We spent Labor Day at the lovely Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa in Chesapeake Beach, Md. The venue is top notch. They offer everything from an eloquent stage surrounded by white sand and the water as a peaceful backdrop. The food options were superb and they offer very reasonable beverage prices. There were multiple bars on each side of the venue as well as a food court area. We even had a chance to visit and try our luck in the amazing casino located above the Rod and Reel Restaurant. I truly recommend seeing a show at this venue or enjoying a fun weekend trip to enjoy the resort. The staff were extremely helpful and the seating options are like none other.
The show started off with John Luskey, the most well-known country voice in the Calvert County area. He opened with a barrage of great jokes to make the fans feel a part of his act. The first song he played was entitled “Online Dating”. This was a playful song making fun of the world of technology and social meeting dating and contained texting abbreviations as well as a hashtag or two. As he had the audience engaged and laughing, proceeded right into his terrific ballad “Southern Wind”. He explained that this song would be on his upcoming album. You should definitely purchase a copy. As John introduced his next song “She’s In Love With My Best Friend”, you were prepared for a tug at the heart strings. A few lines into the song and you realized the “Best Friend” was his dog. This song is very well written with humor and great lyrics. At this point John introduced Ryan Webster, a Belmont University attendee who joined him on the stage. Ryan introduced himself explaining that he lived in Nashville for 5 years while attending school and writing music. He has since moved home to Calvert County and is currently working on an album. He played two songs that he had written “Young Faces” and my favorite “Whiskey At The Bottom”. It was at this moment that Ashley Gaines was introduced. John Luskey, who has taken her under his wing, as the Calvert County native stated she is a beautiful young singer and put her at the center mic. She was received with a tremendous reception from her family, friends and fans that came to share this monumental moment! Let’s face it y’all she is opening up for the Eli Young Band!! Ashley introduced herself and noted that at the age of 21 she released her first EP “These Moments”. She explained the name of the album and title track was derived from realizing that life is too short and you have to live in the moment! As she finished the song with a tremendous ovation she went right into “Best Friend Forever” that was a very touching ballad. The last song she performed was “Get Away Baby”. This song was up-beat with a feel of Kelsea Ballarini mixed in with it. It was phenomenal and the applause she received after her last song showed it.
Next on the schedule was JD & the Straight Shot. Some of you may know the lead singer, James Dolan, as the Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden. Apparently, James Dolan has a passion for music, and formed a 5-member band as he served as the front man. This band gave me the challenge of placing them in a category, but they gave me a bluegrass vibe. Along with being a musician, James should add storytelling to his list of talents. Every song had a story behind it and he took the time to explain each one prior to performing them. Honestly my attention was on the fiddle and the back-up vocalist, Erin Slaver. She has raw beautiful talent and I hope to hear her perform a solo in the near future! (Erin is engaged to Nashville Star, Chris Carmack who was there enjoying the show with his baby girl in tow).
It was now time for the Eli Young Band from Denton, Texas to play. They performed hit after hit, three of which rose to number one songs and did not disappoint. The moment they took the stage everyone was on their feet. They started with music from their most recent album “Fingerprints” and everyone seemed to sing right along. I managed to move up to the side stage and the bassist for the band, John Jones looked down and saw the shirt I had on and yelled “Adair’s Saloon huh”. I laughed and said yeah? A little back story…… Adair’s Saloon is one of the oldest country bars in the Dallas, Tx area where some of the icons like Willie Nelson have played and is an amazing bar. He then said “I threw up in that bathroom many a night!. We both laughed as he got back to dropping the bass line. They played “Saltwater Gospel” that seemed to be so fitting for the venue which they were playing with water surrounding the stage. It was at this time that all the number ones exploded out of Mike Eli’s mouth. “Always the Love Songs”, “Crazy Girl”, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart to my all-time favorite “Guinevere”. The show was amazing and they truly impressed every fan that showed up.
In between sets, I was able to sit with Ashley Gaines and ask her some questions about her background and goals in her musical career. I hope you enjoy:
B Chord – Ashley, you have focused on dance for a long time that led you to college. In college, you post a video of yourself singing and it got great feedback. Describe how singing became a focus for you?
Ashley Gaines – I have been dancing since I was three years old. Sherry’s Dance Center here in Calvert County and we are like a big a family. Growing up I would always run around the house and sang and danced. My family would always say Ashley you have a great voice why don’t you try singing. I would always so no, no I don’t and then I would get shy and wouldn’t want to sing anymore. So really only my friends and family ever knew I could sing. So, then I get to college and one of my close friends that I met right off the bat who is a music major and has some music on iTunes as well. So we are in the dorm room one day and we were both singing to a song and she said “Ashley you have a really nice voice!!” I said aww thank you. She then said, “You should do a video and put it on my YouTube channel”. So that is what we did! I put it on Facebook and it got really good feedback. So, a really good family friend at our church pulled me in to the praise band. It has been no looking back from that point. My first time singing in public was a Christmas Eve Service in front of the entire church and that was three years ago. At this point I got in touch with my dance teacher who knew my voice coach Kay Lynn Scott. She lives in Texas and I do Skype voice lessons with her. She owns a talent studio named Performance Talent. I never had a lesson until about a year and half ago.
