Ashley McBryde is a vocalist and songwriter with a touch of rock & roll swagger, a honky tonk heart, and a lyrical voice that puts a modern-day spin on classic country themes. After self-releasing an eponymous album in 2006, she relocated from Arkansas to Nashville, spending the next decade slugging it out before her 2016 EP Jalopies & Expensive Guitars caught the attention of Eric Church. Soon she signed to Warner Nashville and released her debut full-length, Girl Going Nowhere, an acclaimed 2018 album that helped her win New Female Vocalist from the major country academies and two Grammy nominations. McBryde’s tough, heartfelt country continued to gain momentum with 2020′s Never Will, which generated the country Top 40 hit “One Night Standards.” After topping the Billboard Country Airplay charts with the Carly Pearce duet “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” McBryde took a scenic detour with Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville, a cameo-filled collection of short stories from a fictional small town, then she streamlined her sound on 2023′s The Devil I Know.
Born in Waldron, Arkansas and raised in Mammoth Spring, McBryde first displayed an interest in music when she was three years old and tried to play her father’s guitar. After repeatedly telling young Ashley to leave the instrument alone, her parents decided the best solution was to get her a guitar of her own. After learning to play, McBryde stuck with it, and at 17 she wrote her first song. Initially, she was shy about sharing her work, and it wasn’t until she enrolled at Arkansas State University (where she played in the marching band) that she began performing her songs for people outside her immediate family.
In 2005, McBryde recorded an album’s worth of songs, titled Ashley McBryde, that she released herself in early 2006. Since she was a teenager, her dream had been to go to Nashville and break into the music business, and in 2007, she finally pulled up stakes and relocated to Music City. She assembled a band and played any club or bar that would have her, and she began making a name for herself. McBryde won the Colgate Country Showdown talent competition in 2009 and 2010, and the same year, she and her band won a statewide “battle of the bands” in Tennessee. In 2011, she released her second album, Elsebound, which once again was issued through her own label. More touring through the South followed, and in addition to headlining her own club dates, McBryde was opening shows for such stars as Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton, Chris Cagle, and Hank Williams, Jr. (The latter came out on-stage while McBryde played his hit “Family Tradition,” with Bocephus approvingly putting his arm around her as she sang.)
In 2016, McBryde issued an eight-song EP, Jalopies & Expensive Guitars, that helped build a buzz around her music, and country star Eric Church began singing her praises, describing her as a “whiskey-drinkin’ badass” and joining her on-stage to duet on her song “Bible and a .44.” After Church gave McBryde his endorsement, more and more people began to take notice, and she finally broke through with the single “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega,” which found an appreciative audience on streaming services and led to her making her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry in June 2017.
A year later, she returned with her major-label debut, Girl Going Nowhere, produced by Jay Joyce and released by Warner Music Nashville. The album included the hit “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” and earned McBryde her first Grammy nomination, for Best Country Album. At the beginning of 2019, she closed out the Girl Going Nowhere album cycle with the release of its title track as a single — it earned Grammy nominations for Best Country Song and Solo Performance — and at the end of the year, she launched the campaign for her second album with “One Night Standards,” which climbed to number 11 on Billboard’s Country Airplay charts. That track anchored Never Will, which was again produced by Joyce and appeared in April 2020. It peaked at number five and also featured “Martha Divine,” which reached 59 on Country Airplay. McBryde stayed on the radio through 2022 with “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” a Country Airplay chart topper where she duetted with Carly Pearce.
That same year, McBryde teamed up with producer John Osborne — half of the progressive country-rock duo Brothers Osborne — for Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville. Inspired by Dennis Linde, a songwriter who penned Elvis Presley’s “Burning Love” and the Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” among other tracks, the album concentrated on character sketches and vignettes of small-town goings on, songs that were brought to life by such guest stars as Brandy Clark, Aaron Raitiere, Caylee Hammack, and Brothers Osborne. A few months after winning the 2023 Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance in 2023 for “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” McBryde released her fourth album, The Devil I Know. Working once again with producer Jay Joyce, McBryde sanded off the rough edges of her sound, co-writing with Osborne again, as well as Bobby Pinson and Aaron Raitiere. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Mark Deming