Recently I caught up with the multi-talented Ashley Plumlee at M&M’s Coffee House where she was taking care of things there one recent afternoon. She is in the middle of preparing for the release of a new CD with her band and working on a new website, “Mama” Ashley Plumlee and the Mistress Derringer Band is a force to be reckoned with on the local scene.
Texas Local Scene: Where are you from?
Ashley Plumlee: Harker Heights Texas. I graduated at Harker Heights High School in 2004. I did CTC for a little while and then I got married. I met my husband, Johnston, at Harker Heights High School. I was on the dance team and he played the tuba. He would sit across from me and he was weird and cocky and I didn’t want to have anything to do with him. He asked to sign my yearbook but he was actually flirting with the girl that sat next to me. Later on, he was in my yearbook class and he happened to be in there and he tried to sit next to me. I said no. I’m a nice person but he just rubbed me the wrong way. After a while he kind of grew on me and we started dating. He’s still really cocky but I love him.
Ashley: Johnson actually bought me a guitar. I told him I wanted one and he said that was cool. He actually composes music himself. I said I wanted to learn so I could contribute with what he composed. He went back to Afghanistan and when he came back, I had started a band. I started learning about six months before starting the band. I didn’t take it real serious at first because I thought I could get by on my voice. I started to go to open mics with Charles and another of the original members of the band. I learned quickly that I needed to learn how to play. I started lessons before the band but I couldn’t buckle down and get serious about it. I took the basic chords and started learning different songs and adding to the repertoire. I was in a different band before I started mine briefly, but they wanted me to harmonize with another person and that wasn’t for me. I’ve been seriously been playing guitar for two and a half years ago. The capo is my best friend!
TLS: What do you like better? Performing or writing?
Ashley: Performing! I like the audience reaction that I get. I could get really sick of playing the same song over and over again. But what fuels me is how somebody else feels when they hear it. I wrote “Lampasas Sky” for Johnston. He’s not very fond of it….it’s not one of his favorites, but I get lots of compliments on it. I only enjoy playing it in front of people because I wore it out at home. It’s Lilly Milford’s favorite song of mine. It’s my dog’s favorite and calms her down a bit. When I play it in front of people, it rejuvenates me.
Ashley: “Reckless In Love” that I wrote with Mark Allan Atwood and “Woman Reborn” that I wrote by myself. Well, I wrote the lyrics and the melody by myself. My band added a “bom bom bom bom” and every time it just gets me. I just love playing it.
TLS: Are there any other songs you like playing in concert?
Ashely: I really like playing “Wiskey” by Bri Bagwell. Love that song! And “It Is What It Is” by Kacey Musgraves. I’ve played that for awhile now but I just love it. It’s got a great rhythm and such great dynamics. It’s a simple song with so much meaning in it.
TLS: You’ve had a pretty tight knit band from the beginning right?
Ashley: It’s been me and Charles (Ott) from the git-go. We added Brandon (Cecil) in and we joked that he was just “the guitarist of the month” for a long time. I like having that deep sound when you have two guitars – not necessarily playing the same thing. One doing the picking and one doing the strumming. I call him the lead rhythm – but for the longest time we joked around with it and he would get so hurt about it. Finally, after a year, I said, “I guess we’ll keep you.” They’re both like brothers to me. We added Chris and a drummer together. It’s not the drummer we had now. It was perfect with Chris. He’s MY bass player. We just got Rooster (Brett Halvorson) back and I’m excited about that! I’ve worked with other drummers just fine, but Rooster is MY drummer. We mesh. He gets bored with my rhythm sometimes but he KNOWS my rhythm. When he told me he was coming back I couldn’t believe it. It’s nothing against any other drummer I’ve had. It’s just that he is MY drummer.
