Ashley McBryde will remember December 7 as a definitive day in her life, for the rest of her life. The already indelible date in US history will be forever marked in the soul of the 35-year-old singer-songwriter from Mammoth Springs, AR, yet in many ways, it was no different than any other day. McBryde was on her tour bus, making her way to the next gig with her band when her phone began to “bing, bing, bing, bing,” as she immaculately imitates to “CBS This Morning” anchor Anthony Mason in her December 29 feature.

What she could not have known before responding to those frenzied calls is that her name, and her album, had just been named in the “CBS This Morning” studios in New York as a contender for Best Country Album in the 2019 Grammy awards. Janelle Monae announced that McBryde’s second album collection, “Girl Going Nowhere” would be taking her to the Grammy red carpet in 2019, and into her own place in music history.

No big celebration

Ashley McBryde has made her way to Grammy status with more than her share of hard knocks, and with over a decade of playing stages from the hole in the wall dives to headlining small-town fairs and rodeos, she has been seasoned to take things in stride. It would be easy to think that the truth-telling songstress came screaming out of her bunk, ready to hit the bar for a round of drinks, but her mood was quite different.

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“There was so much love coming at me at one time,” McBryde elaborated, and she wanted to let it soak in every sinew of her being. She still asks herself “What just happened?” with a sense of disbelief. At the same time, this most anticipated moment of her life holds the most worthwhile verification of her artistic passion and personhood than she could ever imagine. The title track illuminates it all.

A teacher turned the world around for Ashley McBryde, and another teacher tormented her. A professor during her student days at Arkansas State University counseled her to leave school in 2007 and go to Nashville. The pupil followed that guidance, but many long days were bleak, as McBryde lived in a storage unit in Music City, where it was both quiet and “really scary” at night when it wasn't so still according to the songwriter.

Ashley McBryde will be the first to confess that “the freedom and the money” flows from songwriting in Nashville, but so does the constant struggle to be the flavor of the month, as she describes, “just hoping that this [song] is the one you're going for,” like a featured pint of the month. Even more difficult is trying “to not be upset because you don't like my ice cream.”

McBryde tried to re-create herself as a sought-after flavor again in 2016, with the release of her debut album, “Jalopies & Expensive Guitars,” but felt the strings of conformity cutting into her self-image.

She was told to straighten her hair and straighten out her image, laying her heavy metal T-shirts and rebel attitude aside. McBryde feels thankful for the “cool lesson” of forced compromise, and the price of being “ingenuine.”

Success will always come with a sting of humiliation for Ashley McBryde. Word-for-word, verses of the song, “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” are drawn from the teacher who told her that her dreams were “stupid” and sure to “never happen” in front of an entire classroom. The admonition ended with a further demeaning reminder to “remember where I came from, and have a backup plan.” Those classmates are probably buying tickets to a McBryde concert today.

So much for mean teachers

“She gave me hell,” says the Grammy nominee of that instructor, countering with “I gave it right back.”

Ashley McBryde savored her moments of heaven on earth at the Grand Ole Opry in August last year, singing that very song and not hiding any emotion.

“I knew our lives changed that night,” assures the now shooting star. The song was also the first of McBryde’s trio of songs for “Saturday Sessions,” followed by the quasi-political and romantically playful, “American Scandal,” and topping off with the rollicking road anthem, “El Dorado.”

Rousing applause and words of congratulations are all that await Ashley McBryde’s performances these days, and having Barack Obama as a big fan doesn't hurt a bit.

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