Ashley McBryde officially joined the Grand Ole Opry family on Saturday, December 10 when she was inducted by her close friend and Opry member Terri Clark. Surprise guest Eric Church also joined her on stage to perform “Bible and a .44” and even Wynonna Judd popped up backstage, showing support for her friend.
Before the show, McBryde spoke to Country Now and other media about her day leading up to the induction, how she’s been processing her emotions since Garth Brooks extended the offer to her to become an Opry member, and what it means to her to have people like Brooks, Clark, and Church showing up for her.
McBryde woke up at 7 am on the day of her Opry induction, after her cats and dog let her sleep in, and even squeezed in another hour of sleep before starting her day, saying she felt like she was already “winning.” On a typical show day, McBryde says she usually feels exhausted when they get to the venue. “Normally by the time we get to whatever the show is, we’re tired, we’re haggard, we’re malnourished for some reason,” but when she arrived at the Opry House around 1:30pm, she was feeling “really good.”
It wasn’t long before flowers and cards started arriving. “When I walked into the dressing room, there was one arrangement in particular with a purple dinosaur and some things sticking out of it,” recalled McBryde. “I went over to the card and of course it’s from The Trybe [her fan club]. Now where you find a purple dinosaur to put a floral arrangement in, I don’t know, but they are so resourceful,” she laughed. The purple dinosaur was a nod to “the big purple dinosaur sign” lyric that appears on her Lindeville album. McBryde also received a gift from legendary songwriter Don Schlitz. “That was a nice first-time experience too.”
While she was getting ready in her dressing room, McBryde maintained her tradition of popping into the hallway to greet fans who were touring the backstage area. “I tried to make it as normal as possible, in that I popped out of my dressing room during almost every tour that came by. So whether it was lashes, no foundation or half hair, I’m just sort of like, ‘Hi, I’m not in my dressing room because you’re touring my dressing room. I’m in the one next door and I can’t wait for you to see this happen tonight.’”
McBryde was formally invited to become the next member of the Grand Ole Opry by Garth Brooks, who surprised her during an appearance on CBS Mornings on October 6.
Since that day, McBryde has processed the emotions of this milestone achievement with the help of her therapist, asking her, “How do I do this without missing it and without laying on the floor and crying?” One of the things she did was call her band members before the day of the induction to express her excitement in advance, in hopes of not feeling all the emotions at one time. ”I would hate to look back years from now and be like, I wish I had paid better attention, instead of trying to just not feel the things,” McBryde shared. “You know me, I’d cry over a decent sandwich. I get so emotional sometimes.”
When it came to choosing the set list for her induction performance, she enlisted the help of her bandleader. “How do you take everything that you’ve ever played or ever loved and then decide what to play on induction night?” says McBryde. But, the first song was a no-brainer. She co-wrote “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” with the hopes of playing the Opry someday. And when she found out that Eric Church could join her, she knew they had to perform “Bible and a .44,” since the first time she performed it with Church was “the first time I had ever played in a stadium or used in-ear monitors or seen 19,000 people in the same room.”
She also added an unreleased song, “Made For This,” which she has been performing live. “It talks about how wonderful what we do is, but it has its downsides too,” says McBryde. “Most of the time you’re sleepy and most of the time the person that you love, you’re telling them that on the phone and that’s okay, but you’ve gotta be built for it.” McBryde closed out her set with “Sparrow,” which is one of her favorite songs she’s ever written. “It says the things that I want to say and it has a lot of three-part harmony,” which she loves.
Reflecting on the people who continue to show up for her, like Church, Garth Brooks, Terri Clark, and Wynonna Judd, she says, “It’s so super cliche to say that it’s humbling. But it is, and it’s just wild most of the time.” McBryde was brought to tears as she thought about the grand gestures from her friends and heroes. “You have to let ’em,” she says. Award-winning songwriter Shane McAnally once gave her advice about accepting support and compliments. “One time Shane said, ‘You do realize that when we slough off a compliment, we make it more about ourselves.’ And I was like, oh, that’s gross. I’m not gonna let that happen.”
McBryde soaked in the accolades as she took the stage for her official induction to the Opry. Terri Clark took the stage and reflected on her five-year friendship with the inductee. “I love you, Ash. The first time I saw you sing ‘Girl Goin’ Nowhere’ was on this stage. And right after you were finished and there was a standing ovation, you knelt down and you kissed that circle that you were standing in. And right then, I think we all knew you belong here.” Clark added, “You are a perfect fit to be here. The Opry is about family. It is a family. And my sister, you have earned your place at the table.”
Holding back tears, McBryde shared what the Opry means to her. “It looks like it’s made of brick and mortar, but it is pure, pure love. That is what you’re experiencing. Thank you. I know what this means. I know what my responsibilities are. I take them seriously. God bless.”
Eric Church returned to the stage and shared his praises for McBryde. “She’s one of the good ones. She’s a rare one of one.”
Thinking ahead to which Opry members she wants to emulate in the future, she looks to artists like Connie Smith, Jeannie Seely, and Tammy Wynette. “Miss Connie of course comes to mind because I’ve not really seen a finer example of class and how to carry oneself and how to be one of the most gifted vocalists on the planet and never tell somebody that you are, just show them with very little effort.” She also shared how Jeannie Seely is known for popping into dressing rooms to say hello and share a coffee or a Coke. “I feel like I will be the one that just pops into tours,” says McBryde.
Reflecting on the lifetime commitment of being an Opry member, she thinks about the women on the walls of the dressing rooms. “It is a lifetime commitment and I’m so here for it. I guess I’ve been hoping for it since I was singing ‘Peach Pickin Time in Georgia’ on a white out covered guitar. And I always look at the walls. When I look at the walls in the Women of Country room, I usually fixate on Tammy’s picture. And I don’t know if that’s because I want to be Tammy, but you just look at ‘em, you go, damn.”