Ashton Shepherd is new to the national country scene, but is making a lot of noise. Her debut album, “Sounds So Good”, is gaining momentum on the album charts, and she has a tour planned through the summer. Country music is notorious for being a writers town, and most artists don’t get to write the music they play. Ashton is helping to break that myth, and her new songs would be superb efforts for any seasoned Nashville writer. The thing is, she’s only 22 years old. Outfitted with a great record, a dazzling stage presence, and Southern work ethic, Ashton Shepherd is primed to become a superstar.
Born in tiny Coffeeville, Alabama, Ashton described her hometown, stating that,
“ There are a couple of grocery stores, two gas stations, and not much else. But I love it because there aren’t a lot of people and my town is so peaceful. We had to entertain ourselves, because two lanes and dirt roads don’t offer much entertainment”.
Ashton’s older brothers used to record tapes of her singing “Twinkle Little Star” when she was four, and she started singing in church. She entered her first talent contest when she was eight years old. She started writing songs when she was seven, and learned to play guitar at fifteen. When she paired the playing and singing together, her talent began to shine. She polished these songs on her back porch, and now has an album that boasts seven songs she authored, and three that she wrote with her brother in law, Adam.
“I still love to look at my old notebook, and then see those same songs in a CD booklet with my name on it. I get so excited when I see my name in the booklet, I can’t believe that I did it”.
The most impressive aspect of Ashton’s songs is the breadth of experience they project, and is certainly not typical of such a young writer. When I brought that up, she giggled “ That probably comes from being a little too mature for my age. Growing up with older brothers, I always thought that because I hung around them, I was their age. Although I didn’t get to stay around them very often, I didn’t stop trying. Usually, they said I could hang around if I would sing for everybody. But because I was around them more, I got to experience more and have incorporated that into my songwriting. Most of my songs are from my own experiences, and are very autobiographical. One that isn’t is the song “Regular Joe”, which I wrote about a person I know. But most of them are about me and my family”.
She broke down her inspiration for some of the songs, and started with “Takin’ Off This Band”, which she wrote in five minutes, but is quick to add that the song is not a knock against her husband, and shouldn’t be taken as such. The song is more about the trying times that married people go through, when the laundry piles up and no matter how hard one tries, the day just can’t be salvaged. “The Pickin’ Shed is an actual place that Ashton goes to play and practice. The shed was built by her husband and brother in law before she met them and also serves as an impromptu barbecue joint and pool hall when the need arises.
The money song on the album is “Sound So Good”. Ashton describes how she wrote it, “We were at the Pickin’ Shed, and my brother in law asked me to get in the cooler and grab him a cold beer. When I reached inside, the ice had melted and the water sloshing in there, and I thought to myself, God that sounds good”. It reminds me of so many things I like about Alabama, like coolers and riding around with the windows down, I just had to write it”. Like the sound of a bar stool being kicked back, there are things that just sound better in Alabama.
“I got the title of “Old Memory” from my brother in law, and that song deals with a time when my husband and I broke up before we got married, and the weird feelings that come from being so close to a person one day, and they’re gone the next. Then when you see them, memories and unfamiliar feelings rush over you. We’re fine now, but I still remember the way I felt then”.
An album highlight is ‘How Big Are Angel Wings’, which must be heard, it simply cannot be described. I asked Ashton about that song, which I feel has the potential to be more than a radio single. She said, “ The label really felt strongly about that song, and has offered it to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. It’s so unlike anything else on the record, and I feel like it gives the album a different twist”.
Ashton Shepherd may be short on years, but has more than enough experience and Southern common sense to make up for it. Her magnificent gift for songwriting has helped her to both craft an unforgettable album and to also build a foundation for more striking material in her still flowering career. Southern women are highly sought after all over the world, and Ashton Shepherd may very well be the catalyst for young Southern songbirds to pick up a guitar and head to the porch for picking, not just sitting.