Everyone in Nashville knows that an artist’s second album is more important than the first one. Because what if the new’s worn off? What if all the best songs were already written? What if the artist was in a rush?
All good questions, but all irrelevant to Ashley McBryde. Her second album Never Will is out today (April 3) and she has literally outdone herself. No easy feat considering that her debut album Girl Going Nowhere was nominated for a Grammy.
McBryde sat down with Hot 20 to talk about going into — and coming out of — the second album.
CMT Hot 20: What was it like going into this? The first was so well received. You got a lot of acclaim and it’s really boosted your career. Does that kind of give you bit more confidence? Or put more pressure on you?
McBrdye: It felt good for everybody to love and embrace Girl Going Nowhere. And then there were awards and there were Grammy nominations and all that, which is amazing. But as a band, we got together to make the second record. The first record was just us taking a snapshot of where we were as songwriters, where we were as a band, and this is what we sound like. So we had to go into the second record with the same thing. Let’s think about our Grammy nominations and our awards and love them, and leave them at home. Because once we get into the studio, if you write toward anything like that, any kind of accolades, you’re gonna shoot yourself in the foot. We want to make cool songs in a way that makes you listen to it more than once. And so that was our only goal. And when your goal isn’t anything but having good music and putting it together in a way that people want to listen to it, there’s no way to do it wrong.
How did you guys come up with the idea to combine three videos into one long-form trilogy series like you did with “One Night Standards,” “Martha Divine” and “Hang in There Girl”?
When you look at it, you’re like, “Who ties these together like that?” Actually, all eleven songs can be tied together. We found that out one night. Some of these songs were written almost eight years ago. Some of them were written a week before we made the record. And so we put them in an order. (Manager) John Peets and I put them in an order and listened to them that way. Then you try to see if there’s a thread or some kind of storyline that you can latch on to. And there was. So one drunken night on the bus, I got out a sketchpad and wrote down all the songs on one side. On the other side of the page, I wrote down every character that appears throughout the entire record. And then I tried to tie each character to a song that wasn’t the song. Like I tied Martha Divine to “One Night Standards” instead of “Martha Divine,” because, of course, she’s in that story. But could she narrate this other story? And then in the center of the page I drew a big circle and wrote “Laundromat, Hotel, Beauty Shop.” All of these things could be stories that are heard in one of these locations.
Full track list for Never Will:
1. “Hang In There Girl” (Ashley McBryde, Jeremy Bussey)
2. “One Night Standards” (Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford, Shane McAnally)
3. “Shut Up Sheila” (Nicolette Hayford, Charles Chisholm)
4. “First Thing I Reach For” (Ashley McBryde, Randall Clay, Mick Holland)
5. “Voodoo Doll” (Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford, Brandy Clark, Connie Harrington, Jake Mitchell, Aaron Raitiere)
6. “Sparrow” (Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford, Brandy Clark, Connie Harrington, Jake Mitchell, Aaron Raitiere)
7. “Martha Divine” (Ashley McBryde, Jeremy Spillman)
8. “Velvet Red” (Ashley McBryde, Patrick Savage, Daniel Smalley)
9. “Stone” (Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford)
10. “Never Will” (Ashley McBryde, Chris Harris, Blue Foley, Matt Helmkamp, Christian Sancho, Victor Quinn Hill)
11. “Styrofoam” (Randall Clay)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Watch the full interview with Ashley McBryde when CMT Hot 20 Countdown airs at 8:00 a.m. CT on April 4-5.