With the release of Sparrow, it’s no doubt that Ashely Monroe proves to be a music lovers dream. With her soothing vocals, raw lyrics and hypnotizing sound, the 31-year-old singer has proven time and time again that she is in a league of her own.
Sparrow, produced by Dave Cobb, comes two years after the release of her critically-acclaimed album The Blade. The latest offering contains 12 tracks, featuring the heart-wrenching “Orphan” and “Daddy I Told You” as well as the seductive “Hands on You” and “Wild Love.”
Recorded when she was pregnant with Dalton, her 1-year-old son with husband John Danks, Sparrow is a work of art. Writing from her heart, the “Weed Instead of Roses” singer opens up to One Country about her latest project.
Can you catch us up on what you’ve been doing for the past two years?
“I kind of took some time just to live. I wanted to have a baby, so I started doing what I needed to do for that to happen, which was be home. Then I got pregnant. I guess that off time between The Blade is when all these songs were written. So in a way, I was working. I just felt these songs come on and I knew they needed to be written. Then after I wrote these songs I went into the studio and I was three or four months pregnant. And then after that, I literally just did nothing. I mean except be pregnant and hot and so hungry. After that I had to get my mind right and not be so anxious about the baby. And now I feel like a brand new woman. In a good way.”
So how is Dalton doing? He’s about one now, right?
“Yeah, he is. He’s so awesome. It’s the craziest thing, I love him so much. He’s brought innocence back into my life. I can kind of see with an innocent filter. Which has been a very long time. It’s really refreshing.”
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
“I like discovering a brand new personality. Someone who’s just this new thing. He’s sensitive like me in some ways. I can tell when he wants to listen to music. It’s actually strange, but I can tell when he wants to listen to Eric Clapton. His mood will get better. It’s weird. But then I can also tell when he’s so over me singing, he just wants to go play with John and just do boy stuff and wrestle. It’s just interesting to learn another human.”
So tell me about Sparrow. Let’s start with why you named it Sparrow. What’s the thought behind that?
“The song ‘Orphan’ had the line ‘how does the sparrow know more than I?’ I always loved the significance of the word sparrow and I loved the symbolism of—I just always thought the sparrow was like a hard worker, a little thing but very vigilant and very strong. So that was in the song, and that song was very important to me. I didn’t know what the record was going to be called actually. I played the record for a friend of mine and he said ‘Sparrow.’ I was like ‘oh.’ He goes ‘I think that should be the name of it.’ As soon as he said it I was like ‘yup, a hundred million percent, that is so awesome.’ I also feel like because the album addresses pain from the past and I think there’s forgiveness for myself. But all of that feels like a fresh start. Just coming out of this cloud and powerful and flying in a way. I like that word. And I love Edith Piaf. I listened to her the whole time I was pregnant. That was the only music I listened to.”
You have songs about your parents, sex, drugs. Was there a certain theme? Are you thinking of that when you’re putting this album together. Or are you just writing from the heart?
“I was just writing from the heart. I wasn’t thinking, I never have, ever, about a theme. I just kind of go with my gut on the songs. These songs were going together. But I also felt like there’s parental songs, there’s like sex, there’s “Orphan,” there’s just all these different emotions. But it all can tie together just beautifully because it’s all part of a story.”
Do you have favorite on the album?
“Well, I’ve listened personally to this album around a billion times. I still listen to it when I get in my car. Like it’s not me, you know what I mean? Which is crazy for me. I’ve never been where I can just listen to myself. Maybe it’s because I’m actually better—I don’t hate myself. I’m not hard on myself anymore. Cause I’ve had a baby. So I’m kind of like ‘you go girl.’ But I listen to “Wild Love” a lot. ‘ll say that I do like that one. I like ‘Rita.’ The cool thing about this record is that, and I like using music for this too, whatever mood you’re in, you can find.”
Where does your inspiration come from?
