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Ashton Shepherd

Where Country Grows

Ashton Shepherd Where Country Grows

  • CD1: 1. Look It Up
  • CD1: 2. I'm Good
  • CD1: 3. Where Country Grows
  • CD1: 4. I'm Just A Woman
  • CD1: 5. More Cows Than People
  • CD1: 6. Beer On A Boat
  • CD1: 7. While It Ain't Rainin'
  • CD1: 8. Tryin' To Go To Church
  • CD1: 9. That All Leads To One Thing
  • CD1: 10. Rory's Radio

Where Country Grows

Available now for Pre-Order, release date 12th July

Where Country Grows

Where Country Grows is her sophomore album that is the impressive musical evolution following 2008’s Sounds So Good, which produced hits including the title track and “Takin’ Off This Pain.” The Washington Post named Sounds So Good one of the best albums of 2008 of all genres, calling Ashton, “the real deal…brimming with personality.” The Wall Street Journal said she was “a potential Loretta Lynn for a new generation.” Billboard stated, “There are debut albums, and then there are debut albums that serve notice that the landscape has changed.” Entertainment Weekly said the album “is the best mainstream country debut since Taylor Swift’s,” while The Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press and dozens of other media outlets raved about the album as well.

You’ll find her deep country roots, earthy personality, feelings, humor and wisdom in every note of her new MCA Nashville album Where Country Grows. She is deeply pensive and philosophical on the ballad “While It Ain’t Raining,” while she is merry and light-hearted in the spirited “More Cows Than People” and “Trying to Go to Church.”

Songs like “Rory’s Radio” and “Where Country Grows” are full of vivid imagery from her authentically rural lifestyle. She finds a fresh way to approach the classic country topic of marital discord in the lyrics of “That All Leads to One Thing.” The throbbing, moody “I’m Good” is about surviving a breakup and “I’m Just a Woman” is a 21st century anthem for her gender.

The chorus of “I’m Just a Woman” says, “And I guess I'm just a woman and that's women do. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, making sure every little thing goes through. And I know you're doing all you can and I know that after all you are just a man. But you should understand that I'm just a woman.”

The collection is rounded out by two tunes she chose from Nashville’s stellar songwriting community. “Beer on a Boat” is so full of down-home details that they sound as if Ashton could have written them herself. “Look it Up,” the album’s break-out hit single and the first song she recorded for her second album, displays the singer’s effervescent sense of humor.

“’Look It Up’ is a song about somebody who is officially done with something to the point that they are really over it,” Ashton says. “It’s almost like they aren’t that mad anymore, just ready to be through with it, just done.

“This song is a real-people song. People go through it every day and people want to be over it. Even the people that aren’t over it and are still clinging to something, this is the song they need to hear to lighten their minds.”

Ashton, who had a hand in writing eight of the album’s 10 songs, says Where Country Grows had to be different from her first record. “We wanted to show people that Ashton Shepherd can broaden her horizons,” she says. “She’s still from Leroy, Alabama. She’s still a country girl. But she can sing lots of different things. This is a very spunky record. I can’t wait to play these new songs live.”

The album was produced by Buddy Cannon, who has worked with George Jones, Kenny Chesney and Reba McEntire. “Ashton is one of those rare singers, not unlike a Reba McEntire or a Glen Campbell, who possess the rare ability to deliver a song flawlessly every time she sings it. Like those other greats, Ashton's vocal chords do not know how to sing it wrong,” he says. “Ashton's new album is a collection of new songs which will make the listener smile, cry and pump their fist in the air saying, "Go girl. You're singing my life."

Where Country Grows reveals that Ashton’s songwriting has definitely evolved over the last few years. All of the songs from her first album were penned before she was 21.