B Chord – You grew up in Calvert County which is a tight knit county. Where did you go to college?
Ashley Gaines – Yup I love Calvert County and I am currently going to High Point University in North Carolina. I am in my final year this year.
B Chord – You then released “These Moments” your first EP. Where did you record it? Did you write all the songs on the album? Give us all the details.
Ashley Gaines – I recorded the album in Nashville at a little studio called Yellow Hammer Studios. I worked with Carson Creative and they are the ones that I have worked with on my aspiring music career. The couple who own the company are Misty and Jason and both have been huge mentors to me.
B Chord – What are your plans for your musical career now?
Ashley Gaines – I am taking a year and working on my next project. I am writing and writing and working and I am going to keep going down to Nashville. I have worked with a couple different people down there. One is Jane Bach who wrote for Reba McEntire for years and I have been doing some song writing with her that is just incredible. Also, I have worked with Linda Davis as well who is on tour with Kenny Rogers right now. I have been so blessed with some of the best mentors on this journey so far. I just try to keep connecting while I am down there and playing as well. I have played at the Commodore and Douglas Corner. I had a conversation with Jane and she said we really need to get you in and play the Bluebird Café. I would just love that! All this while I am finishing my last year of school. I do have to admit I have Senioritis!! After college, I have been considering some possible areas to possibly move in Nashville as well.
B Chord – If you could do a duet with anyone who would it be and why?
Ashley Gaines – Kelsea Ballerini hands down. Whenever I write she is my person I channel. I sing a lot of her covers when I play out like “Dibs” and “Peter Pan” I love her music. She is my favorite.
B Chord – Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Ashley Gaines – Starting at an early age for me it would have to be Taylor Swift. Taylor’s vibe and confidence in the stories that she would tell were just amazing. She was one of the first concerts that I ever went to. I loved how she put on a show and I didn’t feel like I was just at a concert she was telling a story the entire time. I really liked that because that is what I am dong with dance too. You want to tell a story and make people feel what you are performing. I do love Kelsea Ballerini and Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town. Those would be my biggest influences and I sing a lot of their stuff.
B Chord – You just opened up for the Eli Young Band!! How does that make you feel?
Ashley Gaines – Yes!! I feel so great I can’t truly believe that just happened. Everybody kept asking me before are you excited? And I said it hasn’t hit me yet. I don’t think it will hit me till I go to bed tonight and look back and go oh wow. I got up on that stage and I just pretended that I was singing to my family. I block it all out. I try not to think about it too much because I don’t want it to get inside of my head and stay focused. I take a deep breath and if I let it get in my head it will freak me out so I try to not think about it all until after the show.
B Chord – Where do you see your career in 3 years?
Ashley Gaines – I would love to be living in Nashville or commuting to Nashville very frequently. I want to work with all my people down in Nashville and work on my song writing. My goal is each year to try and come out with a new project. I would love a new album or EP type thing each year. Each time I just want to step it up and step it up and step it up. I would love to be opening up for people but I know whatever God’s plan is for me will guide me. If it is supposed to happen it will happen. This is all new for me and when I started college I would have never dreamed of this happening to me. I am just taking each day one at a time and I am so excited with where it is going. I would love to be another Kelsea Ballerini one day.
B Chord – Do you have any other really cool dates booked?
Ashley Gaines – It is so hard right now while I am in college as well. I am working around winter time for some venues for winter break. I have a bunch of venues that we are talking to so keep on the lookout for that.
B Chord – I have to tell you “Best Friend Forever” is my favorite song of yours on the EP. Can you tell me your process in writing it and also where did the story come from?
Ashley Gaines – That is actually the first song I ever wrote. I wrote it March a year ago. That one again came from my personal experiences. It was about three years ago when I went off to college and me and this boy were talking and I didn’t want to fall for him. Well, I did and here we are three years later still together. He was my first love and my best friend. It is straight to the point. He is in the military and is stationed at Travis Airforce Base in California. I will be seeing him on my fall break in October and I can’t wait.
B Chord – Who is the guitarist on your album? I walked in as you were doing a sound check and spoke to your family. One of the first questions I asked them was who played guitar on the album because it was flawless. You can just listen and be sucked in to the sound and the immense talent.
Ashley Gaines – Jeff Dayton is the guitarist on the album. He was Glen Campbell’s guitarist for 15 years. He was amazing and then he also working with Jason Carson as well. They both did a great job.
B Chord – So here at B Chord we ask everyone the same question. You are stranded on an island and you can have one guitar with you. What would it be?
Ashley Gaines – My brother Branden Gaines plays for me for the past 8 years and he is phenomenal. I am actually learning more on the guitar now and would have to say it would be a Taylor. I think they have an amazing sound. I really love them.
Ashley is an incredible up and coming talent that has all the pieces to become a start. She has a God, Family, Friends and Fans leading her charge. Please go see her the next time you are in the area.