Why Ashley Cooke Made One of the Longest Debut Country Albums Ever
Ashley Cooke established herself as one of country music's most impactful new crop in 2023.
From a viral TikTok (Her song "Never Til Now," which she subsequently re-recorded as a duet with Brett Young) to a deal with Big Loud Records, Cooke saw her star skyrocket over the course of the past year, ultimately landing her in a position to release her album — on her own terms.
When it came time to make Shot in the Dark, Cooke went to bat for a 24-song tracklist, and her label was game.
"It's the longest album ever put out by a new female country artist, which is crazy. But honestly, for me, it wasn't about breaking a record or whatever," Cooke told Taste of Country on the red carpet before Nashville's 2023 BMI Country Awards ceremony last November.
"Well, I wrote more songs than 24, but to me it was like, 'I don't wanna sacrifice any of these songs or save them for another album,'" she explains, pointing out that Big Loud also works with artists like Morgan Wallen — another artist known for some of the beefiest album track lists in the genre.
"They were like, 'Hey, if you feel comfortable and wanna do it, let's do it. We believe in all these songs.' And they trusted me with all of them," Cooke goes on to say. "It just kind of happened."
The result is an omnivorous, sprawling project with something for every kind of listener. Young is not Cooke's only duet partner on the album; Shot in the Dark also boasts cameos from Colbie Caillat, Nate Smith and Jackson Dean. But there's also plenty of room for Cooke to step out solo, with autobiographical, career-introducing songs like her current single, "Your Place."
The singer says that in some ways, her long debut album allowed her to make up ground.
"A lot of my career started on social media, and I had no music out," she relates. "So I had this massive following with no music out. I kinda wanted to reverse that, give them so much music to make up for lost time. In today's day and age, with streaming, people will listen to as much as they could possibly want to. So why not give them more?"
Cooke's 2023 was busy — in additional to putting together a massive album tracklist, she also toured with stars like Luke Bryan. Fortunately, the singer says she's "absolutely" a fan of writing on the road, and she's quickly putting together a follow-up to Shot in the Dark.
"Honestly, I've written enough to fill a whole second album, basically," she says. "We'll see what happens, when it happens, but yes, absolutely, [I'm in album-making mode.]"
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Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes