The Sad Story of Ashley McBryde’s Jacket
"'The Jacket' is real," Ashley McBryde says when pressed for details about a standout song on her new Girl Going Nowhere album. "I was 14 when my uncle handed it to me and I really did think he handed it to me to throw it away ... This nasty, thin piece of material."
McBryde — debut album on Warner Music Nashville out March 30 — is sensible, but also sentimental. She's an admirer and a collector of old crap, especially if there's nostalgia and superstition attached.
"I keep a $2 bill rolled up in every pair of boots I own because one time an older guy came up to me at a farmer's market I was playing in Memphis, handed me a $2 bill and said ‘Stick this in your boot,'" she explains. So the young singer-songwriter obliged ...
“And when I stood back up, he handed me a $100 bill and said, ‘Thanks for listening to me. Stick this in your pocket.’”
There is also her habit of carrying a bandana around with her wherever she goes. It's something her dad used to do for practical reasons on the farm. Now fans bring theirs to her concerts to show her at meet and greets.
"I got one from a day camp I went to in 1986. I would be so sad if anything happened to that bandana," she admits. "I am really sentimental."
She's not recklessly sentimental, however. The jacket that she describes is more than 60 years old and has been on stage with Hank, Willie and Chris Stapleton. It has deer hide on the collar, a bandana for a breast pocket flap and Miller High Life patches sewn into the inner sides by her grandfather, a former beer truck driver in Michigan.
"I mean it was old," she says. "Kind of yellow-y almost, not even denim anymore. And it was better than a scrapbook, looking at it." It was.
A footnote to this story is that the thief stole a bunch of other personal belongings, too. McBryde had "The Jacket" song written prior to the incident, but she didn't think it'd make the album. Now, with this heirloom gone, it had to ... and so it sits tucked between a jazzy, gnarly look at the glamorous life of a working musician ("Southern Babylon") and the most positive song about drug addiction you'll ever hear ("Livin' Next to LeRoy").
If there's a happy ending, it's in what the crook didn't take. Tossed on the floor was an old felt cowboy hat she used instead of a binky when she was growing up in Arkansas. It's disgusting by her own description, but it belonged to her great-grandfather and she can tell you the city and street where it was made.
"There’s a hole right where you hold it because I used to carry it around in my teeth," McBryde says. "When I got to the truck and was talking to the police and everything, I looked and that hat was on the floor and I just grabbed it. That was the only thing he left."
Find McBryde on the road at country music festivals like Stagecoach, Taste of Country Music Festival in Hunter, N.Y., and WE Fest in Detroit Lakes, Minn., this year. She's also playing shows with Luke Combs.
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