Interview by Danielle Boise
Ashland Belle hails from New York, but is taking the country scene by storm with their debut release, Bringin‘ Country Back, which was released Aug. 3. The independent band takes the heart and soul of country and mixes it up with a splash of southern rock, creating an infusion of highly enjoyable music. I had a chance to sit down and discuss Bringin‘ Country Back, touring and what makes Ashland Belle shine as a band.
Do you think that coming from Buffalo, NY has flavored your sound by adding a Northern hilt to the songs within a Southern-infused country world you’ve joined?
I think there is a hint of the Northeast in our writing, both in lyrical content and in some aspects of our music, but being raised on the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks and the like, our location has had little effect on our overall sound.
What was the process like of recording Bringin’ Country Back for you?
The recording process for Bringin’ Country Back was a multistep and stressful endeavor for sure. But luckily for us we are always up for the challenge so I think we handled it all well. From laying down the music tracks, all the way to tracking the last set of vocals, there was an overwhelming sense of excitement and worry for this album to hit the airwaves.
Along the way, however, we had to make some very last minute choices that could have potentially derailed the whole project. Luckily, after having two mixing guys and two mastering guys back out of the project, we were hooked up with Mike and Dan in Nashville, who took the album and brought it to the level you guys hear now. I believe everything happens for a reason.
Are you writing any new material in between promoting Bringin’ Country Back? If so, what are your inspiration and influences that contribute to the building your sound?
We are ALWAYS writing and working on new material. We have a strong dedication to this project and we are always too excited and motivated not to write. Our inspirations for our music span across decades of country and southern rock.
A couple of my big influences include guys like Keith Urban, Brantley Gilbert, Garth Brooks, Alabama, and vocally, Dwight Yoakam. Dwight has a way of making you feel and hear his pain in his voice. To this day it gives me the chills.
Every time I listen to “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere,” when he hits that chorus and he is just simply singing “Oh I,” I feel a desperation that no other singer can portray. That’s always a goal of mine when I sing and write. I want to make our fans feel what I’m feeling and exactly how I’m feeling it.
With such an influx of talented musicians, what makes your music stand out amongst a sea of other gifted artists?
While there are so many great up-and-comers out there, I feel that we stand out because of our edgy southern rock sound and our infectious pop hooks. When I heard Rascal Flatts for the first time, their hooks and harmonies floored me and that’s the kind of experience I feel we can deliver to the listener with a little rock to keep them even more on the edge of their seat.
You’re not currently signed on with a label; how does that impact you getting your music out to the masses and what have you found to be the best tools in reaching your fans?
Without a record label backing us, we have had to rely on the indie promotional companies like CD Baby to get our music out to the fans. Plus, we have worked really hard over the past year to grow our following, via Facebook and Twitter, and that has paid off tremendously.
Not having a big time backer definitely hinders the full potential of what we are capable of achieving, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work that much harder to reach all of our fans out there. Like I mentioned before, we love to work and we love our music and fans so we will do what is necessary to get AB to the masses.
Having toured with greats like Jamey Johnson to Luke Bryan, what did you take away from those experiences as building blocks for performing live?
Watching guys like Luke Bryan perform live allowed us to really hone our live show and make it a real show, not just a band playing songs. I have been performing for 11 years now and I always learn new things from all of the artists we share the stage with.
In the past we have all done festivals and big national events with other various bands, so with all of our professional experience, this band hits the stage for the first time as if we have been around for six or seven years. Our live show is the essence of this band, and we like to make it feel like a rock show, like Keith Urban’s live performances.
I enjoyed the entire album; it holds the listener’s attention. I really connected with a couple of the songs, like “Dumb Enough” and “Play That Old Guitar,” and I really fell in love with “Dream Called You.” What was your favorite track on the album and why? Was there any other tracks you wished you had either added or changed out that didn’t make the cut?
Well, we are all glad that you enjoyed it so much. Thank you for really taking the time to listen to it thoroughly and being able to detect and connect to these tunes. My favorite off of the album is “Dumb Enough.” I wrote the song in about a half hour while watching a Luke Bryan live performance.
I like the song so much because it is a real honest look into a break up and it exposes that feeling in all of us when we break up with someone. For a while you want to see them unhappy but at the same time you don’t want them in your life so it’s like a catch 22. That part of a breakup has always fascinated me.
There are two other songs I wish made this cut (but we will release them on the next record). One being “Me Without You” and the other “Finer Things in Life.” Both are very great songs that are an even greater extension on our identity as an artist. We look forward to getting those out to everyone soon!