Ashley McBryde Will ‘Literally Rip It Out from the Notebook’ When She Isn’t Feeling a Song

Country Music News

IN THE LATE days of summer, Ashley McBryde faced a new kind of test as a performer. She was a guest on Dierks Bentley’s headlining tour, which was stopped in West Palm Beach, Florida, and it was hot — a different kind of hot than back in Tennessee or her native Arkansas. Onstage, her ears filled with sweat and her in-ear monitors stopped working. “Alright, bitch, are you an entertainer or what?” she recalls asking herself. “Because an entertainer can do this with one fuckin’ ear.”

That ability to commit herself wholly even in bad circumstances has made McBryde one of Nashville’s most exciting new exports, an ace songwriter who is also an ace singer and performer. Across her two Grammy-nominated studio albums, Girl Going Nowhere and Never Will, she’s offered rich character studies of people looking for a little hope, losing hope, losing faith, and being unfaithful. Her latest project, Lindeville, has her thinking on an even grander scale, bringing in guest vocalists to sing about characters in an imaginary town inspired by “Goodbye Earl” songwriter Dennis Linde. She’ll also be performing alongside Wynonna Judd on what was to be the Judds’ final tour but was revamped after Naomi Judd’s death. “It’s for a very sad reason, but I’m so proud to be one of the women that gets to say, ‘I am right here, and I will be anywhere you need me,’” McBryde says.

You’ve already had a few Grammy nominations. How did you react to getting your first one?
We were in a different part of the country. I was asleep. I woke up, and I saw a bunch of texts. It was so many texts that my anxiety took over. “I need to go back to sleep.” So then I wake up and I walk to the front of the bus, and I told the boys, “Well, we’ve been nominated for our first Grammy. Well done, gentlemen.” And they started slow clapping. 

You’re two for two on album nominations now. Do you feel like you’ll be let down if your next one doesn’t get nominated?
Oh, wow, not at all. That would be a scary way to live. That would be like getting a Number One straight out of the gate on country radio and then being super disappointed when the next one only went to 10 or 20.

What do you look for when you’re writing songs?
I’m always searching for something I cannot wait to record. When we’re writing, the only criteria I have is, do we like it? And do I believe what’s coming out of my mouth right now? Like, if I sang about vodka, I wouldn’t believe it. 

“I told the boys, ‘Well, we’ve been nominated for our first Grammy. Well done, gentlemen.’ And they started slow clapping.”

Because you don’t drink vodka?
No, no one ever wants me to drink vodka. It’s a terrible idea. So those are the only two things I look for. And there have been times with co-writers like Nicolette Hayford, where we’ll get a verse and chorus and we’ll hit a snag. And we’ll literally rip it out from the notebook, not save it in the computer, and just trash it. It feels good to know you have the option.

Your duet with Carly Pearce, “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” was huge. Why do you think that song resonates?
I think the uncomfortability is what’s relatable. You’ve been one of those characters in that song, whether you knew it or not: You were the spouse-type person, you were the other woman, and in this case, the love interest is a guy. You’ve been one of those! For the dude in the song, we didn’t reveal if he finds out that we know or not, but the tension that character lives under, because he knows damn well he’s juggling two lives . . . People are like, “I know, right? What a shitty feeling!”

That’s some complex emotion to pack into a three-and-a-half-minute song.
We enjoyed writing that. If you’re going to tell your truth, you might as well be doing it in country music. 

This story is part of Rolling Stone’s third annual Grammy Preview issue, released ahead of the start of first-round Grammy voting on Oct. 13th. We spoke to some of the year’s biggest artists about the albums and singles that could earn them a statue come February, made our best predictions for the nominees in the top categories, and more, providing a full guide to what to watch for in the lead-up to the 2023 awards.

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