Country singer Ashley Monroe headlines at the Suffolk Theater on July 12, bringing her signature melodic sound and empathetic lyrics to a Long Island stage once again.
“It amazes me that [Long Island is] so close to New York City, but right there is a country side,” says Monroe of the number of area country music fans.
Monroe has performed on Long Island a number of times, including at Jones Beach with the band Train—Monroe collaborated with the group on the hit single “Bruises”—and at the Emporium in Patchogue with country artist Randy Houser.
Known both as a solo singer/songwriter and as one-third of the all-female country/rock group Pistol Annies, Monroe is driven by her unconditional love of music, and she strives to project to her fans the solace that music has given her. “I want as many people as I can get to hear my music,” Monroe says. “Music has helped me, continues to help me, and I hope it can help other people.”
Monroe’s bio on the Pistol Annies website refers to her sound as “a classic Tennessee country,” which to Monroe, describes her love of “straight country.” “[When I write,] it’s going to be a slow country song. The words twist you and hit you real hard,” says Monroe on her style, playfully referring to her songs as “lose your buzzkill” country.
Singing came naturally to Monroe, as she “never knew anything different,” getting her start in church. Growing up in Knoxville, TN, she wrote songs and had aspirations of making it to Nashville. Her dad’s death when she was a teenager was the impetus for moving with her mom, both looking for a fresh start. “My dad got sick when I was 13 and passed away. I was always writing songs, but after that, it was on a whole new level. I didn’t understand that you could make money off of songs, I just knew I felt better after getting it out.”
Monroe signed her first record deal when she was “16 or 17,” and is still grateful for the angels who guided her through the ride. Since then, she has released two studio albums, Satisfied in 2009 and Like a Rose in 2013. Rolling Stone named Like a Rose the No. 1 Country Album of 2013. Her song “A Life That’s Good,” which Monroe wrote when she was 19, was performed on an episode of Nashville last season. “It’s funny how things come full circle,” Monroe says.
Monroe, who married Chicago White Sox pitcher John Danks last fall, still calls Nashville home. Her biggest achievement to date was playing the city’s famed Grand Ole Opry, noting that thinking about the experience still gives her the chills.
Though she has an affinity for country music, Monroe’s collaborations span multiple genres, including those with Train and with Jack White and the Raconteurs. “I love collaborating with people who love music, that’s the bottom line,” says Monroe. “[from the] country of the country, [to the] rockest of the rock. The genre doesn’t matter. When you’re making music, it’s a really powerful thing. Everybody just gets really giddy.”
Monroe gets especially excited when working with Pistol Annies bandmates and good friends Miranda Lambert, a Platinum-selling country artist, and Angaleena Presley. Playing with the Pistol Annies is less pressure, because “when we get to get on stage and sing together, we all calm down a bit, since there are two more people to back us up.”
The Pistol Annies also affords Monroe the opportunity to play sets that are more upbeat than her slower solo tunes. “We were all by ourselves, doing solo stuff, so performing [solo] is always natural,” says Monroe. “But when us three are all together, it’s also so natural.” She’ll be incorporating those collaborative songs into her Suffolk Theater performance. “I’ll try to do all three girls’ parts,” Monroe says.
Ashley Monroe at Suffolk Theater, 118 E Main Street, Riverhead, July 12 at 8 p.m. For more info and tickets ($45), visit suffolktheater.com or call 631-727-4343.