Jared Ashley was recently hailed by Music Row magazine—one of the toughest and most discriminating music industry mags still published--as a “major, major talent,” and called his Last Train to Memphis: “A terrific production—full of throbbing energy, a deep bass bottom and ringing, minor-key guitar work— underscores a moody, emotionally tense vocal performance. Play and believe.” With a new single and lots of tour dates ahead (not to mention a killer new contest), Epiphone caught up with Jared about what brought him to Nashville, his formative days playing the honky tonks, and putting Epiphone front and center in a skyrocketing career.
Epiphone: Congratulations on the new single. So what Epiphones are you using on tour and in the studio?
I switch off between my Masterbilt DR-500MCE
and a black Les Paul 1956 Goldtop
, which sports P-90's. I also have the new Les Paul Honeyburst
that I absolutely love!
How did you come across using Epiphone. It seems to be a great fit for you.
: I've always been a fan of Epiphone but the first time I actually owned one was a Masterbilt I bought in 2006 and I absolutely love the natural tone it has. Purchasing that guitar led me to experiment with other Epiphone models. The Masterbilt has such a unique sound that I gravitate towards, so it's perfect for me and the music that I play.
Country artists have a long tradition of paying their dues in clubs--hashing out long sets, meeting fans and building up your artistry. Did you have a feeling back then that your career was headed for a bigger horizon?
I've been playing music for a long time even before I joined the Navy, but it didn't really get real for me till about three years into my service. I would be sitting in my berthing on the ship, playing my guitar, writing songs, and all my friends would gather and they became my first real fans. Through their support and encouragement I decided to move to Nashville to pursue a career. So I guess you could say joining the Navy is the reason why I decided to really chase this dream. I've played so many long sets since moving to Nashville. I can recall many times where I've walked off stage and I just had that magical feeling that I've really connected with the audience. Let me tell you, that feeling is addictive!
You spent part of your youth in New Mexico around oil fields and wildcatters. Is your childhood still a strong source of inspiration for your writing?
: I actually grew up in Newnan, Georgia, but moved to Hobbs, New Mexico the summer before my sophomore year in high school. Moving there was instrumental in me learning to be a songwriter and a better guitar player. I was a new kid in a new town with no friends, so the natural thing for me was to work on those things.
My childhood definitely still plays a part in the flavor of songs that I write. They are more of a reflection of how I grew up. It's easier for me to write about things I'm familiar with, so I just stick to what I know. How and where I grew up often makes a guest appearance from time to time.
Was there a single or album you heard as a kid that inspired you to think "that's the song I think I could write"
: All I did growing up was listen to music. Not just country, but all kinds of music. I really wish I would have written "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. That's the stuff that really inspired me growing up.
You played quite a bit on Lower Broadway in Nashville, the famed strip of all night honk tonks. You described it as "boot camp." What was different about playing Lower Broadway?
I can honestly say for me that Lower Broadway was the road I needed to take. It's not for everybody and there have been a ton of country musicians who have completely skipped that part of the deal. But for me it was a learning process. It helped me figure out who I am as an artist. I love Lower Broadway but I love it more now that I can be a customer (laughs
). I'm not good at running a tip jar!
Country music is still a place for hit singles more than albums. But as a songwriter, I imagine you're also thinking about concepts and albums.
: I'm constantly thinking about how to put albums together. I'm very album minded. I've written so many songs in the last few years that I could probably start planning the next couple of albums!
Most artists dream of getting on the road. But the road has its own pitfalls, mainly lack of time to write and rehearse. How do you keep things fresh for you and your band?
I love being on the road, it turns music into a journey. At times it can be very challenging, writing and touring at the same time, but I always manage to make time for the songs, that's what this is all about for me, the songs!
Some artists find the studio a refuge and others find it terrifying. Are you keen on producing more in the future?
: I love producing. It's kind of a new passion for me. I live and breathe the creative process that comes along with being in the studio. No rules, just creating. My label, Blaster Records, has given me all the freedom in the world with my records so I'm very fortunate in that aspect.
What's your next Epiphone and if we could make you a signature model, what would that be?
I'm currently promoting my new single, “Last Train to Memphis” and I am traveling a lot, so I'm in the market for the EL-00 PRO which sounds amazing with the new Fishman pickups. It's a much smaller guitar, making it easier to travel with.
If Epiphone made me a signature model I would love to have my own Masterbilt signature model. I would go with more of a vintage finish and I would stay with all the bells and whistle's the original Masterbilt has because I love everything about that particular model. But my signature model would have a distinct finish that would set it apart from the others. Every little bit helps.