Back Blocks Music
Release Date: August 27th 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Gettin’ Somewhere
- Sunday Morning Kinda Saturday Night
- Already Drank That Beer
- Opposite Of Love
- Good Goodbye (feat. Jimmie Allen)
- First Time, Last Night
- Never Til Now
I’ve mentioned before many a time- that country music and myself haven’t had the greatest of starts. While you can read all of our country music reviews here (inclusive of albums from artists like Tim McGraw, Maddie & Tae, Kelsea Ballerini, Keith Urban, Cassadee Pope, Carrie Underwood, Thomas Rhett, Jimmie Allen, Florida Georgia Line, Carly Pearce, Lauren Alaina, Lindsay Ell, Chris Stapleton, Gabby Barrett, Caylee Hammack, Blake Shelton and Ingrid Andress to name a few… or to actually name a lot!); originally a few years ago, I used to think that songs about cars and girls and beer and trucks and the American way of life… would be songs that I would not connect with at all. However, as is the case with God working in mysterious ways (and through me discovering Grady Smith, a country reviewer, and his extensive YouTube channel whereby he reviews country music; and this has slowly but surely helped me become more of a country music fan!), I have in fact found out that despite not being an American, the country genre is essentially one of the few genres outside of CCM that I have connected and resonated with. On the outside it might seem to be weird and strange, but a deeper look reveals that it may not be that weird or strange after all. Since country songs are all about storytelling and speaking about a way of life that is focused on your values, morals, ethics and your faith; that’s the kind of lifestyle and songs that I resonated with. Simple, yet effective story telling about the real issues of life. And with that broad approach of this ‘introduction’, can I say that I actually owe Apple Music gratitude and thanks for directing me to the next project I’m reviewing? Up and coming country artist Ashley Cooke is an artist that I knew nothing about even a couple of weeks ago. But as I’ve decided to be more active in my discovering of music this year, I decided to investigate the ‘new music’ and the ‘pre-orders’ section of Apple Music. The rest is history- as I discovered Ashley’s 8-track EP Already Drank That Beer: Side A, listened to her 4 pre-order songs, and quickly anticipated and actually became excited for this EP to drop. And now that the EP has dropped around about a week ago- can I say that Apple Music has good instincts in recommending me this album/EP? Ashley may not be a household name, but with this EP, she has a great platform to show the world why she is one of the biggest rising country stars at the moment.
Though I’ve been in the music industry for a long time, I’m a newer artist on the scene. Jimmie just put out a phenomenal collaboration album, just won ACM New Artist of the Year, and on top of that, he has so many hit songs. It’s safe to say he’s absolutely crushing it, and I’m honored that he wanted to collaborate with me. That speaks volumes on his character to “help the next one in line,” so to speak, and it opens a lot of doors for me as a new artist. This year has been really insane, and I’ve gotten to knock so many goals and dreams off of my list, and I genuinely can’t wait to keep growing.
I chose the title Already Drank That Beer for the project because it encompasses the story from top to bottom. I’m 24-years-old, and love/relationships are a big part of this age for me. Being in and out of relationships that weren’t good for me, losing love, wanting love, not wanting it, etc. I think most people in their 20’s are trying to figure out what the hell love even is, and naturally, those emotions have reflected in my songwriting and songs I’ve deeply felt understood by. There’s a wide variety of sounds and emotions on this project. From a flirty up-tempo to the first-dance type of ballad to a heartbroken lonely mid-tempo, and that’s why it represents me. I’ve been through all the phases and written along with them; I’m all over the place, and I’m okay with that!
Country music is all about storytelling and making us feel a smorgasbord of emotions. After all, it is the stories that made me fall in love with the genre over the past few years. Ashley’s debut EP solidifies my thinking and cements the view that country artists are possibly more vulnerable and honest than CCM artists. And that’s not a bad thing- it’s a good thing. Already Drank That Beer: Side A opens with “Gettin’ Somewhere”, a mid-tempo country melody similar to something that Carrie Underwood or Maddie & Tae would record; as Ashley fervently and confidently sings about the security of her relationships and the fact that she’d like to physically show her partner how much she appreciates and loves them… whilst in the car. Yep, this song is about sex in the back seat of a car; but it’s done so tastefully and with lyrics so much in disguise, that you only recognise the explicit nature of the song once the song is around about halfway. Thematically though, Ashley’s powerful and compelling vocals remind us of the fact that true love is actually enjoying one another’s presence no matter where you are, and this song, though not suitable for children, reminds us that the right person won’t care if we’re in the car or in the house or at a fancy restaurant. They’d just want our presence.
