For a girl supposedly going nowhere, Ashley McBryde sure is getting somewhere.
In November 2017, she largely introduced herself to Lexington by opening a Rupp Arena concert for Justin Moore with a set of tunes boasting a raw but jubilant country sound rooted in the prides and pitfalls of rural living.
Then 2018 kicked in.
With it came the release of her major label debut album, “Girl Going Nowhere” and a bump up to larger venues thanks to opening sets for Miranda Lambert (an especially vocal McBryde supporter) and Luke Combs.
Now with a Rupp return at hand as part of Red, White and Boom’s Saturday lineup, McBryde is readying her first headlining tour. That commences next week and will run though mid-December with a Sept. 11 stop in Bardstown.
“That first time we came to play Rupp Arena was actually my first time inside Rupp Arena,” McBryde said. “That alone was really cool. But playing with people like Justin, Luke (who will perform at Red, White and Boom on Sunday) and Miranda, where you really are introducing yourself, there is a tendency to feel like you have something to prove. And, really, everybody has got something to prove. But you can’t approach the show that way.
“You’re looking to blow the roof off. But the job of the support act is to get the audience energy level where it needs to be for the headliner and give them a little snapshot of what your show is like so that the next time you come to town, they’re all ready to come and see you. I love doing support jobs. I’m really going to love doing headlining jobs, too, but I think it’s really important never to get too big for your britches.”
A native of Waldron, Arkansas, McBryde channeled a considerable portion of her small-town upbringing into her songs, whether it was through the homey honky tonk charm of “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” or the far more sobering “Livin’ Next to Leroy.” The latter details the very de-glamorized existence of having a methamphetamine addict as a neighbor.
“I grew up in a family that loved bluegrass — my mother, especially,” McBryde said. “We would go to bluegrass festivals all summer. That’s what really led to learning how to play guitar. My dad was a big lover of Kris Kristofferson’s music and Merle Haggard, so I got a good shot in the arm of real country from him and then a lot of bluegrass from hanging out with my mom.
“But I’m glad I’m not pigeonholed today into writing just a bunch of party songs or just dark songs. Part of being a songwriter, to me, is learning how to stretch in ways I didn’t know how to stretch before. Like ‘Livin’ Next to Leroy’ — I’ve never written a song about a meth head before. But meth is a problem that’s really prevalent, especially in the South. For me, there is no issue with being able to tell the truth if you can do it tastefully.”
This weekend’s performance also carries a distinction McBryde didn’t plan on. In a time where the country music industry has already come under fire for under promoting female artists, McBryde finds herself the lone woman performing on the three-day Red, White and Boom roster.
For those keeping score, that means 14 male artists and one female.
“It’s a weird feeling,” McBryde said. “A friend of mine over there in Nicholasville pointed that out to me. I’m the only chick on the bill. Again. This happens a lot. Not that there aren’t a lot of us out there. I’m not sure what the hangup is with booking chicks.
“In some ways, I’m like, ‘Seriously? I’m the only girl on the bill?’ Then in other ways, I’m like, ‘Well, I’ve always been one of the guys anyway. I was always the girl who went fishing with everybody.’ It is kind of weird, though.”
If you go:
Red, White and Boom 2018
Where: Rupp Arena
When: 5 p.m. Aug. 31-Sept. 2
Call: 800-745-3000, 859-233-3535