Ashley Monroe has carved out a career shaped in the shadow of some music titans, all of whom noted how talented the country songwriter was even from a young age. Even with her Columbia Records debut going nowhere, the supergroup formed by her, Angaleena Presley, and Miranda Lambert called the Pistol Annies was successful enough to ensure she’d have another hand at country stardom, and her connections have led her to work with everyone from Vince Gill to the rock band Train to Blake Shelton to — you name it. With a style that was biographical and relatable at the same time, Ashley Monroe has slowly entered the ranks of the most critically-acclaimed singer-songwriters of her generation.
While her albums have been awash in critical praise since signing to Warner Bros. in the wake of Pistol Annies’ success, it’s her third solo effort at the label, Sparrow, that has been catching a sizable amount of attention. Working with Dave Cobb, the go-to country producer of the past several years, Sparrow dives deeper into Monroe’s past than ever before, as she reflects on her upbringing with vivid stories of her mother and father as well as the prospect of pending motherhood.
To help celebrate the occasion, Monroe sat down to answer PopMatters’ 20 Questions, revealing a deep-seated love of Willie Nelson, what item she borrowed from Brandi Carlile, and why she wants to be remembered as someone who “left a little sunshine behind” …
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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
To Joey With Love [a Rory Feek film]. Sobfest.
2. The fictional character most like you?
I don’t actually know of a fictional character that is anything like me. Haha!
3. The greatest album, ever?
Stardust by Willie Nelson.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
That’s a firm neither.
5. Your ideal brain food?
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Growing a human child inside my actual body! Because it’s actually super badass. And slightly weird.
7. You want to be remembered for …?
I want to be remembered for moving people through music and to make a difference. As someone who left a little sunshine behind.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Too many to name.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
[Willie Nelson’s] “Always on My Mind” — I’ll never get over it.
10. Your hidden talents… .?
Imitating people. Also, I’m super quick witted I must say. Not sure it’s a talent, but still.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Vince Gill has taught me a lot about using my voice to get a point across. He always stressed the importance of “saving a lick” for a moment in a song — not all the time. He’s so wise and I’m so lucky to know that man.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Brandi Carlile let me borrow this magical Martin guitar of hers one time. A long time ago … for like months. I loved it so much and enjoyed every minute of playing it. It had her sweet spirit all over it!
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or… .?
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Elvis, always Elvis.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Knoxville, TN… 1993. I was living my best life at age seven.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Prozac while on a spa vacation. Hit man would just add more stress.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or… .?
Coffee and chocolate and …
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I love East Tennessee — anywhere near the Smokey mountains. It’s so inspiring and haunting and deep.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Good luck! That’s a hard job.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on right now?
I’m working on Pistol Annies stuff. Also, my own new record I’m ready to start on soon. Working on settling into a new house we just moved into, while also being a loving mother and wife, and working on calming down and enjoying this beautiful season in my life.