Today’s a big day for Ashley McMillen. “Coming Through,” her new single and video, is being released, and the Morgantown, West Virginia, native, who recently moved to Nashville from Central Virginia, hopes it’ll launch her music career from “on the verge” to “on the fast track.”
“I moved to Nashville back in September. It’s been hard though, but I just felt I had to do it for my career,” she said. “My band is like family to me, and they’re still in Central Virginia.”
In a way, Miss McMillen — a popular performer who headlines shows and opens for household-name musicians like Martina McBride — is on a trajectory that more closely mirrors traditional country music icons such as Loretta Lynn than her contemporaries.
Although many artists seek success through exposure on social media and music competitions, Miss McMillen moved to Nashville to hone her songwriting skills, perform at venues frequented by music industry insiders and absorb lessons from other performers. She hopes her songwriting, singing and performing will set her apart from artists who only sing or play music.
She certainly proved her talent and crowd appeal last year at the sold-out McBride show at nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Charlottesville, Virginia. As she performed, dropping occasional shoutouts to Miss McBride and others, the restless 3,500 attendees heartily cheered after each song.
It’s easy to understand why.
Miss McMillen’s music is a country-inspired mix of acoustic guitar, pedal steel, bass and percussion behind the mountain twang of her vocals. It’s easy to compare her singing to that of Lynn, fellow West Virginian Kathy Mattea and even Jennifer Nettles. But such comparisons may be unfair, however, because she has a distinctive musical styling all her own.
Even though she’s been welcomed into the Nashville community, especially by those hailing from her home state, her latest single and video are inspired by Virginia and West Virginia.
Bahlmann Abbot, Miss McMillen’s pedal steel player, came to her with the start of a song he thought would work for her.
“He sat in the living room and played pieces of what became ‘Coming Through,’ she said. “I listened [to the lyrics], and that was my life down to every detail. I just couldn’t hold back.”
The two dug in and completed the song, which was so powerful that they decided to film a video in support of it.
A supportive fan filmed the video, which was shot at Mr. Abbot’s home and throughout Charlottesville.
“We didn’t want it to be very literal,” said Miss McMillen of the song that tells the tale of succeeding despite heartbreak. “The song is about coming through hardships, so for the video we just tried to be ourselves.”
Or, as Miss McMillen says in her new song:
“Well you cut me out for this back road town
“And half of the time, I’m just waitin’ around
“You turned my life every kind of blue
“But I’ve turned around and I’m coming through.”