“I need a stranger to pull my hair and call my name/ take me home and make me feel alive again/ round and 'round, oh help me God/ it's coursing through my veins/ wash over me like on the rain/ wild love take over me and I'll never be the same/ I want love/ I want a wild, wild, wild love.” - Wild Love - Ashley Monroe-Waylon Payne-Brendan Benson.

When Knoxville girl Ashley Monroe wrote a brace of songs for her fifth solo album Sparrow with Texan singing actor Waylon Payne she scored a bonus - a video partner.

Writing with Waylon - son of seventies outlaw star Sammi Smith who died at 61 on February 12, 2005 and Willie Nelson's late guitarist Jody Payne - was perfect pairing.

Payne appeared as Jerry Lee Lewis in Johnny Cash movie Walk The Line and lead role in Crazy - the tribute to the legendary guitarist Hank Garland.

His other acting roles included Kings Highway and Road To Nowhere and episodes of CSI crime series.

“Waylon is truly an amazing actor, too, and so, so handsome,” Ashley revealed to Country Music Capital News and Nu Country TV.

“I have an acoustic video of us singing Wild Love so that will have to be our music video for now.”

Payne also appeared in video clips by late singer-songwriter late country comedienne, producer and singer-songwriter Kacey Jones who hosted Nu Country TV in 2006.

He starred in Jones video Lie To Me Darlin' and was knocked out by Kris Kristofferson in her video for the title track of her Mickey Newbury tribute disc San Francisco Mabel Joy .

I first interviewed Kacey in 1983 in Nashville when she fronted Ethel & The Shameless Hussies

That was 25 years before the Californian born singer headlined a Nu Country TV concert at the Noise Bar at the Railway Hotel, Brunswick, on February 1, 2008, with Oklahoma country roots star Becky Hobbs and the Bona Fide Travellers .

Although Monroe and Payne referenced Barcelona in their lyrics she has not been there.

“I wanted it to be a European city,” Monroe explained.

“That was where the melody and words first came through when I was in London , but I loved how Barcelona sang. I've only technically seen that city in the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona but that was a sexy movie.”

Monroe joined many peers under the production tutelage of Dave Cobb at the historic RCA Studio A in Nashville .

"I knew I wanted to work with Dave," Monroe revealed.

"All of his records are consistently awesome and classic, timeless, old and new all in one.

“Country music is a wide genre, and that's okay. I don't even know what genre this record is, but I know it's me."

And it was canine love of Payne's pooch Petey and photographer Becky Fluke's dog Hobo that prompted their cameos in her video for Paying Attention - one of four songs she wrote with Waylon.

“The dogs were also there in studio a lot while we were making the record,” Ashley added.

“Dogs inspire me clearly.”

So do prolific co-writers.

“Ironically, we were working on another song we haven't released yet,” Monroe, 31, and mother of son Dalton explained.

So there are a quite a few Monroe-Payne compositions waiting in the wings?

“We have probably over 50 by now,” confessed Monroe about Payne who wrote two songs on her Pistol Annies pal Miranda Lambert's seventh album The Weight of These Wings .

“We're just getting started too!”


“How long do you try before you let it die?/ what do you need to know before you know?/ trying to read your mind is like driving when you're blind/ if only all this trying made it so.” - I'm Trying To - Ashley Monroe-Jon Randall.

That may seem a lot but Monroe also has a treasure trove of songs she wrote with another Texan Jon Randall who collaborated with Miranda Lambert on recent hit Tin Man.

“Jon Randall and I have been writing since I was 16,” Ashley recalled of her collaborator on the album's first single - the sensual Hands On You - and I'm Trying To.

“I know we have over 100, maybe more. I love him so.”

Randall, born Jon Randall Stewart in Dallas , dropped the Stewart in his stage name to avoid confusion with late Kingston Trio singer and hit writer John Stewart.

Jon, 49, won a Grammy in 1992 with Emmylou Harris & The Nash Ramblers for Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for their album Live at the Ryman .

The guitarist-mandolinist-singer-songwriter later debuted on RCA in 1995 with his album What You Don't Know .

His second RCA album Great Day to Be Alive was recorded in 1996 but never released.

That same year Randall scored a Top 40 hit as duet partner and fourth of six husbands of Nashville born Lorrie Morgan, now 59, on her song By My Side .

His third album Cold Coffee Morning on Asylum Records in 1998 became theme song for David Heard's morning show on Nu Country FM at Beer Can Hill in Northcote.

Randall later released Willin' in 1999 on indie label Eminent and in 2005 Walking Among the Living on Epic Records.

