By bucking norms, Ashley McBryde became one of country’s most respected, and unlikeliest, stars.
WITHOUT A SINGLE REASON to make his first public appearance, at 22 years old, Ashley McBryde was determined to change the way he saw the world.
“I didn’t want to be the guy who was going to the club to see the same people; who was going to the club and never said a word,” says McBryde, at one of many family dinners where the singer reflects on that first real moment, in 2007, just a couple of months into his time with Nashville-based MCA Records. “So, I started going to the club myself. I started standing outside and taking pictures.”
It was a time when country artists, and, in particular, pop-country stars, were often viewed with suspicion, as being a bit too much of an attention-seeker in an industry that had historically been focused on being on the right side of the law. And McBryde knew: “If you get arrested, you’re not really in country music anymore.”
McBryde took that awareness across the country. By the end of the decade, he had become one of country’s most respected and unlikeliest stars, and is now on MCA making history in the company where he was once made to feel most unwelcome: touring. He has scored four albums on the label, an achievement that should come as no surprise given the industry’s ever-shifting demographics, and its growing obsession with country music. But MCA Records has long seen itself as a more liberal, family-friendly label — McBryde even recalls an occasion when he and his brother were told that it was not a good idea to smoke in the studio.
“It was the first time,” he says. “It was basically going to be a little mini ‘Don’t Be a Tourist’ — ‘Don’t Be a Tourist.’”
Tall, handsome and the first of three children, Mc