Ashley Monroe: ‘It’s Hard for Me to Write a Happy Song’
One of the songs on The Blade that has a bit of a gospel feel to it is “Winning Streak.” It also has a bit of a tribute to the Jordanaires’ quartet singing.
That’s actually the Superlatives, Marty Stuart’s band. One of the things Vince does when he produces is find a reference. For one of the songs on Like a Rose, he played [Emmylou Harris’] “Boulder to Birmingham” to just get us all in a particular zone. For “Winning Streak,” he played an old gospel quartet from the Forties. The song reminds me of Elvis, too. I get into it because I love rockabilly!
It’s an upbeat song, yet it doesn’t really have a positive message to it. Do you find it more challenging to write uptempo, positive songs?
I find it extremely more challenging to write uptempo, positive songs. It does not come naturally to me. “Winning Streak,” songs like that I can write better – ones that have sad lyrics to a fast beat. Roger Miller’s “Dang Me” had that, and I love that. He’s singing, “They ought to take a rope and hang me” to a fast beat. The melodies I hear that come to me the best are slow ones, beautiful melodies or waltzes. It’s hard for me to write a happy song, something that just says I’m happy. I don’t know how to say that.
Yet there is a sense of hope in several of the songs.
I think hope and heartbreak go hand-in-hand. “On to Something Good,” “Weight of the Load” and “Mayflowers” are all hopeful songs. In just my life alone, I look back at things I’ve gone through personally and in the business and I’m starting to see a reason for all of them. Even the things that didn’t make sense at the time; even if I don’t see a reason, I can be grateful that it has led me here. Did I think this is how my career was going to go when I first signed at Sony when I was 17 years old? No, it was like, I’ll put out a record and it’ll be on the radio and I’ll get to tour. [Laughs] It never happens how you think it’s going to happen. But I think hope is very important and having faith that there is a reason for everything. You’ve just got to trust it and go with it.
It seems like this album, as opposed to Like a Rose, has a few more radio-friendly songs on it. Was that intentional?
I don’t disagree that some of them sound a little more radio-friendly than others, but I didn’t do anything intentionally to make a song just for radio. Like “On to Something Good,” that’s a positive, uptempo song that moves me and reminds me to keep going. That didn’t work for radio, ironically. I went on a radio tour and everything in it still didn’t work. I’m still proud of that song and I’m so proud of “If Love Was Fair,” which leans a little bit more that way. If none of them ever see the light of radio day, I’m still proud of them. And that’s important to me, that I don’t put songs on the record just for radio. Because then it’s not your record anymore.
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