Ashley Cooke is a talented, young country singer/songwriter who has been emerging in the past year. Originally from Florida and now based in Nashville, she has signed with Big Loud Records and she’s already collaborating with top artists such as Brett Young and Jimmie Allen. And notably, she has a TikTok channel that has 1.2 million followers and continues to grow.
Cooke has a very expressive, distinctive singing voice, and her songs are thoughtful and heartfelt. Her recent single, “It’s Been A Year,” provides a good introduction to her music. It’s an excellent song that has an appealing melody, a warm spirit, and a lyric story that captures the feelings she’s experienced during the past year.
So far, Cooke’s best known song is “Never Til Now” (which she wrote with Matt Roy). She first released this song independently, and it became known among fans and the country music community. Later on, when she decided to record a duet version and reached out to country star Brett Young, he had already heard and liked the song and her voice. He agreed to sing this duet, and their joint recording has become the most popular version.
Last year, Cooke released her debut EP called Already Drank That Beer, that contained eight new songs. The EP includes her solo & duet versions of “Never Til Now,” plus other strong songs such as the title cut, “Gettin’ Somewhere” and “Sunday Morning Kinda Saturday Night.” The EP also includes “Good Goodbye,” a song that features Jimmie Allen.
Cooke grew up mainly in Parkland, Florida, although she’s also lived in Los Angeles and other cities. She’s always loved music, and began singing and writing songs when she was 11. After she graduated from high school in Parkland, she moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University, where she majored in marketing & communications. Interestingly, it wasn’t until her senior year that she focused on music. She entered Belmont’s Country Showcase and won, which gave her the confidence to pursue her music career full-time.
Here’s the video of Ashley Cooke’s single “Never Til Now”
(feat. Brett Young).
Since then, Cooke has steadily released music and built a large fanbase on TikTok, and she’s also attracted followings on YouTube and Instagram. In addition, she’s opened shows for Brett Young and Jordan Davis.
Currently, Cooke is completing her debut album, which she plans to release this summer. She will also be performing a couple shows in Europe, and then she’ll be touring in North America with Brett Young and Luke Bryan.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Ashley Cooke. She tells how she got started in the music business, and how she wrote her songs “Never Til Now,” “It’s Been A Year” and “Dirt On ‘Em.”
DK: I read that you’re from Parkland, Florida. How did you get started with singing and writing songs?
Ashley Cooke: I actually lived in Los Angeles and other places when I was younger, and then I lived in Parkland throughout my high school experience. I started singing and writing songs when I was about 11 years old. My dad’s job moved us all around the country, but music always stayed the constant in my life, and what I was passionate about. After my high school years, I went to Belmont University (in Nashville) for college, and I ended up staying here in Music City and kept pursuing music as soon as I graduated.
DK: Was it at Belmont University that you developed your singing and songwriting?
Cooke: I always knew of Belmont and loved the school, and I loved Nashville and wanted to be here and wind up here. But I didn’t go to Belmont for music; I studied marketing & communications. Then in my senior year of college, I knew about Belmont’s Country Showcase, where people in the past like Florida Georgia Line and Brad Paisley had won when they were at Belmont. So I was like…I’m going to apply to this showcase and see what happens. And I got in and I won. I think I was the only non-music major who entered and won the competition, so it sparked my journey in music. Winning the showcase was monumental thing for me.
DK: During the past few years, you’ve built a huge TikTok following, with over a million people. How did you become so popular on TikTok?
Here’s the video of Ashley Cooke’s song, “It’s Been A Year.”
Cooke: It’s so funny, talking to different people about what videos pop off on TikTok, and which ones don’t. Honestly, I was just posting videos of myself singing, whether it was my favorite cover songs, or songs that I had written that day, or going live and making funny videos with my family. I post different content across the board. But of course, the common denominator is always music and different songs that I was posting. But it’s crazy—I never expected people to care as much as they do about my music, and what I do on social media. So I’m fortunate and blessed.
DK: Were you already big on TikTok when you signed your label deal with Big Loud Records?
Cooke: Yeah, I think TikTok was what took my career to the next level. I had a pretty solid foundation on TikTok when I signed Big Loud. I’d already recorded “Never Til Now” with Brett Young before signing with Big Loud, and I got help with social media and radio stations pushing the song.
When I met with Big Loud and discusssed signing with them, the main thing they said was, “Hey, you’ve built a fire. You’ve already gotten the wood and lit the flame and it’s burning. We just want to pour some gasoline on what you’ve already done, and we have the resources to do that. So let’s do it and partner together.” So it’s awesome to get to partner with somebody that wants to step in and help where you already have gone, and not restart the thing from square one.
