Arist: Ashley Monroe
Home Base: Nashville, Tennessee
Ashley Monroe got her first guitar as a 13th birthday gift from her father, and the timing was apt. "He was sick at the time, [and] it was almost like my heart would get so heavy I would have to play guitar," she remembers. "It was therapy." When he passed away, music became her lifeline. At 15, Ashley convinced her mother to move from Knoxville to Nashville. Within a year, she'd scored a publishing contract; by 20, she had debuted at the Grand Ole Opry and was cowriting with the likes of Guy Clark. Her second album, Like a Rose, released last year, firmly planted her in the tradition of female country singer-songwriters such as Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, whose self-penned songs mixed smarts, sass, and sorrow in equal measure. Funny enough, her biggest break so far wasn't country singin' but her duet with Train singer Pat Monahan, "Bruises," which climbed the pop charts last summer. But Ashley's too eager to collaborate with artists she loves to keep herself in any one box: She's one-third of the country trio Pistol Annies (with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley), but she's also cut tracks with neo-Nashvillian singers like Will Hoge and Jack White. Not bad for a dreamer with zero backup plan. "I just never had 'or if I don't...' in my vocabulary," Ashley says.
Musical Hero: Dolly Parton
Her New Fave: Caitlin Rose
Ashley's Biscuits & Jam Track: "Like a Rose"