The singer also co-wrote Whiskey Lullaby - a Top 5 duet hit for Brad Paisley with Alison Krauss on his 2003 album Mud on the Tyres .

That brings us back to Monroe whose album entrée Orphan resonated with Krauss.

So how did the bluegrass icon learn of Orphan ?

“A friend of ours sent her the link,” Ashley confessed.

“I'll never get over her calling to tell me. I hold her up so high.”

Another song She Wakes Me Up - penned with Payne and Mississippi man Paul Moak - had gender and species changes after its initial inception.

“It started about my dog, Betty then we wrote the chorus to my future unborn daughter,” Monroe explained.

“Then I got pregnant with my son, but I wanted to keep the pronoun “she”. Complicated, but one of my favourites.”


“Daddy I told you I was gonna fly/ I'd get out of that town alive/ don't worry, I kept your name and your picture in a frame/ just like you, I got a lot in my heart/ it won't let me fall apart/ I'll always be your little girl/ I love you more than this whole world/ and daddy I told you/ remember how you made me sing them hymns on the back porch? / Daddy, don't you know I'm carrying your spirit like a torch? - Daddy I Told You - Ashley Monroe-Angaleena Presley.

Paternal inspiration, reaching back to her late father Larry who died of cancer in Knoxville when Ashley was only 13, inspired her collaboration with fellow Pistol Annie Angaleena Presley on Daddy I Told You.

“For sure, it was around my birthday and my dad always sends a nice song gift, so when this one started coming in. I called Angaleena Presley and Josh O'Keefe and said y'all better hurry and get here,” Ashley recalled.

Keys To The Kingdom - penned with Payne - was also a paternal paean.

Monroe sings: “I heard Elvis singing about Jesus/ I saw daddy, Norma Jean too/ oh what a view everyone I've ever loved and then some/ and I handed keys to the kingdom/ I was given a haunted guitar/ and it made me sing/ every song it ever wrote and then some.”

The surrealism reigns supreme.

“I was definitely inspired by how magical a song can be, it's like through music, you can kinda get to heaven, even just for a short time,” Monroe confessed.

“I definitely feel him when I sing that one.”

Monroe wrote new songs after a recent trip with son Dalton to her grandparents' home in Knoxville ?

“I have a lot of new songs I'm ready to record,” Ashley confided.

“I'm very inspired right now.”

Although Ashley and former baseball star pitcher husband John Danks are busy raising Dalton she had time to record and perform with the Pistol Annies.

There was a recent concert trio concert in Cleveland , Ohio , and her hometown Knoxville on Miranda's tour.

“I always love singing in my home town and Miranda always loves bringing me out there too,” Monroe said of her marital matron of honour to Danks on October 24, 2013, at Blackberry Farm in Walland , Tennessee .

“We always feel the love!”

And that elusive third Pistol Annies album?

“We are about to start recording,” Ashley revealed.

“I'm more excited than ever. Not sure about the release date yet.”

But another new song This Heaven was penned with Anderson East - recent partner of Miranda after she divorced Blake Shelton who also officiated at Monroe 's wedding.

“It actually came to me in line at Walgreens pharmacy, thinking about all the temporary heavens we hold,” Monroe confided of This Heaven .

“Then I got my medicine down the hatch, and went and wrote it with Anderson and Aaron Raitiere.”

Monroe also featured on a duet hit with Shelton on Lonely Tonight and boomeranged with the Pistol Annies on Rhett Akins-Dallas Davidson-Craig Wiseman penned hit Boys Round Here from Blake's seventh album Based On A True Story.

Ashley also wrote the evocative Rita about an old friend with Moak and prolific Kansas song-smith Nicolle Galyon whose #1 hits include Lambert's Automatic and Lambert-expat Australasian superstar Keith Urban duet We Were Us .

Monroe penned her liberation anthem Mother's Daughter with Texan Ryan Beavers and Brendan Benson who has released six solo albums and is a member of The Raconteurs.

She also wrote powerful romance regret requiem Hard On A Heart with another Texan Blu Sanders and Moak.

So what about a Monroe solo tour or Pistol Annies reunion in Australia ?

“We've already been chatting about how to make it happen,” Ashley explained.

“I might have to wait till Dalton gets a bit older so he can understand, “shhh, sit down!” On the long plane ride over, but I do see it happening one day.”

But Ashley has a baby sitter if she chooses to leave Dalton at home to tour here.

“John is now retired as a baseball player, and is now the best dad ever,” Ashley proudly declares as she seeks wide exposure here for Sparrow that will hopefully fly on radio and TV.

"I felt powerful," said Monroe who co-wrote all 12 songs on the album.

"I wasn't puffing, I wasn't drinking wine, I was just singing."

top / back to diary