“I wrote my first song when I was around 6 years old,” she says. “My aunt had a beauty shop. I couldn’t go in where the grown-ups were, but I was in the next room listening to them. I would sit there and make up songs about them. I’d write songs out in the yard at home or on the porch. I remember one of the first ones I came up with was about my older brother being in the Army. Today, my favorite place to write songs is where I am closest to my heart, and that is home, in our little place called The Pickin’ Shed.”

Home has always been rural Alabama. Ashton Delilah Shepherd was born on August 16, 1986 in Coffeeville, population 360. Her dad, Donnie, worked in a paper mill along the Alabama River. Mom Denise was a homemaker. The couple had two boys, Jeff and Scott, then a “second” family a decade later with Ashton and her sister Tara. Both parents sang and Denise, Jeff and Scott all played guitar. Ashton sang as soon as she could talk. She entered her first country talent contest at age 8, singing the songs of Patsy Cline. Classic country stars Dolly Parton, Keith Whitley and George Jones were also early favorites.

She took up the guitar at age 14, and the songs came pouring out of her thereafter. When she was 15, her parents funded an album recorded at Alabama group member Jeff Cook’s studio in Ft. Payne, Alabama. Her mother took the cover photo.

Ashton met her husband, Roland Cunningham, when she was 16. At age 19, she gave birth to their son, James. Roland and Ashton work a seven-acre farm together. When the chores are done at the end of the day, they make music in The Pickin’ Shed with Roland’s brother Adam Cunningham. For years, Ashton fretted about how to get her music more widely heard.

“My path to Nashville was very different from the average person’s, I guess you could say. In June 2006, there was a country talent competition that was happening in Gilbertown, Alabama. I called the local radio station. They told me they had already picked out their 12 contestants, but if I would come, there might be a possibility of somebody not showing up. Well, that’s what happened. And I ended up winning this thing.”

The prize was opening for Lorrie Morgan at a concert. Ashton sang Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” and one of her own songs, “I Ain’t Dead Yet.” One of Lorrie’s band members was a producer who urged Ashton to come to Music City to record a professional demo. That August, Ashton and Roland borrowed $6,000 from a local bank to pay the production fee and came to Nashville.

She was asked to sign a more binding production agreement. Knowing she needed legal advice, Ashton cold-called a Nashville law firm. The lady who answered the phone knew famed producer/guitarist Jerry Kennedy, whose son, Shelby, works at BMI on Music Row. Shelby heard Ashton’s songs and enthusiastically introduced her to various labels and publishers. In April 2007, Ashton Shepherd signed with MCA Nashville and was paired with producer Buddy Cannon, famed for his work with Kenny Chesney, George Jones, Reba McEntire and Willie Nelson.

“In less than a year turnaround of me coming to Nashville, I had a record deal,” Ashton marvels. “All of a sudden, I’m making my own record. It was like a miracle. It really was a Cinderella story. All my life, I just always felt that if I could just be heard by the right person at the right time, maybe it could happen this way. And it did!”

Ashton debuted on the Grand Ole Opry in September 2007. “Takin’ Off This Pain” hit the charts the following month and became her first Top 20 hit in the early months of 2008. The Sounds So Good CD started rising on the country hit parade that March, followed by its title-tune hit single. The glowing critical reviews continued to roll in.

“I feel so good about it,” she says of her new album. “I think the fans are going to be excited for me. New music and a new baby on the way – I’m just on a crazy ride right now. I’m on this boat that the good Lord has put me on. I’m hoping that it sails and never sinks.

“God has just rubbed me on my head all my life with having this ability. I almost can’t explain it to people, but I am so thankful, because I love writing songs and singing so very much.”

'Where Country Grows' Track by Track by Ashton Shepherd

"Look it Up"
"The more I listened to it, the more I liked it. It got to where I was walking around singing it all the time. We got in the studio, and Buddy Cannon put on that wonderful production and the players were having a ball with it. That thing just came to life. Everybody is reacting to it, and I'm super excited about it."

