Her name is Ashley Ray. And it’s a name that has ended up in the liner notes of the records of some of country music’s most revered performers like Lori McKenna and Wade Bowen. It’s a name that has been featured in opening slots for Miranda Lambert and Eric Church. It’s a name that has written songs professionally for Sony ATV and now BMG Nashville. But when it comes to her 3rd record and what she hopes to be her solo breakout, consider her Pauline.
Who exactly is Pauline? It’s a personification of sorts, a reenactment of Ashley Ray’s grandmother. That’s who she’s emulating in her bra and curlers, cradling a cigarette between her fingers. That’s who she channeled when she stepped into the hallowed circle of the Grand Ole Opry to make her debut. It’s also the inspiration for her new record, and the namesake of the title track.
The Lawrence, KS native who comes from blue-collar stock has been scratching out a living in Nashville as a songwriter for years now. “I was a country girl,” says Ashley. “I love it when my friends call me ‘Dive Bar Darling,’ because I grew up drinking Shirley Temples with my dad in dive bars and the VFWs. I cut my teeth as a performer in dive bars.”
The new album came from a marathon writing session with co-writer and producer Sean McConnell where Ashley Ray began putting her life stories to song. Encouraged by her publisher to see the project through, she got into the studio and Pauline came to life. “I had to go through all those years of ‘No’s’ and ‘almost’s’ to really write this record, and be grateful for this journey. I need the rejection.”
Along with Sean McConnell, Ashley Ray has made many friends and advocates in music over the years, including Sean McConnell, and Lori McKenna who she recently wrote the song “Rhinestoned” with that appeared on the new Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen record. And speaking of Wade Bowen, he can’t speak highly enough of her.
“I first became friends with Ashley Ray as an artist, and loved what she was doing immediately,” says Wade Bowen. “She became my sister and one of my favorite people. And over the years I’ve watched her truly work on the craft of songwriting and taking it very seriously. And now I feel she’s now ready more than ever to be the artist she’s always wanted to be. She knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to chase it down … with a sweet smile of course!”
Pauline will be released on Soundly Music on August 14th, but three songs have already been debuted already—a perfect time to get it on your radar.
“I don’t have this big, beautiful voice made for singing the National Anthem,” she says. “I tell stories. It’s a storyteller’s voice. I grew up just loving Willie Nelson and Bob Seger and Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams and Stevie Nicks—people who had grit in their voices. You can almost hear where they came from in their voices.”
Pauline is now available for pre-order.