Ashley: We’re going to be doing a lot more out of town stuff with some bigger venues coming up. I’ve been laying low a little bit doing work in the studio trying to get the self titled EP ready. There will be four songs on it. California, Stong, Texas Troubadour, and the song I wrote with Mark Allen Atwood, Reckless In Love. It’s going to be an acoustic version of that song. I’d love to get Mark Allen Atwood to do the song with me but I don’t know how the logistics will work out. We’re working on finishing it up and we’re hoping to have it out any time. I don’t want to play shows out of town without having a CD in my hand. People need a product that they can take with them when they walk out of a show. My website will be coming online soon as well. It should be up any time. Maybe a dual release of the CD and the Website. We’re trying to figure out if a CD release party is going to work out.
TLS: What do you do when you aren’t playing music?
Ashley: I love to cook all the time! That’s actually something I’m going to try to work into my website! I’m going to have a cooking blog. I make jam, I fry chicken, I’m barefoot in the kitchen all the time. I’m a down-home Texas girl. We talked about selling jam and maybe different drink mixes that I can come up with at the shows. I’m trying to think outside the box with merchandise. Everybody does the same thing and I want to be different. I’m a barefoot Texas girl and I walk out on the stage barefoot. I did it before Jenna McDaniel (just kidding Jenna! I love you!). Johnston makes so much fun of me for not wearing my nice boots. But, I have to feel the music through the stage. I feel grounded.
TLS: Who do you like to play with?
Ashley: I like doing duets with Kirk Baxley. He enjoys doing duets with me (he says). I don’t know if he really does. He says I’m one of his favorites. And that flatters me because he’s one of my favorite. But I love singing Cold As a Stone with him. One of my guilty pleasures is playing that song at my house over and over. And I like playing….no I love 7 Years Today. I love that they teamed up with Stormy Lee. I love Mylon’s voice. He’s got a powerful voice and I love their dynamics. Every time – EVERY TIME – I got to a 7 Years Today show I get DRUNK. It’s so bad! Without them knowing it, a good band’s job is to sell drinks. Without you knowing it, a good band, you’re going to get drunk. It’s because you don’t notice it. You’re just drinking. And by the fourth beer you are like, “Whoah!” I need to switch to water when I go see them play. I’m leaving some others out but I just love those guys so much right now.
TLS: How is the Texas scene different from the Nashville scene?
Ashley: I am not a big fan of well-known Nashville country, but there is a LOT of music coming out of Nashville that I love like Honey-Honey. Underground Nashville country I guess. I’ve always been that way. I liked Katy Perry before she went big. Now I’m like “Ehh.” I’ve been approached about considering pitching my songs, “Drive” or “Strong” to Miranda Lambert. As cool as that would be and as green as my pockets would be if that happened, I like the fact that I sing those. I’m not going to say I sing better than Miranda – I mean she has an attitude and a voice that would really rock those songs – but those songs are my babies and I’m glad I sing those. Now, If Miranda came to me and wanted to record something, then YEAH! Of course. As long as I could sing backup vocals on them, I’m good! Singing backup vocals is one of my favorite things to do. Justin Bravo says he’s afflicted with “Lead Singer Syndrome.” I have “Back-up Singer Syndrome.” Like with Kirk Baxley, I only know the harmony vocals on his songs. I get confused when it’s time for me to sing the lead. Megan Blair and I have song-swaps occasionally and I harmonize with her and she’ll pass the mic to me and I’ll panic. It’s hard to transition from harmony to lead for me.
Ashley: I never try. I either have the words or I don’t. I’ll start on one because I’ll have a beginning and then somebody in the band will help me finish it. Like, I’ll have “I’m so sick of this small town.” And then “I’m so sick of this dang job.” It was right after I got fired. The rest of the band will step in and help me finish it. They help me finish songs. Normally, if I have words or a riff in my head, I’ll record it and go back to it later and finish the words. But, I don’t schedule a time to try. With “Strong” the words came first. I was really mad that day and I was dealing with some stuff. “Worn Out Tires” the music came first. I started on the music and I was driving and I wrote the lyrics while I was driving. I write a lot when I driving. And vacuuming! I write a lot vacuuming. It happens a lot when I’m doing something else because my brain shuts down and lets it happen.