In these days of downright citified, even glamorous, country music singers, Ashton Shepherd lives the life other country stars just sing about. Her new album, Where Country Grows, is her second, but Shepherd hasn't moved to a big spread outside Nashville. She still lives in Coffeeville, Ala. She sells vegetables out of the back of her pickup truck when she's not on tour.
"Me and my husband are still living on six acres, in a single-wide trailer," she says. "I'll get depressed out on the road simply because I'm not being the momma that's cooking supper every night, or that's fixing my husband's plate and my baby's plate. You miss those things, and I miss them. It makes me feel good to grow things in the garden and put things up in jars."
A lot of the stories she tells in her songs are true stories, none more so than the one in "Rory's Radio." "Rory was my brother Jeff's best friend," she says. "Jeff lost his life in a car accident in 1999. I was 13 years old. And Rory was still there. It was really nice to have somebody that came by to see Mom and Daddy. That really was plugging such an empty space in our life at that time."
Shepherd says the song doesn't mention the sadness of her brother's death; it's about remembering the innocence she and Rory and her family had before he died. "It doesn't drag you down," she says. "It actually lifts you up."
Shepherd didn't write her biggest hit, "Look It Up," a song about selling all the belongings of a cheating man, but she says it does sound like some she has. "I'm sure there's some menfolks cringing when that comes on the radio," she says. "I don't really know how I deliver the messages as well as I do on some songs. Because it is kind of strange to have to sing a song like that being happily married — and me and my husband are doing great and all that stuff. But you can imagine anything."
Shepherd got her start at a very young age — singing in church at five and entering competitions at eight. She's seen country music change in a big way.
"It's just evolved over time," she says, "just like cell phones and computers and everything else. It's just such a fast pace." She says with all that in mind she and her husband are teaching their son about the music of a slower time.
"He knows new country music," says Shepherd, "but he also listens to Conway and some Loretta songs, and he listens to Patsy Cline. He knows who those people are, and he's five years old. We try to make sure it's present, you know? Keep it alive."