Take 2

Dayton’s own Ashley Martin celebrates album release at Caddy’s

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Ashley Martin releases her self-produced new album, Take 2, at Caddy’s Nov. 17; photo: Daes Photography

Modern country is more often than not a terrible thing—overproduced music that might as well be top 40 pop with cringe worthy lyrics, vocals as ear pleasing as nails on a chalkboard, and devoid of the spirit of classic country. So when a contemporary country artist comes around with a knack for penning songs with substance, nuance, smooth but strong vocals, and with equal touches of rock and pop, it deserves to be noticed and applauded. One artist doing just that is Ashley Martin, and she hails from right here in Dayton, Ohio. On the other hand, her talent shouldn’t be all that surprising, given she was born into a musically inclined family and eventually joined the family ensemble at just 6-years-old.

“My dad was the youngest of seven [with] my grandmother at the piano and my grandfather directing,” Martin elaborates. “After the family grew and started families of their own, we grew into a 75-piece gospel choir that performed at our home church during the holidays.”

A couple years later, Martin started writing her own songs in a diary. When she turned 12, thanks to advice from a somewhat unusual source, Martin began what she considers her first experience as a working musician.

“My first professional experience was in retirement homes after opening up the phone book and calling everyone [and] hearing you could actually get paid to sing, from an Elvis impersonator,” Martin enthuses. “I had no idea that was possible. He said retirement homes were a good place to start, and it was. I practiced my stage presence and talent on the toughest crowd ever! They are brutally honest, but you can’t ever get upset at an elderly person. I realized it was time to move on when I looked up and every single person was asleep!”

After cutting her teeth on the retirement home circuit, Martin left the Gem City to go to school in Nashville to major in music business at Belmont University. Around this time period, Martin also learned to play guitar and began gigging around Music City USA. Her experiences during her eight years knocking around Nashville informed her decision to go solo and explore her love of country rock.

“There was an influx of musicians in and out, [I thought] if I was going to be the engine and the driving force then it was going to be under my name,” Martin explains. “I knew country music needed an edgy chick. Country rock was where my heart was, where the songs and stories are.”

After a listen to Martin’s music, you can hear how her vision of country is manifested in the way she describes—songs telling stories in lyrics with incredible detail that sound like passages from a well written novel—a rare feat in contemporary country. Musically, Martin can easily shift from a sincere, heartfelt ballad to kickin’ up dust during a country rocker, showing her versatility as a songstress across two solo albums and throughout her new album, Take 2. Recorded in Nashville, Take 2 was made with the help of some of country music’s heavy hitters backing her up. However, in the process, the record took an unexpected turn.

“I recorded the record at Essertainement on Music Row [with] Garth Brooks’ fiddle player Jimmy Mattingly and Garth’s guitarist Johnny Garcia on lead, David Nail’s guitarist Justin Ostrander and Big & Rich’s drummer Keio Stroud,” Martin explains. “I released these songs as singles last year on the first of every month until I had to have vocal surgery and stopped on song number seven. After vocal surgery, I had a brand new voice and had to go back and re-cut the songs I had released and add a few surprises and make it a full length record!”

Martin is also an entrepreneur, starting up her own label and booking agency called 2Worlds Music and has had some remarkable success, selling her music and performing all across the country.

“I do this all myself,” Martin says. “Every time I release a record, it is an immense amount of work, from writing the songs, recording them, edits, mixing, mastering, graphics, and the crazy budget it takes to complete the project, and I am so proud when that shipment of CDs comes to my doorstep.”

Despite not having the big corporate record machine behind her, Martin is successful at what she does and is proud she did it on her own.

“I just enjoy making a living doing what I love,” Martin says. “I ‘made it’ without the drama and people controlling you based on how much money they have on your head. I get to be my own boss and make my own schedule. A tour bus would be nice, but my mental health is solid and [I’m] happy to keep it that way!”

Ashley Martin’s CD release party for Take 2 takes place Thursday, Nov. 17 at Caddy’s Tap House, 9400 Springboro Pike in Miamisburg. $15 admission includes a free dinner buffet and a copy of her new CD. Show begins at 7 p.m. For more information, please visit AshleyMartinMusic.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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