Ashley Monroe

Ashley Monroe

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'On to Something Good' is the first single from Monroe's upcoming sophomore album.

The sound of "On to Something Good," the brand-new single from acclaimed singer-songwriter Ashley Monroe, might just take some listeners by surprise. Known for her emotional and dramatic releases in the past, this track -- the first single from her upcoming second release for Warner Bros. Nashville -- picks up the pace.

"It's so hard for me to write a positive song, but there are so many that I love that actually have some meat and substance to them," she told Billboard. "I really wanted to challenge myself. I tried to think of some Sheryl Crow songs I love that are uptempo and make you feel good. I love those songs, I've just never written one. I was writing with Luke Laird and Barry Dean, and Luke had that sound going. I really think it's important to express hope to people -- and to myself -- that if you're alive and breathing, you're doing so for a reason, even if you've been through hell in the past. I think it's a way to say 'Keep going.' I love the line 'I'm better dancing when I don't look down.' Just live. Don't overanalyze. Just go with it. It's a happy-sounding song. Who would have thought it?" she says with a laugh, but stresses: "Don't worry. That's about the only happy and uptempo song on the record!"

When asked why she has trouble writing more upbeat material, she admits, "When I'm happy, I'm not inspired to write about it as much. I'll go to the park, for a walk, or simply go be happy. But it's in my dark moments that I feel the heavy heart that I want to write about. It's an important song for me to say that I'm not always in that dark place."

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The Knoxville, Tenn., native is back in the studio with Country Music Hall of Fame member Vince Gill and Justin Niebank, who also produced her 2013 disc Like a Rose. "They have been so great to work with. They are just so perfect for me. Justin tends to think a little bit outside the box with new sounds, then Vince and I tend to swing back toward the traditional. So when they meet in the middle, it's perfect and exactly what it needs to be."

Gill adds his signature harmony on the chilling "Bombshell," which Monroe says packs an emotional punch. "I wrote that with Gordie Sampson and Steve McEwan, and we were talking about all the bombshells that you have to drop in life. I was thinking about telling someone you don't love them anymore, you're leaving them, you're pregnant -- it could go on and on. Telling somebody you lost your job -- it could be so many different things. There's never a good time to drop one, and I've never heard a song that actually talked about that."

Monroe doesn't shy away from pointing the emotional finger at herself, as she does in "If Love Was Fair." "That one hit me particularly, because I have been on the giving end of heartbreak. It's funny that we do that, because we've been on the receiving end of heartbreak, so there's that little cycle you do. I have been the cold and careless one. I guess it's interesting for a woman to say or admit that. It's pretty much because of a past heartbreak that a woman can turn cold and callous. Sometimes, I have caught myself saying 'love ain't fair,' and it isn't."

Currently riding a crest of success via her "Lonely Tonight" collaboration with Blake Shelton, she says that she doesn't take the song's No. 1 success for granted. "I'm so grateful. I know Blake cares for his career, and he wants to have a No. 1 record, obviously, but I truly think he wants this one more for me than himself. Our friendship runs so deep and we have known each other for so long. It's so cool that it has come to this point that he is using his spotlight to let me shine. He texted me on Monday night and said, 'We're number one. Carry on.' I said, 'I've hit the big time. I'm sitting on the couch by myself watching The Bachelor, rubbing my own shoulder.' That's what number one is," she says, with more than just a little glee in her voice.

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