Jared Ashley received his first guitar when he was five years old. So, it isn't any wonder that the singer-songwriter has found himself as a steady musician in Music City. With the recent announcement that he's signed with Buddy Lee Attractions for booking representation, Ashley (who is signed to Blaster Records) is poised to usher in the new generation of leading men. His current single "Last Train to Memphis" isn't your typical summer, drinking anthem, which certainly sets him apart from every other guitar-toting musician trying to make it in the fickle music industry.
Nashville Gab had the chance to sit down with the rising star about his debut single, as well as his Nashville Star past and what current artists he's impressed with (and much more).
Nashville Gab: How many times have you been here to CMA Fest?
Jared Ashley: This is my first time with a record deal and a single on the radio. I’ve been in Nashville a number of years, so I’ve participated in CMA Fest every year. I’ve played downtown for about four and a half, five years. I’ve partaken [in the event before] but not on this level.
NG: Your current single is “Last Train to Memphis.” What’s the story behind it?
JA: I wrote it with Nick Stearns and Jeremy McComb, two great songwriters and artists here in town. The inspiration for the song came about [from] Nick who’d been reading a book called ‘Last Train to Memphis.’ The book basically chronicles the first 24 years of Elvis Presley’s life, which is the self-invention years of Elvis. The book stops whenever he goes into the military. The intriguing part of this book is his passion for his family (alot of what people don’t know about) and for his music. That book shines a light on that, and that’s what sparked the inspiration behind the song. I said ‘that’s our idea. Let’s write a song about a guy who is passionate about a girl. While we’re at it, let’s borrow the title, too.’ We wrote it a couple of years ago. I’m very excited, and so are Nick and Jeremy, that this is my first single on Blaster Records. It’s all been a cool journey as a songwriter. It’s nice to see your songs at radio.
NG: When did you start playing guitar?
JA: When I was negative five months. [laughs] I was strumming the umbilical cord in my momma’s belly. As far back as my family’s photos go, you can see me with a plastic guitar and doing things musically. I didn’t really start to get serious about it until I was 12 [or] 13 years old. Probably starting that young, I should be a better guitar player. I think I’m as good as I’ll ever be.
NG: What did you listen to growing up?
JA: My parents listened to a lot of Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Alabama. At that time, it was called ‘pop-Country.’ It wasn’t really Outlaw Country. I had a brother who is four years older than me, and he turned me onto a lot of the Southern rock and ‘80s hair band stuff. All those influences play on me a little bit. You can kind of tell, now that I’ve been able to sit and dig deep and do a little soul searching the last three or four years. My songs reflect the way I grew up. I’m influenced by great music. It doesn’t really have a particular genre.
NG: Are there any current artists that inspire you?
JA: I love what Eric Church is doing. [He’s] phenomenal. He always has been. It’s good that he’s finally getting noticed for it. Lee Brice[, too]. I’m close personal friends with him. I’ve been able to watch his journey from day one. I’ve always been a fan of his. I love his music. There again, it’s nice to see him being recognized.
NG: You did ‘Nashville Star,’ correct?
JA: I did. In 2006, I was a contestant, which is the year Chris Young won. It was a big year. There was a lot of talent that year, and Chris has done well for himself. I’m very proud of him.
NG: What’s it like to be on a reality show like that?
JA: It’s gotten more popular these days. I was talking to somebody yesterday. He asked me what I thought about people trying out for those shows. You know, Kree, who was just on American Idol, has been in Nashville for five or six years. I’ve known her since she was 16 [or] 17 years old. Tawnya Reynolds, who was on The Voice this past year, I’ve known her for probably seven or eight years. They’ve been playing around Nashville. A lot of people don’t realize the process of being on a live TV show like that. To be where Kree ended up in second place, it takes a lot of heart and a lot of desire and a lot of talent. When you’re mixed in with millions of other people, for her to be singled out and get to that point, people don’t understand that that’s a huge accomplishment. It’s good that those shows are finding great talent.
NG: Is “Last Train to Memphis” the lead single for your debut album?
JA: Yes. The album is due out in the fall.
NG: How far along are you in completing the album?
JA: We’ve completed half the record. We’re going back in in the next two weeks to finish. That process is amazing. I produced this album with Bobby Terry. We’re having a great time doing it. I’m living every dream I’ve ever dreamed.
NG: I read that you consider yourself the love child of Alan Jackson and Bob Seger.
JA: [laughs] I can read the headlines now. Being in Newnan, Georgia, it’s hard not to be an Alan Jackson fan. I grew up listening to him. My first job was a sacker at the Piggly Wiggly right down the street from my house where his dad grocery shopped. That was close to home for me. I try to be a little more edgy and a bit like Bob Seger. I think my natural thing is a little more on the outside. I love the purity of Alan.
NG: What’s your favorite Alan Jackson record?
JA: Oh, [it’s] definitely the first record. [His] first record is hard to beat. His music has always been real and fun. I love everything about him.
Read the full interview here.
Photo Credit: Facebook