The memories of her growing up years in Utah run deep for Ashley Dawn. But, there’s one musical memory that stands a little taller than all the rest.
“I remember that in front of my grandma’s house, I would be outside with my little red cassette player listening to Randy Travis tapes. He was my first crush ever,” she recalled with a smile. “I loved the way he sounded. He had such a distinct sound. He was cute too, so that made it a lot easier.”
Music was always an integral part of her life – going back to her earliest recollections. My grandpa always played the piano, and I always sat and watched him. My dad started me on the guitar. I always played the piano, and always loved music. I was about fifteen or sixteen, and had been in band. I was accepted into the jazz band, but unfortunately, I moved in with my mom, so I didn’t get to participate in it.”
As she would mature, so would her musical inclinations. But, when I came back for the eleventh grade, my dad sent me his guitar about six months later. I started to pick at it a little bit, and started to write songs – especially when I got my heart broke for the first time,” she said.
Though she initially missed out on jazz band, her mother wound up playing quite a pivotal role in her development. Whether it be taking her to karaoke clubs, or escorting her daughter to the clubs – so she could achieve some exposure. She sat me on a barstool and let me play when the band started, and they would let me play between sets. I would get up in front of everyone and dance and play,’” she noted…..adding that she never had to be coaxed into taking the spotlight.
“I was never afraid to get up and perform in front of people. As I grew into it, I really found my place years later after I had my kids. The defining moment for me when I knew who I was when I went to the Silver Moon in Alabama, across the street from the Flora-Bama. I walked in and I heard these songwriters. I just knew. These are my people, and I felt at home.”
Just as much as she loves the stage, Ashley also loves the spark that happens when she puts her thoughts to paper – or a laptop – and pens a song. “I’m not afraid to say what I want to say. I’ve grown into that as far as being a writer goes. First of all, you have to trust yourself, write about the hard topics, as well as the fun topics. I love to watch people and be involved with what’s going on in their lives. I just take their experiences, and if they inspire me, I write about it.”
Knowing what she wanted to do with her life was one thing. At the same instance, she also knew that if she wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, she needed to be where the action was. So, with her husband and three children, she made the move to Music City in the spring of 2013. “I told my husband that if we were going to move, we had to do it now. If I have any chance of doing songwriting or being in the business, I have to live there. I had to immerse myself in it.”
As it turned out, things fell into place pretty quick. “Soon, we had rented a house and had come into about $2,000. We had a job lined up for Steve, and we had a free house. It was a seven-week span that we moved and got everything set up. That was the easy part,” she admitted, saying that things slowed up a bit.
“Then, when I got here, I tried to make connections and did everything I could that first year, nothing worked. I was so frustrated. It all worked out, but I had a lot of lessons that I had to learn. I’m glad that I made the move because I learned so much.”
One of those lessons that she learned was that she needed to prioritize – and sometimes that decision meant putting her family above her career. “Having three kids makes it so hard to go out and play at night. I can’t move as fast as the other people around me, and that got rather depressing. But, then I realized that I’m not in control. God is. So, I stopped chasing people, and started seeking him first. That development really has put me to where I am now.”
Ashley Dawn is quite a diverse mix as a writer and performer. You might be moved to tears by one song, and not being able to control your laughter on the next. She’s fine with that. “I am a free spirit. You can thank my mom for that. After she passed away, I started to embrace who she was. I am part of that craziness. I think over the past year, I have really let myself be myself. It’s the first time I’ve really liked who I am.”
When she’s on the stage, she also feels that freedom – and it’s something she cherishes. “I just come alive. It’s this wave of energy. The energy I feel from the audience is something that fills me. Maybe it’s because I like being the center of attention, but we’re all partying together, and if I make them laugh, then we’re all having a good time. I love to entertain. It makes me feel good.”
When it comes to her goals, she related a story about a conversation she had with a friend recently about why she was pursuing a career in music. “I’m doing this because it’s who I am, and this is what I love. It’s so simple. I cannot live and work at a job without purpose. I know I have a gift, and whatever that is, it’s to be shared,” – she says, adding that she’s got several dreams to pursue. “I’m not going to do just music. I’ve got all these little things all over that keeps me excited and thrilled. I love doing a lot of stuff.”
Supermom by day, Songwriter by night…