ASHTON SHEPHERD: On The Horizon

Ashton Shepherd

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

She sings with a distinctly rich, lower-Alabama drawl that will grip you from the outset and make you proud to be a country music fan. She’s a songwriter too, and has been for quite a while-probably long before she even knew what one was.

Ashton Shepherd
Ashton Shepherd

She sings with a distinctly rich, lower-Alabama drawl that will grip you from the outset and make you proud to be a country music fan. She’s a songwriter too, and has been for quite a while-probably long before she even knew what one was.

“I remember writing a song about my brother who was in the Army-but my brother wasn’t really in the Army,” Ashton Shepherd says over breakfast at Nashville’s Portland Brew. “I’ve always kept a notepad around, and I was always humming around the house and writing. My mom used to write a lot too. I was eight years old and was outside one day writing a song called ‘The Rest of My Life.’ It was about a wife who had lost her husband. I came in and sang it for my mom. It went something like [recites], ‘I got up this morning/poured two cups of coffee/one for you and one for me/But once again I forgot you were gone…’ You know, like the woman was in her regular routine. Come to think of it, I got the idea from something my mom had mentioned writing about when she was little. Mama almost cried. She said, ‘Where is this coming from?'”

For Shepherd, the singing came first, and about as early as one could imagine. Her mom wasn’t the only family member to recognize something brewing in the way of the youngster’s imagination and musical curiosity.

“My brothers used to bring a tape recorder into my room when I was about three. They would tell me the recorder’s going to sleep…and to sing for it. I always said when I was little that I wanted to fly, and they said to sing, and I’d be able to fly. They just wanted to get me singing into the recorder. So I’d sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and then ‘There’s a Tear in My Beer,’ right after.

After cutting her teeth on Hank Sr. and lullabies, Shepherd fell in love with Patsy Cline, learned her songs, then started singing Martina and Shania hits at local karaoke joints, played fairs and festivals, entered country showdowns, recorded an album in Fort Payne, Ala. (1,000 copies pressed) and met her husband-to-be, Roland.

“When I met my husband, he had a little four-piece band,” she recalls. “I joined the band. I was 16 at the time, and it broadened my horizons tremendously. I was doing ‘Play That Funky Music White Boy,’ ‘Simple Man,’ ‘Fishin’ In the Dark’…playing rhythm guitar and singing bar-band songs. I was covering male songs that were really cool for a girl to do. I learned a lot during that time.”

Defying-with flying colors-Nashville’s widely held prerequisite that it takes 5-12 years for any artist or songwriter to make any headway, Shepherd cut a demo, got signed to a major label (MCA) and released her debut album in just more than a year-and-a-half since she stepped foot on Music Row.

Sincerely charming, well-grounded and mighty mature for a 21-year-old, Ashton Shepherd remains firmly planted in Coffeeville, with a two-year-old at home and her husband’s family farms to help harvest come picking time. She knows the music biz isn’t for the faint of heart, and she’s already set her priorities in advance-in preparation for a long and healthy career.

“I think I have the [music career] drive that other people do,” she says, “but I also know I have a conscience that says, ‘Ashton, what’s it going to be like when this happens. What’s this going to be like on your family?’ I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do this…and remain myself. It’s been a total life swap for me, because I went from being a stay-at-home mom and the biggest homebody there ever was…I’m a country music singer full-time and a mom too!”

Having given some thought to her mom’s aforementioned “Where is this coming from” query about her writing, Shepherd cuts to the point. “It’s God-given,” she says in a wondrous, humbled tone. “There’s not a routine or schedule or self-taught mechanism about any of it, because I don’t remember teaching myself or being taught. There were no lessons. It feels natural…I just thank God for it.”


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ELECTRIFY MY SOUL by Dan Kimpel

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