"I'm Good"
"The song was Dean's idea. He just walked in and said, 'I've got this idea called, 'I'm good, getting better at being my best.'' I was just floored. No wonder he is Dean Dillon. Me and Dale were going back and forth with ideas, but Dean steered it very heavily. He had a direction, and he was going with it.
"The work tape was just me and Dean singing lightly in Dean's key. I kind of have a low-ranged voice, but my record producer, Buddy Cannon, will push me a little bit to try something higher, and that's what he did the day we recorded this. I don't know why, but for some reason my vocal just felt tremendous that morning."

"Where Country Grows"
"The first time that Bobby and I worked together, I told him, 'I have something called 'Where Country Grows' that I've been working on at home. My problem is that I've got some cool lines and ideas that I want to put into it, but I turn it into a ballad every time I work on it. And I don't want it to be a ballad.' He goes, 'Oh, I've got you.' He sits down and starts strumming his guitar and humming. Bobby starts putting the ideas into that form. Once I caught on, I went automatically into that niche he was doing. He's very groove-oriented. That's why this turned out to be something special."

"I'm Just a Woman"
"I wrote that one by myself. I opened my diary, and I got to an entry where I was writing about feeling kind of bad, empty and sad. Right after that, I'd written, 'Well, I guess I'm just being a woman.' When I read that, I underlined it. The song doesn't bash the man. It's kind of saying, 'Buddy, I understand you pretty much 99 percent of the time. I need you to understand me, too, sometimes because I know I can be hard to deal with. I need you to work with me, here, because I feel like I work with you.' I think it gives women a lot of credit. I think about our mommas, and it makes me get chill bumps. Because I feel like I've written an anthem for them."

"More Cows Than People"
"I love the way the lyric in this is just going bang-bang-bang. It turned out to be the cutest little song. I give credit to Bobby for the melody. He had this jiving little thing he was doing with the guitar. He's so talented like that. He's tickled that the song made the album, and I think it's going to be a great song to perform live."

"Beer on a Boat"
"Buddy Cannon, the people at the record company and I all really, really liked this song. We just weren't sure how it would come across coming out of a female's mouth. Each song on the record has its own little spot. Well, down where I live in the summertime, everybody goes to the river and hangs out. That's going to be their song, I can tell you. When I listen to it, I just want to turn it up."

"While it Ain't Raining"
"When Troy and I sat down to write together for the first time, we talked for awhile about both of us being from Alabama. Both of us write a lot by ourselves. And both of us are just as country as you can be. He said, 'What did you think about today?' I started thumbing through my notebook. I said, 'I have this title called 'While it Ain't Raining.' I got the idea from my husband, because he's a farmer. He's always wanting to get the ground plowed and the seeds planted before it rains. He plans everything around the weather.' So that's what we based the song on."

"Trying to Go to Church" "This makes me laugh. The three of us were talking about me and Roland and the fact that I was trying to go to church. We were just telling all these silly stories. Shane got this cute rhythm going. It turned out to be a really evenly written song, because Brandi was coming up with great lines, Shane was coming up with great lines. We were just bouncing off each other, one after another. We had a blast writing that one."

"That All Leads to One Thing"
"As a writer, I feel like I'm able to put myself in somebody else's shoes. A friend of mine was kind of going through a tough time. That's where the idea for this came from. I love the twist in it. You're wondering, 'Is she really going to leave, or is she just mad?' That's where it leaves me when I hear it, and I kind of like that about it. I told Buddy when he got down to the production, 'To me, the production sounds like an old Reba record.' Or it could be John Anderson, with that bluesy thing."

"Rory's Radio"
"Speaking of my brother, Jeff, I try to keep him alive as much as I can by talking about him. His best friend growing up was Rory. After Jeff lost his life, Rory was really there for us. He visited a lot. He would take me and my little sister to town. We'd ride around on dirt roads, get ice cream and listen to his radio. That's kind of what the whole song is based around, that and the fact that I wanted to be grown. I was 15, but I thought that I was 25."