Ashley McBryde Explains How One Fateful Song Pays Tribute to a Friend She Lost
If you thought Ashley McBryde's Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville album was full of colorful characters and incredible details, just wait until you hear the true stories behind the songs on her new project, The Devil I Know.
From top to bottom, the tracklist is packed with songs that prove that real life is stranger than fiction. These songs pay homage — in no particular order — to a mom who gets "hangry"; the singer's hard-rocking drunk alter ego; road dogs chasing their dreams and bars so divey their doors don't have bathrooms.
But perhaps the most powerful story comes in the final track, "6th of October." A nomadic and lonely story about learning the difficult art of self-love, McBryde comes to a sobering conclusion in the chorus: That there's power in learning "not to be afraid of our scars / And who we are."
It took McBryde and her co-writers a long time, and no small amount of grief, to bring "6th of October" to its finished version. She tells Taste of Country Nights that she had some songwriter friends — including co-writers Blue Foley and CJ Field — over to write one day, when Field pulled out a song he'd started months ago with a late songwriter friend of theirs named Randall Clay.
McBryde had history with Clay, who helped write "American Scandal," "Tired of Being Happy" and "El Dorado" for her 2018 Girl Going Nowhere album. "The finest songwriter I've ever written with," she says.
"He passed away a few years ago now, but at this time, it was only a few months — maybe six or eight," McBryde continues. When Field suggested they keep working on a song that he started with Clay, he said that the first lines of the songs literally fell out of their mouths, before they'd even gotten down to work.
"CJ Field had driven down from Massachusetts. He pulls into Randall's driveway, and says the first line: 'Hey, I threw up this morning in Christiansburg, Va. I drove down from Pa. I slept in my van,'" McBryde recounts.
"Randall stands up in boxers and a white cotton t-shirt on his porch, smoking a cigarette, with his socks on. He takes a drag of his cigarette, and before he even blows the smoke all the way out of his mouth, he says, 'I can still taste the whiskey from the last fool that kissed me, and the people who miss me I can count on one hand.'"
'Good morning, C.J.,'" Clay said, without missing a beat.
On that day, months after Clay's death, as Field, McBryde and Foley worked on the song, they knew they were writing it in part as a remembrance of their friend. But as they worked, they realized there was an eerie coincidence in the second verse.
"When I sing, 'I've been saying I was sober since the 6th of October' — that [date] was when we found out that it wasn't looking good for our friend to still be living," McBryde says. "That was just sort of by coincidence. We wrote the line, we wrote the verse, and then we went back and we said, 'Oh my God.'"
The date of Oct. 6 would continue to come up, again and again, as an important one in McBryde's life. "Last year, I was on TV doing a thing with CBS, and that was the morning that Garth [Brooks] invited me to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. I called my brother afterward, and I was like, 'Oh my God, I just got invited to be in the Grand Ole Opry.' He said, 'Ash, it's the 6th of October,'" she recalls.
Then McBryde and her team planned a tour to promote her new album. It starts in October — on the 6th, of course.
"And I'll be in Florida [on that tour], which is where Randall was from and where he went to be with our Lord," the singer sums up. "So the 6th of October just keeps swirling around."
McBryde's The Devil I Know album arrived on Friday (Sept. 8).