistry. However, once I got here, not only did I feel challenged with all of the talent in this town, but loved so deeply by everyone around me. Music is all love, and that is all music is. Belmont University is music, and it is all love.
PC: What do you have planned for 2023?
AA: My plan for 2023 is to stay grounded and humble above anything else. It is what is most important to me. I plan to release more music this year in hopes to further my career. There is no saying “I’m only 19, I have time…” I will never settle nor make excuses as to why I can’t get there now. I look at it from a different perspective. I don’t wish to focus on time, years, my age, etc. I wake up every morning with new ideas and new challenges of which I make for myself. I take it day by day. Days are not promised, they are blessings, and I utilize them to the fullest. This year is going to be the best one yet. And next year will be even better. And so forth.
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
AA: I just want to say for whoever is reading this, you’re a part of a dream. You’re a part of a community that is making my every dream come true, and I could never ever fathom or put into words how lucky I feel, how grateful I am, and how much I love every single person who has supported me thus far. Thank you a million times.
*”Dear Dolly” is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*
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