When Ashley McBryde rose to fame with the title track of her debut album, “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” she had done a lot of back-end work to prove the naysayers, who didn’t believe in her, wrong. Now, four albums deep with the release of The Devil I Know, the 40-year-old GRAMMY award-winning country star isn’t looking to change anything about herself, and she certainly isn’t planning on letting anyone shape her into someone she’s not.

Embraces Unapologetic Authenticity

“We’re always hearing something from somebody who thinks they know what’s best for us,” McBryde tells Music Mayhem. “Change this, change that. Lots of folks seem to think they know the best way for you to go about your life. It’s been my experience that the more you make your own call about things … and the more you trust THAT, the better things seem to turn out.”

That perspective is one of the reasons why McBryde titled her latest collection, The Devil I Know. The project, which dropped on September 8 via Warner Music Nashville, features 11-tracks, all of which McBryde had a hand in co-writing. Throughout the album, McBryde is unapologetically vulnerable, raw, unfiltered, and straightforward and says that everything rings true to her with lyrical content that stems from real life stories from her time on the road.

“From the beginning, I felt it was important to only make the music that’s in you and to speak to the things that you know, only in the ways that you know how. Once you start taking a lot of outside opinions and letting that sway you in this direction or that direction, that’s a pretty slippery slope, and eventually, I would imagine you’re in danger of only being what others think you should be,” McBryde shares. “And I know that I can’t live that way; I would certainly be terrible at it if I tried. So with this record, we leaned into what we know and stuck to the things we do best.”

“This album just leans into everything that makes us who we are. We held nothing back, despite what people had to say,” she added.

Ashley McBryde; Photo Courtesy of Katie Kauss
Ashley McBryde; Photo Courtesy of Katie Kauss

The Perfect Blend Of Rock And Country

From a sonic standpoint, McBryde also doesn’t hold anything back. She packages her record with mixes of bluegrass, rock, and traditional country that find her exploring different sounds outside of the traditional country realm. She admits that people might call a song like “Whiskey and Country Music” too country, ”which is crazy. And then there’s ‘Blackout Betty,’ which people might say is too rock. But it just is what it is. I’m not here to make every single person love me.”

“Blackout Betty,” as with many other tunes released by McBryde, showcases her finesse on electric guitar. And she has some other folks adding various licks and shreds throughout the project. The instrument is so important for McBryde to incorporate in her music that she even enlisted the help of Brothers Osborne’s John Osborne for the guitar driven track, “Whiskey and Country Music.”

Ashley McBryde, John Osborne; Photo by Katie Kauss
Ashley McBryde, John Osborne; Photo by Katie Kauss

Plays Electric Guitar On The Album, Taking Inspiration From John Osborne

“I have actually played electric guitar on every project I’ve put out! However, I am a rhythm guitar player – I’m a chord kid. That lead guitar that you hear shredding all over the place is Matt Helmkamp, and he is absolutely stellar at what he does,” McBryde said of some of the highlights on the album. “What he manages to do with riffs and lead parts does not just compliment what the song is saying, but captures the feeling of what it was like to write the song to begin with. Matt is an absolute powerhouse of what he does.”

“As far as a guitarist that I love to look to for inspiration, it’s got to be John Osborne, especially when we were writing “Whiskey and Country Music,”” she continues. “Where John chose to go for the bridge on this song in particular, it really freed us up, and the same thing happened on the album that I asked John to produce, the Lindeville album. John as a musician overall is a huge inspiration to me.”

McBryde Co-Wrote Every Track On The Devil I Know

While McBryde considers herself a songwriter first, sprinkling her pen in every song, she insists she is not opposed to taking outside cuts. But, searching elsewhere isn’t something that she does regularly. 

She says, “It’s more of a rarity when I’m not involved in the writing of each song. That being said, I would never be against cutting outside songs. Some of my favorite songs I’ve recorded, like “Shut up, Sheila” and “Styrofoam” were written by Nicolette Hayford and Park Chisholm, and my buddy, Randall Clay. I had a connection with those songs and I felt like it was the right place for those songs to be cut. I’m a songwriter first, and I want these songs to have the best life they can have. In the end, the best songs for the project make it whether I wrote them or not.” 

That’s not to say that other writers didn’t have a credit on the album. In fact, McBryde worked alongside many of her co-writers for previous projects as well as some big names such as Osborne, Lainey Wilson, Pillbox Patti (Nicolette Hayford) and others who share songwriting credits on The Devil I Know. One song in particular is called “Cool Little Bars,” which Wilson co-wrote with McBryde and Trick Savage. 

“Lainey was amazing to work with – I love her playful lyrics, and I felt that she captured the essence of the album perfectly with this song,” McBryde, who subtly referenced the song, which is all about the dive bars and local joints that cease to exist, in an Instagram post ahead of her album release date, said.

McBryde’s Defining “Made For This” Moment

Meanwhile, “Made For This” and “6th of October” serve as the bookends of the album with “Made For This” setting the tone as the opening track. When asked what the defining moment of her career was that made her realize she was made for music, McBryde says seeing glimpses of progress during her time on the road is what allowed her to believe she was on the right path.  

“This life is full of moments that are like that – and a lot of them come while you’re on the road, on the touring side of it,” the six-time Grammy nominee explains. “For example, when we moved from a van to a bus, that was huge; that let us know that we were doing the right thing and headed in the right direction. Then, when we had to add a second bus because our team had gotten so big, that was even crazier. Having things that you may not think about, like a lighting director, the difference it makes between just playing the songs and having a visual aid on the stage, helping the audience know where to focus their eyes is a really big thing. Not to mention, becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry.”

