If reality TV singing competitions have taught us anything it’s that impeccable voices aren’t always inside of people who are living every moment of their day performing. Everyone from teachers to plumbers to grocery store clerks and beyond can have these astounding musical gifts. This includes social worker Ashleigh Brae who spends her free time focusing on her budding country music career. We talked about how her day job helps with her creative side, her new single, “Longhaul,” and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: Being that you’re from Texas, I imagine country music is pretty much everywhere but have you always leaned towards that genre, or did you dabble in others growing up?
Ashleigh Brae: Where I’m from, country music is definitely everywhere. It’s even playing on the loudspeakers in restaurants. However, I didn’t start listening to it until college when I bought a car with a radio that couldn’t get FM stations. The only station that would play happened to be a country one, and I discovered a new love! I grew up mainly listening to gospel and R&B. I think if you listen closely, you can hear their influences in “Longhaul.”
Kendra: Because you’ve been singing for some time now but this year you are going for it. What made you finally decide to drop your indie single, “Longhaul?”
Ashleigh Brae: Well, I wrote the song four years ago, and I guess it’s taken until now to find my voice as an artist and the right producer. Since I was stepping outside of the norm and my musical surroundings (church) to create country music, it took me a while to link up with a producer with experience in the genre and who could fully grasp the direction I wanted to take the song in. Over the last four years, I’ve learned a lot about myself as an artist through trial and error. I’ve also waded through several producers trying to find that right fit. Josh Walker (One Fifty Music) turned out to be the perfect man for the job. He saw my vision and we worked together to bring it to fruition.
Kendra: It hits so many of the country-music-musts in that it’s not only beautifully delivered but it has so much heart, and it uplifts as well. Who were some artists that have uplifted and inspired you over the years?
Ashleigh Brae: Thank you so much! The day I wrote the song, I felt like my feelings poured onto the paper. I’m grateful to know that everything I felt at the time managed to make it all the way to your ears.
To answer your question, some of the artists that have uplifted and inspired me over the years are Anita Baker, Ledisi, Shania Twain, Reba McEntire, and believe it or not, the entire cast of the tv show ‘Nashville.’ I love the soundtracks for each season, but my favorite artists from the show who inspire me to write are Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen.
Kendra: Like we just noted this is your first independent release because when you’re not singing you’re a social worker. Have any aspects of that career helped you as an artist?
Ashleigh Brae: I would say being a Social Worker has helped me as an artist. Specifically in the area of writing. Empathy is a huge component of Social Work as a profession, and aside from “Longhaul,” which is purely based on my personal experience, there are several other songs I’ve written that express the feelings and experiences of people around me. I know that I would not be able to write about the experiences of others in a way that allows listeners to connect if it were not for my ability to empathize with those around me whose shoes I’ve never walked in.
Kendra: Now, there is a history of Black artists having a hard time in this genre that goes back further than the recent Morgan Wallen incident with artists such as Mickey Guyton being very vocal about her own experiences as a country artist. Did you have any reservations about heading into country music as a Black woman?
Ashleigh Brae: I know the road ahead may be difficult because of who I am and what I’m setting out to do, but I intend to let my love for creating music guide my path as opposed to fear of potential opposition. I’m grateful to have the examples of great artists like Mickey Guyton to give me an idea of what I need to brace myself for, but I also see her courage to stand up for what she believes and her willingness to be a trailblazer as a benefit to me as a Black country artist because I’m almost certain that I’ll find throughout this rough terrain I’m embarking on that it’s just a tad smoother because of her.
Kendra: That being said, you are going for it and have “Longhaul” out now but what’s next for you? More singles, an album, shows?
Ashleigh Brae: Definitely another single in the very near future (working on it now) and eventually an EP. Shows are forthcoming as well, so follow me on Instagram for updates!