Ashley Monroe

For a Pistol Annie's sophomore album, the timing is just right

Every so often, an album by a female vocalist comes around that makes a truly lasting impact. Emmylou Harris's "Roses In The Snow," Reba McEntire's "Whoever's In New England" or Lee Ann Womack's "There's More Where That Came From" are all albums that have not only stood the test of time, but have also influenced other women in the format along the way.

"Like A Rose," the upcoming project from Warner Music's Ashley Monroe could very well fall in that category. Many critics who have heard the album -- due March 5, have uttered similar statements. The Pistol Annies member says she loves hearing comments such as those, but admits "Those are big statements. I am so proud that everyone is liking it," she tells Billboard.

Monroe's life has had quite the ingredients for a country song thus far. Born in East Tennessee, she counts Country Music Hall of Fame members the Carter Family and Carl Smith as relatives, and was influenced by the true legends of the business, such as Dolly Parton. Her father passed away when Monroe was 13, inspiring her to further put her feelings into song. She was signed by John Grady to Sony in the early 2000s, and completed the disc "Satisfied." However, the Sony - BMG merger prevented her album from being released. But, the cream always rises to the top, and Monroe kept writing and kept singing, and looking back, she feels things worked out the way it was supposed to.

"I was talking to my mom the other day, and I just told her that I think God had it figured out. I had definitely been bummed when my first record didn't get the proper release, but so any great things have happened since. I've grown as a human being, and been able to make so many great friends in the business, and collaborate. I think this is the perfect timing and the perfect record to represent me."

Helping steer Monroe on the album was her producer, the legendary Vince Gill. "His passion for everything that country music is, and everything that it stands for reminds me of why I'm so passionate about it."

As a fan of the format, Monroe confesses it was an incredible experience working with Gill. "I recorded it at his house, and Amy Grant would make these appetizers and cook food for lunch, so she's walking around with this apron on. I would literally pull up every morning, and I would give myself a pep talk, saying 'OK, Ashley, they are normal people. They love you. Just be yourself. Don't pass out. Anytime I see him, I get chills because his presence is so strong, and throw in the fact that he loves me is a pretty overwhelming feeling," she says with a smile.

Composing the album's title cut was also a huge thrill for the songstress, writing with Guy Clark.

"I was trying to pitch him my best ideas," she recalls, "and he just looked up at me, and said 'Tell me about you.' So, I started to tell him about myself, about my dad dying, and told him all these things, and at the end, I said, 'But, look, I turned out like a rose.' I don't know why I said that, I guess it was a nervous way to wrap up my story. He looked at me and said, 'Well, why don't we just write that.' She hopes the lyrics will touch listeners. "Every time I sing that, I get chills and start to cry, because it is so true. I think everyone has their story. We all go through things. You can do that. You just enjoy all the adventures and the heartache, and it's all worth it in the end."

On the other end of the spectrum is the old-school sounding "You Ain't Dolly, You Ain't Porter," a duet with Blake Shelton. Monroe says the idea came straight from Dolly herself.

"Vince had come up with the idea one night when he was on stage with Dolly. She was singing the Patty Loveless part on one of their songs, and she said 'I know, I'm not Patty....But you ain't Porter!' He kind of locked that into his memory. He called me a couple of days later with the idea. So, we wrote it, then re-wrote it, and tried to come up with the idea of who to do it with. It was obvious that it had to be Blake. He and I are buddies, and have been for a long time. He's like a brother, but we joke around like that a lot constantly. It was perfect, just like it should have been."

Perfect. That's also a word we'd use to describe the album. You'll understand why on March 6.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print