“I still get that weird feeling like I’m watching a movie about it when I talk about it. There’s nothing that tells you ‘you’re made for this’ or that ‘you’ve made it,’ nothing will ever come close to the longest standing country music institution saying, “You are a member. Welcome home,”” she added. 

Significance Of “6th Of October”

Ashley McBryde certainly doesn’t skimp out when it comes to the final track on the album either. Interestingly, she received her Grand Ole Opry invitation on the 6th of October. But, surprisingly, that’s not the entire reason behind the given title of her closing track. The Arkansas native shared the story of how the song came about, calling the October date ‘kind of complicated.’

“The first couple of lines were written by my buddy, CJ Field, when he pulled into our friend Randall Clay’s driveway. Randall finished off that very first Stanza while taking a drag of a cigarette. And about eight months after we lost him. We thought, “We should finish the song,”” she shares. “We didn’t set out that day to write a song about Randall, but I’m really happy that that’s how it turned out.”

Honors Her Late Friend Randall Clay

“It’s kind of complicated – the sixth of October was the day that we found out that we weren’t getting him back. He had gone missing, and it was right around the time of Hurricane Michael, and we were really hopeful that we would be able to get our friend back. The sixth of October is the date that sticks out when we were sure that we weren’t going to have our friend back,” she added. “What’s really interesting is that that date had not stuck with any of us, we just put it in there as just what seemed like it was natural. It brings up a lot of feelings, but I’m so happy that this song became what it was.” 

Although she has had to suffer the loss of her friend, McBryde has experienced somewhat of a closeness with Randall despite his absence. 

“I called my brother on the morning that I was invited to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He picked up the phone and I said, “Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?! I’m the next member of the Grand Ole Opry.” And he said, “Hey, it’s October 6th.” So, that day just pops up, and I had to tip my hat and say, ‘thank you, Randall,’” she said. “And then, when we got the routing all figured out for the Devil I Know Tour, the very first night of the tour, of course, falls on October 6th,” she says of her upcoming run.

Ashley McBryde; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Ashley McBryde; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Narrowed 70 Songs Down To 11 For The Project

McBryde’s The Devil I Know album also features lead single, “Light On In The Kitchen,” and follows her 2022 project, Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville, which she recorded at the same time during a three-month period over late 2021 and early 2022. Before dropping the collection, she previewed songs “Learned to Lie,” “Made For This,” and “Cool Little Bars.”

McBryde also stated that while folks get nearly a dozen tracks, she narrowed down that number from 70 when she began piecing together The Devil I Know.

“When we started out, because I write all the time, John Peets and I started out with probably 70 songs to sort through. Then, we get that down to about 30 songs – the guys and I go start arranging those songs,” McBryde shared of the process that goes behind finalizing an album. “If you remember ‘Celebrity Death Match’ that was on MTV – it was like a claymation thing where it was just a very brutal animated fight scene – that’s kind of what we have the songs do. We play them, and the strongest ones stick out, and the ones that really touch us get to stay. Usually, when we walk in to hit-record, there are probably still 15 songs, and they naturally dwindle down to 11.”

Ashley McBryde; Photo Courtesy of Katie Kauss
Ashley McBryde; Photo Courtesy of Katie Kauss

Ashley McBryde The Devil I Know Track List

1. “Made for This” (Ashley McBryde and Travis Meadows)
2. “Coldest Beer in Town” (McBryde, Autumn McEntire and Nicolette Hayford)
3. “Light on in the Kitchen” (McBryde, Jessi Alexander and Connie Harrington)
4. “Women Ain’t Whiskey” (McBryde, Hillary Lindsey, Jon Nite and Chris LaCorte)
5. “Learned to Lie” (McBryde, Hayford and Sean McConnell)
6. “The Devil I Know” (McBryde, Jeremy Stover and Bobby Pinson)
7. “Single at the Same Time” (McBryde, Benjy Davis and Andy Albert)
8. “Cool Little Bars” (McBryde, Trick Savage and Lainey Wilson)
9. “Whiskey and Country Music” (McBryde, John Osborne and Lee Thomas Miller)
10. “Blackout Betty” (McBryde, Aaron Raitiere and Hayford)
11. “6th of October” (McBryde, Blue Foley and CJ Field)  

Ashley McBryde 'The Devil I Know' Album Art
Ashley McBryde ‘The Devil I Know’ Album Art

The Devil I Know Tour, Performing With Jelly Roll

McBryde, who is up for multiple awards at the upcoming 2023 CMA Awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year, is currently on the road playing select dates on Jelly Roll’s Backroad Baptism Tour as well as headlining several of her own shows and making appearances at a few festivals and fairs.

She says, “Performing with Jelly Roll has been so much fun – he told me that his fans would immediately make me feel welcome and they’ve done that and more. I’d love to do a collaboration with him, he’s such a talented artist and he’s adding so much to the genre right now.”

Ashley McBryde, Jelly Roll; Photos Courtesy of JEANZ Media/Instagram
Ashley McBryde, Jelly Roll; Photos Courtesy of JEANZ Media/Instagram

In October, folks can find the Grand Ole Opry member treating fans to the music from her new album with the launch of her The Devil I Know Tour. McBryde has tapped artists Corey Kent, Zach Top, Bella White, Harper O’Neill, JD Clayton, Kasey Tyndall, and Will Jones to serve as support for the trek.

The Devil I Know Tour kicks off on October 7 in Mobile, AL., and concludes Jan. 28, 2024 in Dublin, Ireland.

“I’m so excited to take my songs on the road,” McBryde says. “Touring is so much fun, and I’m lucky to say that I’m a huge fan of all of my openers as artists and people. Being on the road makes everyone feel like family, and I’m excited to get the ball rolling.”

For more information on Ashley McBryde’s upcoming tour dates or new music, visit her official website HERE.

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Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Music Mayhem, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.

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