“Under”, an emotional and heartbreaking piano led ballad about trying to get over someone but failing miserably, reminds us that break-ups are a part of life and that healing takes time, and is a part of life also; while the quasi-worshipful “Sunday Morning Kinda Saturday Night” speaks about forsaking partying and sowing your wild oats for a real deep think and ponder over the future and a conversation with God (similar in theme to Brian Kelley’s “Sunday Service In The Sand” and Maren Morris’ “My Church”). Though a song like this- actually quite overt in talking about Jesus and ideas of faith and religion, is actually quite commonplace in country music, we don’t see it often enough these days with the country stars of today. Yet the fact that this song is present on an EP like this reminds us that dwelling upon important issues like life, death, the afterlife and everything else in between is way more important than just living for the moment. And as Ashley fervently cries out ‘…I need to take in a tailgate sunset flare, I gotta talk this out with the man upstairs, ’bout where I’m going in this crash course life, yeah, I need a Sunday morning kinda Saturday night, let the FM hymns blow the bench seat speakers, let them fireflies and the starlight be my preacher, shine a little deeper than the neon light, I need a Sunday morning kinda Saturday night…’, we are presented with a song that speaks about church being something deeper than in a building. It can be outdoors, with a group of people, on a Saturday night. It can be anywhere where two or three people are gathered. And the fact that Ashley relays that she needs that kind of certainty in her life, is admirable indeed.
I didn’t really grow up in church. My parents were more so spiritual than religious. They never forced us to go to church. They allowed me to find my own legs in faith and what I believe and the God I believe in. That’s the best gift they ever gave me because now, being in music, being 24 years old, on my own and encountering new things every single day, I still have [my faith]. I didn’t have a relationship with God because of them, but because of me. I chose that, and I decided to find that on my own. I think I stay rooted by just involving God every day in my life and waking up praying and involving that in every thought process that I have.
The title track, a mid-tempo typical country ballad, speaks about a couple on the brink of the end of their relationship, and wanting to deny the reality that they should break up. It’s a harrowing and sobering melody that essentially reminds us that break-ups are hard; while Ashley is at her brilliant best yet again in “Opposite Of Love”, which speaks about two people still feeling deep and complicated things for each other, and being broken up but not being ‘out of love as we think’. “Good Goodbye”, based on Ashley’s personal experience of a breakup, essentially speaks about the fact that all of us should try to end our relationships as amicably as possible- if we have to break up at all; and as Ashely reiterates, this track probably means the most to her: I wrote that song with Blake Pendergrass, who also wrote “865” for Morgan Wallen and a bunch of other songs. He’s just on fire right now. Honestly when we co-wrote that together, it was a personal experience of mine and the breakup aspect of it. We went down a list of people that we wanted to collaborate with and Jimmie was my first choice, and he said yes! He added so much to it. The music video we have for it adds a whole new element to what the song means. I just love how the song is written in a way that you don’t really have to understand the reason why people have to say goodbye. It’s the universal kind of “this isn’t working, let’s just make it a ‘good goodbye.’ Let’s make it the best time having to work out that door.” And I love that, because people can put their own meaning and experience into that slot and relate to it. My dad has always said, “Love people on the way out just as much as you did on the way in.” I’ve always loved that saying because to me, it’s like, yeah, not everyone is meant to stay in your life forever. Some people are meant to be [in your life at different] seasons, and that’s OK. You can’t expect everybody to stay. If they don’t want to stay, you can’t force them to, so let’s make it a ‘good goodbye.’ With Ashley singing this emotional and personal melody with Jimmie Allen; the track encourages us not to feel hate to those who wronged us and left us. Sometimes people in our lives leave for no reason at all… but that doesn’t mean what occurred before wasn’t good.
“First Time, Last Night”, a therapeutic, healing type of track, is similar in style and theme to Carly Pearce’s “Day One” and speaks about finally being at the place where the persona doesn’t miss their ex that much, and can even drink in ‘their bar’; while Already Drank That Beer: Side A ends with the moving and thought-provoking “Never Til Now”. A piano and acoustic guitar led melody whereby Ashley powerfully relays that she would now like to settle down with her partner, and that she previously never wanted to have a normal life until she met them; the track should be what we’d want to aspire to in terms of our mindset, as we wait on God for Him to show us the person that we would spend the rest of our life with. Moving and emotional, stirring and honest- this melody is the perfect end of an already impressive and hopeful debut project.
