Ashley McBryde was heading into a co-writing session with a guy she had never met before the day she found out one of her musical heroes had died.
Jeremy Bussey’s name had been floating around, and though the two had never met, McBryde was excited to work with the writer, who cut tracks with Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Travis Tritt, and Brantley Gilbert.
“I didn’t know anything about him,” shared McBryde in a recent interview with Love Junkies Radio on Apple Music. “He didn’t know anything about me.” Thumbing through Instagram to find out more about her mysterious songwriter, she came across a photo Goose Gossett posted of Guy Clark with the caption “Thank you for teaching me how to write songs, even though you never met me.
“I knew what that meant,” said McBryde. “I knew that Guy was gone, and that’s one of my heroes, of course. So many of us have Guy as a hero, but he was on my bucket list, not to write a song with Guy, but to smoke a cigarette with him. I think that would be probably the best cigarette of your life.”
McBryde found out that her hero has passed away on May 17, 2016, which would shift the trajectory of her writing session.
“By the time I get to where we’re going to write, I’m a mess,” said McBryde. “I’ve got my mascara everywhere. I walked into Bussey and I said, ‘Hi, I’m Ashley. I’m so sorry. I know I look like crap right now,’ and he said, ‘Well, run to the bathroom, wash your face, get yourself together, and we’ll chit-chat.’”
As they chatted, McBryde found out more about the Alabama-born Bussey, who would go on to work with McBryde again on her 2020 album Never Will for the title track and “Hang in There Girl.”
“He’s from Alabama, [and] I’m from Arkansas and I was 23 when I moved to town [Nashville] and he was 33,” said McBryde. “We’re just exchanging these stories, and we both had similar experiences [of] ’I want to move to a city where no one knows me, and I want to make songs up for a living, and I want to be paid for it.’ Some people are, ‘That’s awesome,’ and some people are, ‘Have you taken your meds today?’”
Then Bussey asked McBryde if she ever played the Grand Ole Opry. She said she hadn’t yet but planned on it. (McBryde would make her Opry debut on June 16, 2017.)
“He said, ‘well, then all we have to do today is write what you want to say the first time you play the Opry and we have to write it in such a way that Guy Clark wouldn’t be upset if he had to listen to it.’”
Inspired by an algebra teacher who once told McBryde that her dream of moving to Nashville to write songs was “stupid,” “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” also the name of McBryde’s third studio album, tells the story of a little girl making her dreams come true, despite the odds, and the naysayers.
Don’t waste your life behind that guitar
You may get gone, but you won’t get far
You’re not the first, you won’t be the last
And you can tell us all about it when you come crawling back
That road you’re on, just winds and winds
Your spinning your wheels and wasting your time
But when the lights come up
And I hear the band
And where they said I’d never be is exactly where I am
I hear the crowd
I look around
And I can’t find an empty chair
Not bad for a girl goin’ nowhere