Kacey Musgraves’ recent wins at the CMAs and Grammy Awards have finally nudged her onto country radio playlists, years after she first began her critically-acclaimed career. Hopefully, that begins to thaw whatever has been freezing women out of country for the past several years.
Other than some notable exceptions, like Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini and Lauren Alaina, most of the new, rising stars of country music have been male. And while there are a myriad of theories as to why this is, the bottom line is, it isn’t right, and needs to be rectified. And if the industry needs a suggestion as to what other females they should look at pushing into the spotlight? I’d offer up Ashley McBryde.
The Arkansas country-rocker is also critically recognized–her debut album, Girl Goin’ Nowhere was nominated for a Grammy in the same country album category Musgraves’ won. Eric Church called her a “whiskey drinkin’ badass” when he brought her onstage. Garth Brooks called her one of his favorite new artists before launching into a guy’s version of the title song on his tour last year.
Like Musgraves, McBryde’s music has been hard to find on country radio. Two singles from the debut album, including one called “Radioland”, never got out of the top 30, and her latest, the title track, while doing a little better, has yet to find the necessary traction to push it to another level. It could still happen.
For her part, McBryde notices the dearth of female artists, and points out it isn’t just on country radio.
“It’s at festivals, too.” She told me recently on my podcast, Write You a Song. “There were several festivals we played last year … where there was on female on the bill, and it’s a three day festival. And I remember one, there were two–there was me and Lindsay Ell. And that’s music all day and all night!”
McBryde is as perplexed as anyone. “It’s not that there aren’t women out there writing good songs and performing it well, because there are. It’s not that women aren’t selling out shows, they definitely are. There doesn’t have to be such a divide between men and women. I really don’t think there has to be.”
McBryde says she understands some of the hurdles radio faces: programmers are faced with dozens of new music choices each week; there’s only room for so much. “I understand how hard their job is…even if they love my record and they can’t play it, I understand that.” So what do you do about it?
Colorfully, McBryde says the “least attractive” thing she could do about it is “be butt-hurt about it”. Instead, she says she chooses to “walk alongside it, and figure out how to be a companion to it, because resisting is only gonna make the problem worse”, adding, “…if you can just keep puttin’ honey on it and puttin’ honey on it and puttin’ honey on it, pretty soon a fly is gonna land there.”
McBryde’s album (and her real debut recording, an EP called Jalopies and Expensive Guitars) is just like she speaks–frank, thoughtful and not afraid to talk about uncomfortable things. Heck, one of the songs on Girl Goin’ Nowhere addresses opioid addiction…not exactly a topic covered by the Bro-Country crowd.
If you have 36 minutes, give our interview a listen–it also features clips of her songs if you’re unfamiliar. Just click here.
And in the meantime, keep supporting new female artists, whether it’s Kacey, Ashley, Brandy Clark, Runaway June or the others who are working hard, trying their luck out here in radio land.