I moved around a lot growing up. I think I had every time zone in the US! I was born in Wisconsin, moved to California, and then to Florida, and then to Nashville when I was 18. So I kinda made my rounds! (laughs) I went to Belmont University and studied Communications & Marketing. Nothing related to music, contrary to popular belief. In my senior year at Belmont, I applied for the Country Showcase, which is a showcase the school puts on that is all student-run and previous winners [include] Florida Georgia Line and Brad Paisley. I went on a whim, applied as a non-music major, which is super rare, got in and I won the competition. It was crazy! I was really pumped to start doing the artistry and music full-time post-grad and around that time was when the pandemic hit. I was like, “OK, I can’t really do the traditional ways of being an artist,” which is playing shows and writing sessions and being with other humans in the city. So, I went down to Florida to quarantine with my family for a little while, and that’s when I got onto TikTok. I made one video and it took off with two million views in a couple of days. It was insane. [That’s when] I caught the bug and started creating on TikTok, which led to a ripple effect to where I am today.
TikTok is so crazy to me because I’d like to think I wouldn’t have gotten on it if it weren’t for the pandemic. The pandemic only gave us so many options to keep pursuing things in music and getting in front of people. After I got on TikTok and found some traction of my own, I saw Charli D’amelio and Addison Rae, these people who were on TikTok in a Hype House out in L.A., and I [thought], “Why is there not something that brings Nashville songwriters and artists together?” People are already so infatuated with Nashville and how it’s Music City and how you go into a room at 11 o’clock every morning to write a song with strangers. People are so infatuated with that. So, I called my friend Chris Ruediger, who’s the co-founder with me at the 615 House, and I was like, “Man, we got to start something like this.” At that time, there really weren’t that many people from Nashville on the app. It was maybe ten people that were in Nashville, on TikTok, really posting every day and building a fanbase. We ended up grabbing the people that we knew from our “For You” pages and who were local to Nashville or around the area. We got into a house and just started making content, which blew up into what it is now. It’s a really fun project [born] from quarantine and it’ll be interesting to see what we do with it post-pandemic.
As an independent artist, getting the call that Bobby Bones wants to interview you is pretty damn cool. He’s been a big supporter of my career and was actually the first person to play my music on the radio. I will say I can understand why people love listening to his podcasts/show because he asks real, raw, genuine, sometimes tough questions. He didn’t ask the typical “tell me your story, where are you from, what are your influences” kind of questions – he asked the deep stuff and was genuinely curious about my answers. At the end of the interview, he told me he believed in me and to keep crushing it, which means insane amounts coming from him. I’m really grateful for him and his team’s support.
You know, I’ve tried to refrain from planning too much. One of my favorite lessons learned from this last year is to put the work in and see what doors open from it because you never know what could happen. That being said – in a year, I’d absolutely love to have a song on the radio, be on a large tour, maybe even play at an award show. We’ll see where this new music takes me!
We have our five-year plan, ten-year plan, and all these things planned out, and then it all completely goes to sh*t. My plan graduating from college was to get a record deal, get on a massive tour and just do a totally different path. The quarantine happening and getting on TikTok and all of that wouldn’t have happened if I was so set in my plan. My manager would probably yell at me for saying that because she’ll be like, “We have to plan!!” (laughs) But life is so much fun when you allow it to surprise you and if you put your head down, grind, be the best at what you want to do, that’s all you really can do. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned: don’t plan too much, just allow life to surprise you – and it will.
Ashley Cooke is an artist that I probably wouldn’t have listened to had it not been for my proactiveness in searching for new artists to listen to. And such perhaps the radio isn’t this big thing that we originally envisioned. Maybe streaming is the way to go moving forward? Regardless, I reckon that Ashley is going to be a star in the coming months and years. She is already making waves on TikTok and at the 615 House… so I guess things are moving on the up and up? For me to guess what would be next would be foolish… so let’s just bask in and enjoy that music that is Ashley Cooke. Let’s eagerly anticipate something new, and let us thank God for her talent and delivering emotional and honest melodies. Well done Ashley, I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you next!
3 songs to listen to: Under, Sunday Morning Kinda Saturday Night, Good Goodbye
RIYL: Jimmie Allen, Kelsea Ballerini, Breland, Mickey Guyton, Thomas Rhett, Kacey Musgraves