With the release of her new EP "Thief," Susan Ashton returns to the world of record making. It's a place where she didn't know if she would ever be again. After her reign as one of the biggest stars in the Contemporary Christian format in the 1990s, and a turn to country music by the end of that decade, the Texas native went through a divorce. After that, Ashton got away from the recording process for an extended period of time, while she tried to put her hurt behind her.
"The last record I had come out was in 1999," she tells Billboard. "I am over the moon about this on so many levels. For one, it's a huge personal accomplishment for me. I co-wrote five of the six songs," she allowed, hinting that fans may find the new music to have a familiar sheen. "I don't think it's a huge change from who I've been in the past, but the production is real sparse. I wanted there to be more space in the production."
Though it's been fourteen years since a new solo recording from Ashton, she says she did have a few chances to make a record – but the timing just didn't feel right.
"Over the last ten years, there were two, maybe three occasions, where I had the chance to make another record. When I was offered the opportunity, I sat with those people and listened to what they had to say. I didn't feel it was the right direction or the right time. It was very hard for me to say no to that, because obviously, I would have much rather preferred to be making a record than being a nanny, but it didn't feel right. This coming together like it did feels like all the right things at the right time."
In discussing the five new songs she wrote for the project, the singer said the lyrics are intently personal.
"I think these songs are a reflection of the journey that I've been on over the last thirteen years. They are a direct reflection of what my life has been. I've always been very involved in the direction of my records, but this really is my vision. Wayne Kirkpatrick, my producer, did a phenomenal job in helping me create it. It's very personal for me."
One of the highlights of the disc is the moving "Wrong Well," which features the keyboard work of highly respected Nashville musician Gordon Mote. Ashton says the lyrics have been lived first-hand.
"Anybody who has lived life at all knows it comes down to choices. Sometimes, things happen, and it's not your fault, but you make the wrong choices, and you pay the penalty. For me, that song is about wrong choices. I found myself in a relationship, where everything about it felt like life to me. I thought it just had to be the right thing. But, now, looking back and being honest with myself, there was a little something in the center of my core that knew it wasn't the truth, and it wasn't right. We all have that. Sometimes you don't want to hear that, and you ignore that."
Ironically, the single from "Thief" is the one song Ashton did not have a hand in writing – a cover of the 1976 Gary Wright hit "Love Is Alive." Ashton says the originally, the single was to be "Moonshine," but after hearing the single on the radio, she couldn't agree more with the last- minute change in direction. It sounds like Ashton is thrilled to be back in the game; she plans to start scheduling some concert appearances for the summer.
"We did a showcase in February, and are putting together videos from that to put on YouTube to show people what I look like all these years later," she says with a laugh, "But, it's all great. I'm thrilled with how it's all going."