Ashton Shepherd ‘Grows’ (In More Ways Than One)
Ashton Shepherd's new album is titled 'Where Country Grows,' and there's perhaps no one more qualified to weigh in on a statement like that than the down-home Alabama native with the irresistible drawl and straight-to-your-heart lyrics. After releasing a debut CD to rave reviews several years ago and drawing some hefty comparisons to Loretta Lynn, Ashton spent a few years working on new music, and reappeared on the scene earlier this year with the feisty, in-your-face single, 'Look It Up.' The song quickly became an anthem for fed-up females everywhere and gave Ashton a fun platform for her spunky spirit and fierce, spot-on vocals.
The Boot caught up with Ashton to chat about her latest CD and how she feels about spending what is shaping up to be one of the biggest years of her life in the eye of the press. The 24-year-old mom of one (and soon to be two) also reveals the name she's chosen for her bundle of joy due in just two months: Raden Delilah.
'Look It Up' was a great way to kick off this album. Why do you think so many fans took to that song so instantly?
People are singing it now like it's a huge, huge record. It causes like a riot when I play it now -- all the ladies just go nuts! I think what it is, is everybody's been through something in their life that's made them feel hurt, or deceived, or whatever. I know so many people who have gone through just not very good situations and sometimes you just need a song to help pick you up out of it, especially if you're going through the hurting part. You need something that makes you feel sassy and like you're just pulling on through it. It's kind of an attitude song ... and really not a mad song. It's almost like I sing it with a smile, because I really am over in that character.
What were the things that set this album apart for you this time around?
For any of my fans out there who pay attention to the songwriters, there are a couple of outside songs on the album by Rhett Akins and Dallas Davidson, who are just huge writers in Nashville right now. And there are a couple that me and Bobby Pinson wrote that are just great tempos, I love 'em. He's had like six No. 1's for Sugarland. Troy Jones is on there, too, and he's had a ton of hits. Me and him really hit it off well because he used to only write by himself, too. He's an ol' country boy from Alabama, and he just made me feel comfortable. We were able to talk about how we weren't the biggest fans of co-writing or just getting up every day and writing from 10 to 3 in a structured situation. We wrote a song called 'While It Ain't Rainin.' We really got a lot of great writers and songs for this album.
Do you have a favorite on the new album?
One of my favorites is one called 'Rory's Radio' that I wrote about my brother Jeff's best friend growing up -- his name was Rory Dunigan. I dedicated my first record to my brother, who got killed in a car accident in 1999, and I really didn't have any songs on the first album about him, nothing on a personal note. But Rory and Jeff were almost like the same person. That's how best friends they were. This song reflects back on us riding and listening to Rory's radio growing up. And remembering my brother, it's really special to me.
Is it different promoting a record this time around while pregnant? Has it been harder on you?
This time around has actually been better, if I had to say. Because we're actually at a little bit different level. We're not starting from ground zero this time, like last time, where nobody knew who in the world I am or where I've come from ... nobody knew anything about my music, or who I am as a person or anything. Now, all of a sudden, it feels like we've got some friends out there now and it's made it a little bit easier. Of course, radio has been wonderful to me and I thank them tremendously for it. I've been treated well by everybody and that makes it a little easier on me because I have to go out and do stuff. But I love what I do and I go out and get a good reception. As far as the pregnancy, in January and February I felt a little bit nauseated but otherwise I really carry a nice energy. Plus, it's really nice to be out and be expecting, and telling people about it ... it almost gives me a secondary drive that I didn't have. My drive now is kind of like through the roof!
You're having a little girl. Do you think she'll be like you?
I told my husband that won't be so bad, will it, if she's a lot like me? I kinda calmed down at an early age, so let's hope she's a little more like me than like him -- he was a little bit wilder than I was! [laughs] I see mannerisms of my husband in my little boy, James, but James is, my husband Roland swears, just like me to the point that his speech and his mannerisms and his thoughts and the way he thinks, him being a deep thinker and wanting to explain himself too much and overanalyze too much. Roland says, "It's like having two of you around all the time!" So if this little girl is like me, too, he's really going to be overloaded!
You got to play on the big stage at LP Field a few weeks ago during CMA Music Festival. What was that like?
"I could not believe I made it on that lineup this year for LP Field. I was excited to be let into that. The biggest crowd I've ever sang for individually before that was doing Bristol Motor Speedway and Talladega and that was very nerve-wracking for me because not only were all those people there, but it was televised!
Are you a big NASCAR fan?
Me and my husband don't get to watch it as much as we'd like to. The young'uns come along and you quit getting to watch as much football and all that fun stuff. But we are definitely race fans. We've played for some humongous crowds at these festivals where it's unreal -- there'll be 20,000 people. It is crazy! It's just like ants, it's so nuts! We've done some big ones, but LP was definitely the biggest we've done with live band. I really enjoy the week. it's a very special week and a time that you set aside to really be able to be a little personal with people and get to meet a lot of your fans. They come from so far and wait in line and put forth such an effort to meet you. It's just kind of unreal that you can light their day up like that.
You were on a diet for a while earlier this year and lost quite a bit of weight. Are you pretty strict about what you eat?
I did that for about two to three months; that's the best and longest I've stuck to anything as far as health goes. But I'm a pretty healthy person anyway. I drink a lot of water and I try to watch what I eat. The thing about me is I like healthy stuff, I like fruits and veggies, so it's all about moderation. But then I was trying to lose some weight quick and I think my body being in such good shape, that's part of why I got pregnant. That helped with us being able to have another baby. Before, I couldn't get pregnant for about seven or eight months last time we tried. So it's pretty interesting that I had lost a little weight, got a little healthier, and all of a sudden, boop!
Does your son go out on the road with you now?
He does, he basically goes with us all the time or every other trip. He gets so excited he just can't hardly stand it! He's getting ready to start K-5 and he was just beside himself to get back on that bus earlier this spring, he had been asking me about it for months!
He must be excited about the baby?
He is so tickled, he really seems to understand it. He's a very deep thinker, and he's super smart. He's been saying he wants a sister, I don't know why, from the beginning. But I just had in my head it was gonna be a boy. My parents' first two children were two boys, and my husband's mama and daddy had two boys and I just felt like it was going to be a boy. I never thought about a girl. All of a sudden, the doctor's like, 'Looks like it's gonna be a girl!' We're naming her Raden.
It sounds like this is going to be a banner year for you with the success of the new single, the album coming out, and Raden's arrival.
We're tickled to death about all of it. We've got a really big year ... with the pregnancy and with the baby coming, we're excited to be sharing that with everybody. That's gonna be part of the year that everybody gets to see with Ashton Shepherd. We're gonna be private to a certain extent, of course, but it'll definitely be in the media and be something we're open about. My husband and I talk about it a lot, how it'll be documented that way, so we're excited.