Monroe coming to Paramount
Ashley Monroe's latest album "Like A Rose" has hit the country music world like a breath of fresh air.
Monroe, who will perform Saturday, July 19 at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, is an artist that has developed a unique sound that has sparked praise from music fans and critics alike. Her songs combine an old school country music groove with a modern day edge, which strikes a chord with those looking for more rootsier fare than what is found on mainstream radio these days.
Monroe's road to being a tour headliner was curvy, winding its way through the typical ups and downs of the Nashville music scene. Early in her career, Monroe sang demos for songwriters who wanted to pitch their compositions. Then, she signed a record deal, only to have her first album go unreleased due to a record label merger that left her without a contract. She also found herself singing back up on other artist's recordings. Throughout this time, however, she kept writing new songs, building up a collection that would add up to more than 600 compositions.
Eventually, Jack White heard Monroe perform and he hired her to be a backup singer in his band and at his Third Man Records studios in Nashville. That led to her next big break when she became a part of the group Pistol Annies alongside Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley.
When it was time to cut "Like A Rose," Vince Gill agreed to co-produce the album along with Justin Niebank. On the recording, Monroe seems to have found her niche, built around her original songs, a desire to take chances and her overall distinctive talent.
In the beginning, Monroe's inspiration to pursue music and to move to Nashville centered on her father.
"I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee," said Monroe. "Most of my family lives on the same road. Everything was great, no problems, living out in the country with a great mother and dad that loved each other. Everything was hunky-dory. On my Dad's side of the family, his dad, my Papa, he and Carl Smith were first cousins. Carl Smith was married to June Carter, one of the best country singers ever I think, and their daughter was Carlene Carter. I actually got to meet Carl and hang out with him when I moved to Nashville. And, my Dad sang with the church choir."
Then, Monroe's life changed forever when her father died from cancer when she was just 13 years old.
"After that happened, it was like everything was uprooted anyway," said Monroe. "I have a brother that is five years older than me, and he and my Mom and I left. I just thought, 'We need to start fresh.' My Mom and I stayed in Knoxville for a little bit and we were just making bad decisions, just grieving. I said, 'You know, we can't live here. Dad's not here. Everything is reminding us of him. Let's go to Nashville. I promise you that I'll work. I'll promise you that I'll write every day. I'll make it work and I'll take care of us.' So, we did it when I was 15."
Before Monroe's father passed away, he gave his daughter a special gift that sparked her passion for being a songwriter.
"I started writing music when I was 13, right after he died," said Monroe. "He bought me a guitar for my 13th birthday in September of 1999 and he passed away in February of 2000. So, I had that guitar and I would just stare at it, thinking, 'Ok, I'm going to learn how to play you, and I'm going to write these songs.' I started hearing songs pretty much instantly after that. You know, it is therapy. They were real sad songs, but I had to get it out, and then when I get it out, I feel a little better."
Monroe has put together a band for this tour that includes 5-time International Bluegrass Music Association Bass Player of the Year Mike Bub, guitarist Guthrie Trapp, Lucas Leigh on keyboards, drummer Pete Abbot and Jimmy Stewart on fiddle.
"When the crowd is clicking, and I told the band this the other day, the crowd doesn't know how much power they have to make a show go bad or go well for the person that is singing," said Monroe. "As soon as I know that they are comfortable and they get it, I completely go away in my mind. I just get lost in the music. I jump. I do things that I normally wouldn't do. And, it just feels so good. You leave the stage like you just left a revival or something. When everything clicks, that is how it feels."
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