Rising country music artist Kassi Ashton teamed up with Roland Corporation to give her fans a behind-the-scenes look at her first song “California, Missouri.” She opened up about the experience of growing up in a small town, torn between the arts and the country lifestyle. This combination of worlds provided her with the unique experiences that led her to become Universal Music Group’s new darling.
Ashton’s debut release, “California, Missouri,” is the highlight of her upcoming video, and it shows a deep cut into her personal history. She shared her experiences growing up in a small town through an honest look at the insular community. “I always knew I had to write a song about my hometown because I grew up listening to country, and every song about hometowns was this romanticized, nostalgic sort of thing. Which is great, but half of my life in a small town was very different,” she admitted. “I just knew there had to be other people like me; I couldn’t be the only person who had a kind of love-hate relationship with their hometown. It was the great first introduction of like, ‘Okay! This is the background of the weird mix of a person that you’re about to see.’”
From her first release, Ashton has made waves, and she has worked with the likes of Keith Urban, Maren Morris, and Jordan Davis. Lauded for her unique, authentic sound, Ashton brings powerful storytelling and a sense of poetry in every release. Her songs range from nostalgic, mournful tunes in the vein of Reba McEntire with “Pretty Shiny Things,” to anthems about country living like “Field Party.” Through this range, Ashton shows her ability to reach audiences no matter what they are experiencing. “The beautiful part of life is the whirlwind of emotions that we feel as human beings in different situations,” she explained. “And I think music is meant to be the soundtrack for each of those moments. So that’s why my songs have a wide array of feelings and content, because they have to match life.”
After years of using Roland Co.’s equipment to record her music, Ashton received their sponsorship for her “Behind the Mic” video in 2019. “When they were particularly interested in writing about the story behind ‘California, Missouri,’ that actually made my heart kind of flutter, because they could have picked something where the track was a lot heavier with stuff that involved their products,” Ashton said. “For me, it was like, ‘No, we’re interested in you as a person, and what this song says.’ It was just amazing to sit down and talk to them about it and kind of share more.”
As with all of her projects, Ashton had a hand in every step of the creative process for the video, and they ultimately shot in the same studio that “California, Missouri” was first recorded in. She led the film crew through her own home and art studio, giving viewers a personal look at the space that helped fuel her music. The video includes scenes shot during the Ascend tour with Maren Morris and Jordan Davis, where Ashton performed her debut song. With this release, Ashton hopes to revitalize love for her first song, as well as bring new listeners the authenticity of an artist with no holds barred.
Ashton emphasizes the importance of storytelling in her songs through lyrics and visuals, bringing together a piece that pulls the listener into her world. Having grown up singing and writing poetry, she has a natural sense of lyricism that she brought into the music scene. “I think for most people, middle school is hell, and it’s literally the armpit of your life. And I would just write angsty poetry, because I had all these emotions and ‘no one understands me, and my life is tragic’ or whatever,” she laughed. “I just started writing poetry, and then I remember: freshman year of high school, I felt dumb as hell because I realized, ‘Hey! If I put a melody to this poem, it’s a song!’ Still to this day, the lyrics are the most important part for me, because if the song doesn’t say anything to me, then what is the point? It’s always lyrics first.”
Ashton’s intention behind her music has evolved since her beginnings, shifting from a way to release her own emotions into a desire to make her listeners feel less alone. This mindset about sharing her own life experiences to give fans a listening ear has led her to creating music that is both timeless and relatable. She holds nothing back when she records, feeling open to sharing every emotion with her audience to create an authentic experience. “I have this philosophy of like, we’re all human beings, and we’re all just walking around trying to figure it out,” she said. “I don’t think that anything is too personal to share, because I guarantee that there is at least one person that feels exactly the way I do. And, again, if I can make them feel not alone in this weird thing that we’re all doing, then my job is done.”
Considering her beginnings in country music, breaking away from the kitschy songs about idyllic hometowns, Ashton offered heartfelt advice to aspiring songwriters. “Tell the truth and write about what you know. Whatever trend that you’re trying to follow, the best songwriters that you look up to have already moved on from that,” she said. “Just write exactly what you know and do not try to pretty it up and make it some poetic mess. The story – that’s what country music is about.”
Alongside her “Behind the Mic” video, Ashton’s new single “Black Motorcycle,” previously performed during the Ascend tour, was announced on October 1.