Blame it on the algebra teacher.
Ashley McBryde was a timid high school student. Instead of facing a fear of personal interaction, she would retreat to her bedroom and play guitar, dreaming of the day she could compose timeless songs like Dolly Parton and command a concert stage with the tenacity of Tanya Tucker.
When asked what she planned on doing with her life one day in the advanced math class, McBryde stunned everyone by stating she planned to be a songwriter. The instructor scoffed at the half-baked notion.
Ever since that day, McBryde has walked around with a chip on her shoulder.
Migrating to Nashville to pursue her passion, she was forced to work a variety of odd jobs to put food on the table. It didn't matter if she labored as a waitress, security guard or at a veterinarian clinic, she always had “you're never gonna amount to much” ringing in her ear.
It took a decade, but McBryde finally found her niche and is putting her indelible stamp on a complex industry.
“The music business is like a giant jigsaw puzzle dumped in a pile and there is no box to look at as a guide,” McBryde said. “All I had was myself and a J-45.”
Using her workhorse guitar like Excaliber, McBryde was able to battle through the Music City trenches and finally gained traction and desperately needed mass recognition with “Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega.”
The song received glowing reviews from the New York Times and Rolling Stone. It earned her a major label record deal with Warner Music Nashville. The single peaked at No. 30. Her debut album, “Girl Going Nowhere,” was released in March and climbed to No. 7 on the Billboard album chart.
McBryde and her full band will be in concert at 7 p.m. Friday in the Benton Civic Center.
General admission is $16. Premium seating is sold out. The opening act is Allie Colleen, daughter of Garth Brooks.
For more information, call 618-435-5700.
McBryde will kickoff “The Girl Going Nowhere Tour” on Sept. 5 in Atlanta. The first leg of the tour takes her throughout the South, then there are several dates in Europe, before making it back to the Northern states, concluding in Rochester, N.Y. on Dec.15.
“I'm excited about the tour. It's my first time out as a headliner. The response has been very positive. We have been forced to move to bigger venues at a few sites because of advance ticket sales,” McBryde says. “I've blocked off six weeks in early 2019 to just sit down and write songs for a new album.”
McBryde was born in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas. She attended Arkansas State University before moving to Music City in 2007. She quickly made a mark with her vocals, winning the national Country Showdown singing competition in 2009 and 2010.
She wore out more than one vehicle playing an established circuit in the southern states, slowly building a national fan base. Through the years, she realized her act wasn't going to work if she tried to fit into a preconceived mold for the executives on Music Row.
Instead, she chose to just be herself. She likes to drink whiskey and dip. Her arms are covered with tattoos. She would rather play a biker bar than a winery.
“I was raised to work hard and be independent,” McBryde says. “I developed thick skin at an early age. I learned to take 'no' like the bumpers in a bowling alley. You just gotta stick to your guns and keep going.”
Influenced heavily by Susan Tedeschi's soaring vocals when she covered John Prine's masterpiece “Angel from Montgomery,” every song from the classic Lucinda Williams “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” album and the unforgettable bluegrass harmonies of Allison Krauss and Dan Tyminski, she put her nose to the country music grindstone.
Inspired by songwriters Travis Meadows and Lisa Carver, McBryde avoided the commercial cookie-cutter trap. She developed a unique style and an uncanny ability to tell picturesque three-minute stories that hit you in the chest like a sledgehammer.
She turned heads in 2016 with songs like “Bible and a .44” and “Luckiest S.O.B.” from the independently released “Jalopies & Expensive Guitars” EP. Another song from the project, “Fat and Famous,” allowed McBryde to thumb her nose at all the doubters through the years.
“It was pretty fun singing it at a show back home,” she says. “Everyone had a good laugh, except a couple girls, because it was about them.”
The album made McBryde a 10-year overnight sensation in Nashville. Her popularity skyrocketed when Eric Church called her out onstage. She has opened shows for Chris Stapleton.
Her accomplishments puts her alongside Margo Price, Brandy Clark and Casey Musgraves on the trending Mount Rushmore of female singer/songwriters.