INTERVIEW: Ashley Campbell

Credit: Natia Cinco

Ashley Campbell was originally a theater major at Pepperdine University. Music had always been a major part of her life from beginning piano lessons at age 6 and picking up the guitar at 15. But it wasn’t until she was asked to learn the banjo for a role in Pepperdine’s Edinburgh Theater program that music began to take the wheel as both a passion and a career. 

Shortly after graduation, Ashley spent the next three years touring with her father, Glen Campbell, playing banjo and keyboards. As the tour went on, Ashley began writing and performing music of her own and subsequently moved to Nashville in 2013 where she signed a publishing deal and began her own journey as an artist. Ashley went on to write and release her first single “Remembering” in 2015. A deeply personal reflection about her father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, “Remembering” was featured on her father’s documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. The soundtrack for the documentary (also featuring a cover by Ashley of her father’s song “Home Again”) would go on to win two grammy’s. 

The success launched Ashley into a solo career as an independent artist, releasing her first album, The Lonely One, in 2018. Ashley co-produced the record with her brother Cal and released on her own label (Whistle Stop Records). The Lonely One album hit the Top Ten of the UK Country Chart upon release. Since then, Ashley has all over the US as well as the UK and Europe including opening for Kris Kristofferson in London, the C2C Festival MainStage in 2018, and playing at Carnegie Hall with songwriting legend Jimmy Webb. 

Ashley’s sophomore album, Something Lovely (produced by friend and co-writer of “Remembering” Kai Welch) is set to be released October 9, 2020. The album features eleven new tracks including “If I Wasn’t” which features Vince Gill on vocals and electric guitar. Ashley’s hard-wired musicality, clarity and easy lyrical delivery gives this collection a classic feel but the songwriting and production are right up the the minute. There is depth as well as undoubted style. A mature and confident set from a musician who has earned her place in the spotlight. 

Follow on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter @ashcambanjo

Hi Ashley, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I’ve been well thanks! Just trying to stay busy and mindful. Since touring is pretty much not happening this year, I’ve been taking the opportunity to learn some new tricks and set up a recording rig at home. I’ve always loved learning so it’s been a pretty fun process. 

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “If I Wasn’t”?/Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song? 

I wrote this song right after I saw the Roy Orbison “Black and White Night Live”. I walked into the writing room with my friends Chris Roberts and Jabe Beyer and said, “Guys, let’s write something Roy might’ve sung!” I love that kind of inspiration that comes from something classic and becomes something new. And to have Vince Gill singing with me in the song was just perfect. The song kind of came out of the vibe of the melody we started. I knew it would be a love song but a painful one. A moment of deep feeling, love and hurt. I was exploring the idea that it’s ok to just feel something and not have any clear resolution. It’s frustrating, but real. Most real things are…

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

Yes! A few months ago we filmed me with my band playing a few songs from the album live in a studio. I like the idea of making a music video it’s own new thing versus lip syncing to the camera. Especially with the lack of live music this year, we need more filmed live performances for everybody who is still mostly staying home whether they want to or not. 

What was it like to work with Vince Gill and what did he bring to the table?

Vince is incredibly kind and humble. He and my dad were good friends, and I’ve always admired him as one of the greats. I’m so incredibly grateful that he agreed to play on my record. We had to record him a few months after the original tracking session due to scheduling. He came in and sang and played and left all of our jaws resting on the ground. It was a privilege to watch him work. 

The single comes off your new album Something Lovely – what’s the story behind the title?

The album, for me, represents a moment of peace. The world is full of so much stress and ugliness these days it seems, we all just need a moment to enjoy something lovely. Whatever that means to you. For me, that moment was this album. 

How was the recording and writing process?

It was fast and fun with lots of late nights. We did most of the tracking live in the same room. It gives the music a more authentic “in the moment” feel. The songs are a collection of my writing over a span of many years in the making. Digging Deep was actually one of the first songs I ever wrote but I just never got around to recording it till now. 

What was it like to work with Kai Welch and how did that relationship develop?

Kai and I met pretty much the first week I moved to Nashville in 2013 at the 5 Spot’s Wednesday Bluegrass Jam (may it rest in peace). I was aware of him because of his work he had done with Abigail Washburn on her album City of Refuge. We decided to get together and write a few weeks later and that was the day we wrote “Remembering”, a song about my relationship with my father and his battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. We have been friends ever since and I knew he was the perfect person to produce the album. His musical intuition and taste are so on point and he knew exactly what I was going for with my new sound. 

How much did Kai get to influence the album?

As an artist, I know what I want but sometimes I need little nudges in the right direction. Kai and I talked a lot about the sound we were trying to create and he helped me fine tune my songs and ideas to fit into one cohesive album. He was all about amplifying my strengths as an artist and for that I’m so thankful. 

How has your upbringing influence your writing?

I was brought up swimming in a pool of classic country. I love the simplicity and honesty of the old school, like Roger Miller, Willie and Dolly and of course, my dad. I definitely think of that whole gang when I sit down to write. 

Known for your collaboration with other major names – do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?

It’s always a game of give and take. You have to be open and listen to the other person you are writing with or else it just becomes an unpleasant 3 hours where nothing gets done. I love having a different perspective in the room. When I write by myself, things tend to get weird haha. Mostly in a good way though! I like co-writes and solo writes. I think both are necessary for a healthy writing brain. 

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Anywhere and everywhere. But mostly from my own experiences and observations. Sometimes it’s personal and sometimes it could be about what a friend is going through. 

What else is happening next in Ashley Campbell’s world?

Who knows! 2020 still has a few months left… based on all we have experienced this year so far, to plan would be a fool’s errand. But I definitely have hopes! I hope to be able to tour and promote the album next year and do some traveling for leisure too. I might even bring my dog! 


About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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