We’re bringing you stories from women who are chasing their dreams and building a life that they love with New York Country Swag’s, “Woman of the Month.”
Each month, we will highlight a different female pursuing her passions. Introducing you to women who are taking risks, working relentlessly and turning their dreams into reality. These are empowering women who serve as role models and should be celebrated.
For February, we chose Kristen Ashley who hails from Trussville, Alabama, currently working with one of our 2019 Artists to Watch, Mitchell Tenpenny. Ashley tells us during our recent phone interview that music was always very important to her, she was always the friend who would burn CDs and loved discovering new artists. “Country was definitely my heart but I also loved rap and sometimes I liked listening to Christian music, it was about the way the songs made me feel,” she tells us. “I loved listening to album cuts, I started learning the songwriter’s names, I was more inspired about Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, Shane McAnally, and Luke Laird. I was so excited about that part of it, it wasn’t just the artist.”
Just like many of us, growing up she wasn’t aware that there is an entire industry behind the music we hear on the radio or we see at concerts. That all changed on her 15th birthday when her mother surprised her with an opportunity to be in one of Brantley Gilbert’s music videos. Once she arrived on set, she met another Woman of the Month, JoJamie Hahr, and Leah Rhodes who’s husband was at the time, Manager of A&R at Warner/Chappell Nashville.
Opening her eyes to a brand new world, Ashley started to fall in love with the idea of working in the music industry, specifically publishing. Those connections with Leah and Blain Rhodes quickly turned into networking opportunities and when she moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University, she already had an upper hand, knowing people who were successful in the industry.
While attending Belmont University, she landed an internship at SB21, an independent music publishing company in Nashville where she learned about the details of a publishing company. By chance at CMAFest the following year, she was introduced to Jennifer Johnson at The Song Factory and her dream of working in publishing came to fruition. During her time there, she worked with Jon Pardi, Dillon Carmichael, and Ashley McBryde.
She explains that one of her favorite moments of her career so far was arranging Ashley McBryde to come to town and write with Jeremy Bussey. “She didn’t know anyone in my circle, and I just knew that she and Jeremy Bussey would hit it off and the very first time they wrote together they wrote “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” so that is my claim to fame,” she says of the Grammy-nominated song.
Then in November of 2015, she met a new singer-songwriter, a Nashville native named Mitchell Tenpenny. She started booking Tenpenny writes and working to help nurture his career, and then her boss at The Song Factory, Jennifer Johnson decided to start her own record label, Riser House and Tenpenny was the flagship artist. “I was working closely with Mitchell, I knew who to call for different aspects of his career. We formed a mutual respect for each other and I started doing the management stuff but without those intentions. Fast forward another year, I started booking shows for Mitchell, I ended up being Mitchell’s point person,” Ashley explains.
Eventually, Ashley made the decision to form 11/10 Management signing Mitchell Tenpenny as her first client. She works closely with JT Pratt, RLM’s Coran Capshaw, and Enzo DeVincenzo and Haley McLemore of 377 Management. She tells us that she is so happy to have an experienced team around her to turn to.
Tenpenny released his debut studio album, Telling All My Secrets last December, and is currently on tour with Old Dominion on their ‘Make It Sweet’ Tour. He landed his very first number one song in December as well with “Drunk Me”.
Part of the day to day job of being his manager includes handling every aspect of his career. “There are a million different things going on in one time, getting ready for the Old Dominion Tour, ordering a new backdrop, designing new merch, getting a trailer made, meeting with his business manager, meetings with Sony to talk strategy for this year, meeting with his booking agents to confirm shows,” she tells us. “My day is never the same, it’s always different which I love.”
We asked what advice she would give to young people looking to work in the music industry, she says “Don’t care too much about the name of the company you intern for or work for, it’s about where you will get the opportunity to work, learn and grow,” Ashley says. “If you are at a smaller company, you learn so much so quickly. If it wasn’t for my internship I would have fallen on my face when I got my first job. If you have an opportunity to work, get paid, do what you love and be around good people, take the opportunity.”
She worked hard from the minute she knew what she wanted to do with her life. “I think the reason I did get to where I am, I wasn’t expecting anything, if I see that something is missing or something needs to be done, I am someone who does it,” she says. “I knew Mitchell was talented, I knew he needed to have his shows booked and his travel booked and I did it, without expecting anything in return. If you believe in someone, help people and in return, you will be taken care of.”
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