- Associated Press - Monday, March 4, 2013

NASHVILLE, TENN. (AP) - John Grady recently handed Ashley Monroe a box filled with copies of her new album, “Like a Rose.” He’d rushed out of the building and caught her in the parking lot. The arrival of the CDs was a milestone moment for the country singer-songwriter and her manager, the culmination of nearly a decade of work together.

To be honest, Grady was a little misty.

Not Monroe. She tossed the box in her car, put the vehicle in drive and headed right on down the road. Just like she’s always done. Throw out any obstacle and Monroe will deal with it.

“I’m just now learning that there is a master plan,” Monroe said. “Because there’s been many times where I’ve looked up at the sky and thought, `Really? What am I doing? What am I supposed to be doing?’ But now I’m seeing all the good and the bad that I’ve lived and experienced just kind of come together. OK, all that was supposed to happen.”

Need proof?

Witness the glowing reviews and warm reception she’s received for “Like a Rose,” co-produced by Vince Gill, a modern take on traditional country music.

She’s a member of the country music supertrio Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert.

And what about that blingy engagement ring from Chicago White Sox pitcher John Danks?

Seems like everything’s wrapped up with a nifty bow for Monroe at age 26. But track her story back to when she was 14 and you get a picture of just how far she’s come.

Monroe lost her father to pancreatic cancer when she was 13, and for a while, her mother to grief. That’s when she started writing songs.

“I thought, `I’ve got to get this out,’” she said. “It was so heavy and so sad and everything had changed so drastically.”

By 14, she was trying to pull her Knoxville, Tenn.-based family back together. She did so by taking a bold step.

“I said, `We’ve got to start over. We can’t be in this town. It’s going to poison us. Everywhere we go people are going to be like, “Are you OK?” or judging us because we weren’t making the healthiest of decisions, any of us,’” Monroe said.

“It was just grief. We were just saturated in grief. I said, `We’ve got to move to Nashville. We’ve got to start over. We’ve got to get a new scene and I’ll write every day and we’ll make this work. We’ve got to make it work.’”

And for a while, it did. Only 15 when she started to haunt Music Row, she caught the attention of songwriter Brett James almost immediately and soon met Grady, who was then president of Sony Music Nashville. Grady guided her into her first record deal and in 2007, Monroe finished her first album, “Satisfied.”

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