Country music, evolved

Ashley Martin at Riff Raff Tavern on the Canal

By Katie Christoff

Photo: Ashley martin will perform on Dec. 20 at Riff Raff Tavern; photo: Kent Cretors

Dayton native Ashley Martin is changing the face of country music, and she’s gaining national recognition for doing so.

“Country music is evolving into pop and rock, and we’re pretty alternative,” vocalist Martin said of her band, which includes drummer Nick Meehan, bassist Brian Hurst and guitarist John Simon.

Martin, who will play at Riff Raff Tavern on the Canal on Saturday, Dec. 20, considers her sound to be “country music, evolved.”

“Country music is evolving, and the Country Music Awards [this year] were a perfect example of that,” she said. “Right now, Ariana Grande is touring with Little Big Town and Kacey Musgraves with Katy Perry, none of which are expected combinations.”

Despite admitted pop influences in her own music, Martin said she’ll always prefer country first and foremost.

“Pop music repeats the same line over and over again, but country music tells a story,” she said. “That’s what I love about it.”

Martin said she’s influenced and inspired by Sara Bareilles’ songwriting style and technique, Celine Dion’s power and Christina Aguilera’s control. She also named Garth Brooks as an influence, saying he has great energy on stage, and they perform similarly.

But don’t confuse her with Taylor Swift’s poppy country music. Martin also draws rock influences from bands like Paramore and Halestorm, and her original music has a rock ‘n’ roll edginess.

Martin grew up in a musical family and said she’s been singing for as long as she can remember.

“I was born into a family choir, and I had my first solo in the choir when I was six years old,” Martin said. She also performed in theatre productions as a child and began singing in retirement homes with a karaoke machine at the age of 12.

She attended Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee and started her first band at the age of 19. She ended up moving back to Dayton and has been establishing her sound in the local music scene ever since.

Now a staple in the Dayton music scene, Martin has also been performing shows all over the country. She played 170 shows this year, at least 80 of which were outside Ohio, expanding her name to places like St. Louis, Missouri; Hilton Head Island, South Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee. She’s also opened for big name acts like The Band Perry, ZZ Top, Brett Eldridge and Tracy Lawrence.

Despite her vast performance record, Martin looks forward to playing her first-ever show at Riff Raff. She said audiences can always expect something new.

“We have really good three-piece harmonies,” Martin said, “and we’re always playing new material. A singer-songwriter is a totally different animal than a cover band. People constantly compare cover bands to the original artists. We do some covers, but we really change them.”

Martin released one EP, Torn, in 2012 before releasing her first full-length album in February 2013, titled Put on a Show. Both are available for purchase at her concerts and on her website, iTunes or Google Play.

For her next project, Martin decided to test a new concept. In 2015, she will release a new single on the first of each month. At the end of the year, she’ll release them all together as a 12-song, full-length record that will be sold at her shows.

“People kept wanting new music, and I was trying to think of a way to give them that,” Martin said. “It’s really tricky to keep people engaged. I had to ask myself, ‘How can I keep people entertained and coming back for more?’”

By spacing out the release of her songs, Martin hopes to give fans a month to review and talk about each song. She said people tend to get bored with a full album quickly, while this will hopefully keep listeners engaged for a full year.

“I’m hoping it will grow each month,” Martin said. Her first single from this still-untitled project, which will be released Jan. 1, 2015, is titled “If You Knew Anything About a Girl.”

These singles will be released on iTunes and Google Play, and Martin said she may release them on Spotify, as well.

“As a musician, you don’t make money with record sales anymore,” she said. “So iTunes and Google Play are good ways to compensate for that.”

Next year is going to be a big year for Martin. In addition to the release of a new single each month, she also plans on performing online concerts – where fans can purchase tickets and log on to watch her perform online from the comfort of their own homes.

“2015 is going to be a big year with the new songs and new record,” Martin said.

Ashley Martin will perform on Saturday, Dec. 20 at Riff Raff Tavern on the Canal at 130 N. Patterson Blvd. in Dayton. Doors open at 9 p.m., and there will be a $5 cover charge. For more information, please visit ashleymartinmusic.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Christoff at KatieChristoff@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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