Ashley Monroe: Pistol Annies Not Aiming for Radio Hits

Pistol Annies perform onstage during the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 7, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Ashley Monroe tells Billboard that when she, Miranda Lambert, and Angaleena Presley first came up with the idea for the Pistol Annies, some didn't quite grasp their concept.

"When we first had the idea of doing the album (2011's Hell On Heels) everybody said 'What?" she told Billboard. "But, we were just so passionate about it that everyone caught on, that it wasn't just three girls gone crazy, this was something real. Then, the fans started reacting, and that helped us be confident in the decision we made."

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The success of their debut disc has led the talented trio back into the studio again to record their follow-up, Annie Up, which hits stores on Tuesday. The attention that they have gotten for their music has ranged from fans to fellow artists – including the legendary Neil Young, who cited them in his autobiography "Waging Heavy Peace." When asked how the trio responded to that mention, she struck an exuberant tone.

"We absolutely freaked out. We kept reading and reading it over again. I just did a Crossroads thing with Willie, and Neil was there. I said 'Hi, I'm Ashley from the Pistol Annies, and we are still in shock that you wrote about us.' He then started to sing 'Somebody had to set a bad example," referring to one of the cuts on the album. "It's hard to grasp, really."

A listen to the new music reveals a few more radio-friendly tracks than on their debut, such as lead single "Hush Hush" or the tender and sweet "I Hope You're The End Of My Story." Monroe said that while they would welcome it, trying to get a radio hit is not the focus of the Pistol Annies.

"We really didn't think about it too much. That can definitely mess with your music – if you overthink 'What's radio going to think,' or 'What are these people going to think.' We've grown as singers. Our harmonies have gotten stronger, and we're writing about where we are right now in our lives. Hopefully, radio will play us. I think that would be amazing. I also have so much faith in our fans that I don't think I would lose a lot of sleep if it didn't work with radio. I'm thankful for the chance, but the fans have driven the whole thing."

The ladies are gearing up for a tour to promote the disc, as well, kicking off June 7 in Winstock, MN. Monroe says they can't wait to do the new material live. "We just had our first rehearsal on Sunday. We have so much fun on stage, and we're excited to play these new songs. When we were writing some of the songs like 'Unhappily Married' and 'Girls Like Us,' we were thinking 'Can you just see the crowd?' It's interesting when you've been on the road for a little bit how the crowds factor into how you write your songs."

One of the highlights of the album is "Blues, You're A Buzzkill," a track that proves how great minds think alike.   "A guy who works for us – his name is Blue. We were all hanging out after a show one night, and he came in the room, turned off the mics, turned off the music. I forgot who said it, but they said, 'Blue, you're a buzzkill,' because he was running everybody off. Angaleena looked at Miranda and me, and said 'Meet me on the bus.' We all heard it. So, we wrote it that night, and we felt it that night for sure," she said with a laugh.

So far, 2013 has been a banner year for the East Tennessee native. In addition to her Pistols work, she's also been encouraged by the success of her Like A Rose CD. "It's amazing. I get to put out two bodies of work that I am so proud of. It's like a huge release for my soul, I guess. I couldn't ask for a better situation that it was completely unplanned. It just happened, and it's best that way when it does."