Occasionally, you meet an artist, and you know they were born with a gift. At age 17, Ashley Anne wrote/released her first single, “Dear Dolly”, a song that she penned entirely on her own.
And while Dolly is arguably the most popular country star on the planet, most people of Ashley Anne’s peer group only know “Jolene” and probably don’t realize that Dolly wrote “I Will Always Love You” and may not have ever heard Whitney Houston’s version of it.
I wanted to find out how one as young as Anne came to know so much about Dolly, country music, and songwriting.
Anne is from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and has been performing for as long as she can remember.
She recalled, ”I was always singing around the house, performing, doing karaoke. Me and my older sister would sing together all the time. We had these little toy pianos and the little toy guitars. And my dad built us a little stage in our playroom that we could put on shows for people that came over.”
But it was her grandpa who introduced Anne to Country-Western music. He played Dolly on repeat in the car, and he often called her “Dolly.”
“From a young age, he saw a little bit of her in me,” she stated.
It was Anne’s grandmother who was an author, and she knew she got the writing bug from her. But that was the extent of her musical influences.
She began writing poetry at age 11 and then added music to the words she wrote.
“That's how I coped, and that's how I was able to speak emotions or communicate feelings that I didn't necessarily know how to understand myself. Something that I was doing was writing alone,” Anne explained.
For a long time, music was just a hobby. Anne never thought about it as a career until she was in high school. That’s when she started performing locally. She did her first show at age 13. She continued to perform and earn extra money until she graduated high school. When it was time to go to college, she chose Belmont because she knew it would get her to Nashville.
But like so many, the singing and songwriting became the focal point while college took a back seat. After the success of her single, “Dear Dolly” she proved to her family doing music full-time was a viable career option.
She advised, “I knew that if I wanted to pursue music, I had to seize my moment because now is the time that things are growing for me, and I couldn't just put it on the back burner until I graduated.”
Anne didn’t realize that co-writing songs was a thing until she arrived in Nashville. She composed “Dear Dolly” completely on her own at the age of 17.
Written in her car, with words like Dear Dolly Parton, I don't know what to do/ I'm stuck here crying and I feel like a fool/ 'Cause life's fighting me and I'm not fighting back/ So come and help me get it back on track/ Tell me how you did it, tell me how you got through/ The bad parts of life that challenged you/ 'Cause I'm so lost, won't you come find me?/ Oh, come and sing to me, come and find me, Dolly… the lyrics belie her youth.
Not only that, she also solo wrote the song, “She Ain’t Texas” sitting at her kitchen counter. She didn’t even start co-writing until 2023.
Her debut EP, also entitled Dear Dolly is out this Friday, the weekend of our Dolly’s 78th birthday. It debuts two new songs, “American Dream” and “Mary Jane” two songs that demonstrate a maturity well beyond her 19 years.
Ashley Anne is a natural storyteller. She draws inspiration from her own life experiences, crafting songs that reflect what she has seen and lived. Her heartfelt lyrics and relatable narratives aim to connect with listeners on a profound level, making them feel understood and valued.
If this is what country/Americana/folk singer sounds like before even she leaves her teen years, I can’t imagine what she will become in the next decade. Anne is driven to succeed in all she does, and music will be a part of her continued success.
Stream Dear Dolly EP here.
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