“I’ve always held onto music as just a therapy tool. I’ve always been very much an empath. I kind of take in everybody’s things. I’ll feel emotional, and then normally right off the bat the songs come out. But I’ve kind of always used them to process and when my dad died that’s all I did. When I have that helpless feeling of I don’t know what to do. I’m so lost. I would just go get my guitar and then a song would come out. So I kind of learned that feeling of what it feels like to catch a song I guess in a way. When I was younger I kind of honed in on it. But I feel like now, time allows you to hone in on whatever your gift is. Just get better at it and learn it. And what your favorite things are. But now I feel like I’m in a place where I know more chords. I’ve taken in more music over the years of all kinds. And I’ve got more to offer. I feel like that even I’ve written a bunch of new songs. Even since I’ve had Dalton. Dave [Cobb] already knows to tell me when and we’ll go back in and keep on making this music while this wave of inspiration’s coming.”
So another album is on the horizon?
“Oh yeah. I’m already in my notes. the whole song list. I’ll probably write a bunch more. But I’ve already got a ton of songs that I love. Which is really good. So I think Dalton has definitely breathed life. You know, into me.”
What do you want people to take away from when listening to this album.
“As always I just hope that people can feel something. That they can conjure up some sort of feeling, even if it’s sadness, even the sexiness. All of it. I love when music moves people and I think that’s what it’s intended to do. I love how I feel when I’m moved by music.”
Listening to this album would you say that we would get a sense of who Ashley Monroe is?
“I think absolutely. I think you see it 100% now.”
What’s next for you? What’s on tap for the rest of 2018?
“Well, I am going to do some tour dates cause I wanna sing these songs live. But I’m kind of going to get that ball slowly turning. I feel like I’m in the right entrance ramp to the right highway. I feel like I’m just going to keep growing on this. I feel like this is the beginning point in some ways. Even though I’ve been doing this for so long. I feel like this is a fresh start. And I’m just getting started again.”
I can’t let you go without talking about the Pistol Annies. What’s the plan?
“That’s another thing that’s good that’s happening. That is the safest most honest place It’s strong. We’ve got our record written. I think we’re going to go away once more to Miranda’s farm just because we really like to go down there. We write songs so easy when we’re together, it’s like breathing. It’s not even work. I don’t know how it happens. I think we’re gonna go in pretty soon and get this thing churning as well. We love being together as much as we can. So I think it’d be silly if we didn’t work together somewhere at some point. I don’t know if it will be on [Miranda’s] tour but we’ll figure it out.”
5 Songs with Ashley – The critically-acclaimed singer gives us her take on 5 cuts from Sparrow
1. “Keys to the Kingdom”
“That’s the magic of music to me. It can kind of take you anywhere. Trisha Yearwood said ‘The Song Remembers When.’ It’s a very powerful tool. Closest thing we have to time travel. So I feel like ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ is kind of like saying that we can unlock anything with a song.”
2. “Hard on a Heart”
“That was the letter I wrote to my heart cause it beats too fast. It beats over a hundred actually. I was trying to tell it to slow down. But it actually makes it beat faster then ever when I sing it. But, it’s okay.”
3. “Mother’s Daughter”
“It’s just the irony of how you turn into your mother and you see her. My mom is in my life more than ever. All the stuff I gave her a hard time about, and still do, is stuff I do. It gets on my nerves. And I kind of see it now, so it’s just kind of funny. And she lost my dad and that was the love of her life. So I have a lot of grace on that now that I’m older too. It’s like, ‘Okay, I get it.'”
4. “Daddy I Told You”
“I don’t write that many songs to my Dad because I had the big old therapy thing I did years ago. I really did grieve and I was able to go, ‘alright I’ve got some closure and some peace there.’ I still talk to him and pray and all that. But I don’t write that much about him. But it was my birthday. Ever since he passed away, even around my birthday, or Christmas or his birthday sometimes, but like a significant date when you miss him extra, I’ll get a really cool song. That one, ‘Daddy I Told You,’ was on my birthday and I just heard the lyrics for that really, really strong come through and I was like, ‘wow.’ It’s almost like checking in. Now, here in my life, it’s me checking in.”
”Rita’ I wrote with a buddy of mine. You know how friendships sometimes just go through some seasons, like one person’s at a different place then the other one is. Her name isn’t Rita, but I like that name. So that song just kind of came out. I wrote that when I was pregnant too. That was one of my favorites and I love the string part on that one. Every time I hear it. I almost cry.”