DK: I like your song, “Never Til Now.” How did you write that song, and at what point did you connect with Brett Young on it?
Cooke: Thank you so much for liking it. That song is really special. I was coming out of a breakup situation, and I was sitting in my living room in my apartment with my good friend, Matt Roy, who’s an amazing songwriter. Our publishers set us up on a writing session, so we sat in my living room and we talked about how I was going through a breakup, and how he was happily with this girl who was a friend of mine. And I was like, ”Man, I would love to find that kind of love, that isn’t cheesy and fairy tale, but feels real. I want to write about the love that I want someday.” And that song was born.
Here’s the video of Ashley Cooke’s song, “Dirt On ‘Em.”
I recorded “Never Til Now” and put it out by myself without a feature first, and people on TikTok and social media really loved that song. I would see videos that people created for their wedding, or their first dance, with that song in the background. And I thought…it would be so cool to give them another person’s perspective, to give another voice to the song and tell both sides of the relationship story. So my producer, Jimmy Robbins, and I were talking about who would be a great fit for the song, and whose voice would sound great on it. And Jimmy was like, “Brett Young would sound amazing on this song.” So he called him up and said, “Hey, I have this new artist, Ashley Cooke, and she has this song ‘Never Til Now.’ Do you want to be on it as a duet feature?” And Brett was like, “Oh my gosh Dude, I’ve heard this song on the highway…I love this song. I’d love to do it.” And now we have a great friendship and I’ll be going on tour with Brett again. So it all worked out great (laughs).
DK: On your EP, Already Drank That Beer, you sing a nice duet with Jimmie Allen on your song, “Good Goodbye.” Can you talk about this song and working with Jimmie?
Cooke: Yeah, Jimmie’s great. I think it was a similar situation to the Brett song. I had this song that I’d written with my friend Blake Pendergrass, who has written songs for Morgen Wallen, and he’s a phenomenal songwriter. And I thought the song would be so cool as a duet. So again, my producer and I were talking about who’d be a great feature on it, and we came up with Jimmie and contacted him. And Jimmie was like, “I love this, let’s do it.” So now me and Jimmie are great friends, and that song was always meant to be a duet with Jimmie. It ended up being really special.
DK: One of my favorite songs of yours is “It’s Been A Year.” Can you talk about writing this song, and what the past year has been like for you?
Cooke: Thank you for liking this song; it’s really special to me. It’s funny, because a lot of people have been using that song to kind of recap things—whether it’s the new year or whether their child is turning one, or whatever it may be—and it’s cool to see that. But for me, it’s special because of the story behind that song. I was on the way to a writing session here in Nashville, to write with Brett Tyler and Will Weatherly. I was on the way in my car, with the windows down, and my mom called me. She said, “Hey, I hate to break this to you, but your grandma has breast cancer again.” I was like, “Man, that heavy, it’s so tough,” and I was thinking about it.
Here’s a video of Ashley Cooke’s song, “Back In The Saddle.”
In the moment, it had been exactly a year since I last saw my grandma in Sarasota where they live. It’s been so crazy, the fact that it’s been exactly 365 days since I saw her last, when my mom told me this news. So I table it in my brain and move on from it. Then I walked into the writing room that day and Brett Tyler says, “Hey, I have this idea for song and it’s called “It’s Been A Year.” So that was like, “Dude, this is too coincidental to not write this song. We have to write this song.” So we wrote that song, with the first line being “It’s been a year since I’ve been back to Sarasota and my grandparents are gettin’ older.” So we used that inspiration to talk about how crazy the last year of my life had been. And the craziest thing about the whole story, is that the day we released “It’s Been a Year,” my mom called me and said, “This is so crazy, but today your grandma has been declared in remission for breast cancer.” So this was a full circle moment. The song is really special to me, and I’m thankful that people relate to it and want to use that song to recap what they’ve been through.
DK: I also like your new song, “Dirt On ‘Em.” Can you talk about that song?
Cooke: I frickin’ love that song. I was dating a guy that my family and my friends were like, “I don’t know if this is the right guy for you. He’s got a little bad reputation.” And I would always say, “I like a guy with some dirt on ‘em,” metaphorically and actually someone who does some work. So I wrote that song and put it out. It didn’t work out with that guy…he ended up not being the right one (laughs). But the song is special to me.
DK: I read that you’re now working on a full album. Can you tell me about your upcoming album?
Cooke: I’m so excited. This will be my first, full-blown debut album. A lot of songs are on it…it’s basically a double album. Ir’s exciting to get to have a whole body of work with my name on it and with all the stories in it. We’re shooting to release it this summer and it should be a lot of fun. It’s almost done at this point, so I have a lot of time to plan and figure out cool ways to promote it. We have a lot to look forward to.