Ashley McBryde Has Something for the Teacher Who Said Her Dream Was Stupid
On stage, it's a charming story. On the new Girl Going Nowhere album, Ashley McBryde's title track is an inspiring reminder to chase your dreams. In person, the country singer's explanation of a song inspired by an old school teacher is the antithesis of who she is.
Call it the Ashley McBryde paradox. She's leather and denim, coffee-however-you-wanna-serve-it, biker bars and hard-scrabble songs about drug abuse, broken dreams and a longing for the road. She's also an optimist, a crier and a "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" kind of girl. McBryde loves her 75-year-old father — a former emergency room physician who is terminally ill, but still tends to his cattle — and is best friends with her mom.
But ask about this teacher and look for wild in those blue eyes.
“She has emailed my mom and said she’s behind me 100 percent and she hopes that I continue to achieve my dreams and goals," McBryde shares, though it's clear she doesn't believe a word of it.
The 34-year-old Saddle, Ark., native is technically a new artist, so it's likely you haven't heard this story. Here's the short version: An unnamed high school algebra teacher told McBryde that her dream of writing and singing songs for a living — a dream cultivated since early childhood — was stupid and that she needed to have a good backup plan. That stuck with her.
“Every job I had I kept hearing her say, ‘You’re never going to be anything,’" McBryde recalls. "For an educator to tell a kid that their dream is stupid, that is so ridiculous and most educators would never do that. But in all reality she gave me my first experience with rejection and the word 'no.'"
There's that optimism — McBryde trying to make lemonade out of lemons. But this teacher wasn't her only doubter. Over the years (10 to 15 before her "big break") friends and family had their say, from "music will ruin every relationship you're in" to "you'll die hungry."
That last one came from her dad, but they've since made peace.
“Finally he asked, ‘Are you full more often than you’re hungry?’ and I said, 'Yeah,'" she says, to which the retired emergency room physician said: “Then I’m proud of you.”
There will be no such moment with the teacher, because the "A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega" singer doesn't want to confront her. "I’m going to send her a copy of the record," she insists. "I’m not gonna sign it, but I’m going to send her a copy of the record with a Post-it note on the front that says ‘Thank you for the years of inspiration.’”
If you laughed at this, you definitely grew up in the south. It's a "Bless your heart" approach that splits the difference between the tough country music raising and the heart and optimism you hear on almost every song on Girl Going Nowhere. This is a project filled with characters, not caricatures. "Livin' Next to LeRoy" is the story of a local drug addict told lovingly with no contempt. "Andy (I Can't Live Without You)" is McBryde venting about her roommate/best friend/guitarist. Fans will hear it as a love song, but really she's going on about what a wreck her house and life have become until she realizes she couldn't live without him. "The Jacket" is about a family heirloom passed to the singer by her uncle, but she leaves out the most important part: it was stolen from her truck last October.
At the front of the album (due March 30) is the bad advice given to her by a teacher — advice that shaped, but didn't define her. Since leaving Fulton County she's heard "no" often enough to justify quitting. Many would have.
“You have to understand that every 'no' is one inch closer to a 'yes,'" she says with sincerity. "So just use it as fuel and use it as the lesson you get out of it.”
Although ... “I try to make that positive. She’s really a terrible person,” she adds, laughing. “There’s no redeeming quality here. But I’m really trying hard to make this seem like a gift in disguise.”
This spring and summer, look for McBryde on the road at festivals like Stagecoach, Taste of Country Music Festival in Hunter, N.Y., and WE Fest in Detroit Lakes, Minn. She's also continuing to tour with Luke Combs.
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