Ashley Campbell on dad Glen’s legacy and coming to BelNash festival via the banjo
Ashley, the youngest daughter of the legendary country star Glen Campbell, will be headlining the Belfast Nashville Writers Festival in March as her debut album is released. She tells Joanne Sweeney how her late dad inspires her every day
THIS year is shaping up as something special for country singer/songwriter Ashley Campbell following the sad loss of her father, Glen Campbell, last August. With her new single A New Year currently out and her debut album, The Lonely One, due to be released on March 9, Ashley is headlining at this year’s Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, which she helped launch with a special performance in the city last month.
The 2018 festival runs from March 7 to 11 and will also feature Irish ex-Saturdays pop star and sometime television presenter Una Healy, who has now returned to her country music roots.
Ashley’s BelNash appearance on Thursday March 8 at the Clayton Hotel’s Olympic Ballroom will be her first full-length Belfast show, although she is no stranger to Irish audiences: the rising country star previously played in Dublin (2010) and Killarney (2011) with her father Glen before he passed away at the age of 81 after living with Alzheimer’s for many years.
The upcoming BelNash show will still be something of a family affair for the 31-year-old Phoenix, Arizona native as her brother Shannon will be performing as part of her three-piece band at the festival.
Ashley’s other brother, Cal, helped mix the forthcoming debut album, which she describes as “eclectic”.
“There are 13 tracks on the new album which I co-wrote,” says the singer/guitarist. “It’s a pretty eclectic piece of work. There’s some pop sounds, there’s some country and there’s even a bluegrass banjo instrumental.
“The album explores different types of being alone, which I don’t necessarily see as a bad thing, more of a sign of independence.
“I’ve been working on it for four years and recorded it last November and I co-produced it with my brother. My single A New Year is also on it. It’s an upbeat, optimistic song and I think it’s going pretty well as people seem to really like it.”
After the Belfast Nashville gig, Ashley and her band will be performing a special tribute to Glen Campbell at the Country to Country festival at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday March 10, where country stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw will headline the previous evening.
When Glen died on August 8 last year, Ashley, the youngest of his eight children with his fourth wife Kimberly Wollen, announced his passing with a simple picture on social media of their hands entwined with the message: “Heartbroken. I owe him everything I am, and everything I ever will be. He will be remembered so well and with so much love.”
Her late father was a much loved, multi-Grammy winning musician who sold over 45 million records over a 50-year career, which also included successes on the big screen – notably his role alongside John Wayne in the movie True Grit (1969) – and television, with The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour show on CBS.
However, he will mostly be remembered for the fame and acclaim he found as a musician and singer, with hits including classics such as Rhinestone Cowboy, Wichita Lineman, Galveston, Dreams, By The Time I Get to Phoenix and Southern Nights.
Ashley and her brothers played with their father during his long farewell tour, aptly named the Goodbye Tour, and also featured on his final album Adios, released shortly before his death.
One of Ashley’s most popular tracks is her song, Remembering, which she wrote for her father as her way of remembering their lives when he couldn’t due to the cruel effect of Alzheimer’s.
However, she admits that performing this particular song live can be challenging.
“Sometimes I definitely get a bit emotional when I sing that song but for the most part it’s a comforting song to sing as I wrote it for my dad and I know he will be looking down on me,” she explains.
Despite being bought up in her extremely musical family, Ashley initially looked towards acting as a career, until she was asked to learn to play the banjo in her late teens.
“I was a theatre major at Pepperdine University, California and I got a part in a play that they were taking to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and they asked me to learn banjo for the part,” she explains.
“Learning it did come pretty easily to me. Obviously I practised very hard, but I really connected with the banjo when I first started playing it.
“I always sang but I feel that I came into my own, and my own vocal style, after I started playing the banjo as the music seemed to really fit my voice.
“And then my voice came in a different way when I first started writing songs.”
Ashley says that she’s not intimidated by her father’s reputation as a performer; rather, she sees it as a comfort.
“Dad did so well by just being true to himself and being open, singing what was real to him and I just use that as inspiration every day.”
“I would love to be making a living by playing music for the rest of my life if I can.”
:: Ashley Campbell plays with her band on Thursday March 8 in the Olympic Ballroom at the Clayton Hotel, Belfast. Doors 6pm. Tickets and further information on the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival & Convention can be found online at Belfastnashville.com
TIPPERARY-born singer Una Healy of girl band The Saturdays, joins US country singer Ashley Campbell on the bill in this year’s Panarts Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival.
Healy, who was both performer and later judge on RTE talent series The Voice of Ireland, has partnered – aptly, given the festival’s title – with English actor and musician Sam Palladio of TV series Nashville for her current single, Stay My Love. Her debut album is due out next month; she and her band are at the Clayton Hotel on Friday March 9.
Other stand-out names from the BelNash line-up are acclaimed Belfast singer Kaz Hawkins who can be heard, with Sam York, on Thursday March 8, and Co Down singer/songwriter
Matt McGinn, who has shared stages with the likes of Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Crowded House and Crosby Stills & Nash; catch him on Friday March 9.
Jarrod Dickenson, My Darling Clementine, Brace Cooper Jutz, Aidan Logan, Katie Pruit and Jason Blume will also perform, with more names to be announced – keep an eye out at belfastnashville.com