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Ashley Cooke Opens Up About Making One of the Longest Debut Album by a Female Country Artist (Exclusive)

“I don’t know if I’m gonna change as an artist, but this feels like me,” the budding songstress shared with Celeb Secrets, referencing her 24-track debut project that drops tomorrow (July 21st).

Photo Credit: Robby Klein

With a whopping 24 tracks, Ashley Cooke is ready to bring her fans TONS of new tunes with the release of her highly-anticipated debut album, shot in the dark, tomorrow (July 21st).

“Unfolding as if it was ripped from pages of her journal, Cooke shares her sun-kissed blend of two-lane pop country as she opens her heart to tell the true tales of love, heartbreak and all the moments in between,” a recent press release revealed. “Fully capturing the spirit of a twenty-something that is unafraid to chase her dreams, create her own path and take risks, paired with raw relatability and deeply addictive hooks, Cooke’s introductory record invites listeners to join her while she fearlessly jumps into the whirlwind of life’s roller coaster.”

Featuring smash hits like “running back,” “it’s been a year,” “getting into” and “back in the saddle,” as well as FIRE collaborations with Colbie Caillat, Nate Smith, Jackson Dean and Brett Young, we know that this one-of-a-kind project will be topping the charts in no time.

Ashley Cooke sat down with Celeb Secrets reporter Melanie Rooten to discuss everything surrounding her highly-anticipated debut album, which doubles as one of the longest debut albums by a female country artist to date, ultimately sharing with us some behind-the-scenes secrets…

Courtesy of OH Creative PR

When asked about the upcoming release of shot in the dark, the talented singer-songwriter exclaimed, “I’m so excited! It’s 24 songs, which is really crazy. It’s basically a double album for a new artist, so it’s really, really exciting for a debut album.”

According to Cooke, making the project 24 tracks long “was completely not planned,” ultimately shocking her fans, her record label and even herself.

“I came back to Big Loud, my label in Nashville, and we had a meeting about, you know, what this debut album was to look like,” she revealed to us. “I was like, ‘You guys, I’m having a really hard time narrowing down.’ I think originally we had like 30 songs that we loved and we cut, and I was like, ‘I just have a hard time narrowing down and getting rid of some of these songs that I’m just so obsessed with and I love the meaning for, and I feel like they’re very much me in this moment, in this era. I don’t know if I’m gonna change as an artist, I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but this feels like me.'”

“We whittled down from 30 and kept whittling down, and 24, the number that we’re at right now [and] the songs that are on this project, none of these songs I felt comfortable taking off the project, so it just really felt, you know, it felt like it needed to happen, and the length was completely unplanned,” the rising country star concluded with a giggle.

Out of all 24 songs on the project, Ashley revealed that “[she has] so many different favorites for different reasons,” proceeding to share a few of the ones that are extra special to her.

“‘next to you,’ which is track number 12, it’s the only song that I wrote by myself on this project, and I never intended for it to go anywhere, and I put it in the track 12 spot because 12 is my lucky number. It’s my birthday, it’s my dad’s high school sports number and it’s also directly in the middle of the project, so that one just has like some really cool like meaning to me,” she dished.

In addition to this, “‘build a bridge’ is so different and cool. I haven’t really teased that at all on social media, so that’s gonna be a very big surprise, like come release day… ‘say no more’ is like a sneaky bop on there, which I’m really excited about, [and] ‘see you around’ featuring Nate Smith. All of the features are so fun. There’s so many, it’s hard to pick.”

When it comes to the four collaborations featured on shot in the dark, Ashley explained the reason why she decided to work with these artists specifically.

“I’ve been such a massive fan of all of these artists for so long,” she spilled. “Colbie Caillat was somebody that I looked up to my entire life, and I was always told that I kind of remind people of her like a little sister in so many ways, and so I was honored to get to write that song with her and also get to record it with her and collaborate with her. Jackson Dean and Nate Smith, their voices are just out of this world. I mean, it’s insane. They’re so different in the best way, and they’re both just the best human beings.”

“I think that, you know, my fanbase [and] people that listen to this music will obsess over them too, just as much as I have, so I’m really excited,” the musical maestro concluded with a beaming smile.

Courtesy of OH Creative PR

With the individual songs aside, Ashley Cooke shared the true meaning of the project itself, as well as why it is so special to her.

“It’s called shot in the dark, you know, a big part of why I chose that title is because I feel like so much of my life and my career has been such a shot in the dark. I decided to focus on music full-time in 2019, and I was planning on doing the typical kind of Nashville route… The way that it happened for me was so different. It was such a shot in the dark with social media and all of that,” she revealed to Celeb Secrets.

Because of this, “A lot of the songs on this project [or] the whole project just feel like real experiences that I’ve experienced the last couple years. I just turned 26, and I feel like it’s just the time of my life that I’m in to be thinking about different experiences with life and love and career and family and just all of the things under the sun, so it feels like there’s kind of something for everybody on it, and it feels very true to kind of what I’ve experienced the last few years.”

Given that shot in the dark is very authentic and true to who Ashley is as an artist, her overall goal is for listeners to “just get to know [her] more throughout the project.”

“I’m still very much a new artist and this is my debut album…  I think this is the first time that I hope people can just hit play and just hear me through and through, through my lyrics, through my stories, through, you know, the fun times, the bad times, the I don’t know what I’m feeling kinds of times, and I think this entire project is just me through and through, and I hope that people can find themselves in it too,” the star-in-the-making concluded passionately.

Based on the tunes she has teased on social media leading up to the release of her highly-anticipated debut album, we can already tell that the project will have this exact affect on all listeners.

Courtesy of OH Creative

While the upcoming release of shot in the dark is sure to be absolutely spectacular, it is not the only thing that the 26-year-old has on her jam-packed schedule.

With dozens of tour dates coming up in the near future, it is clear that Ashley Cooke will be a VERY busy girl until further notice, with Luke Bryan‘s Country On Tour currently underway, as well as her very own headlining tour beginning next month with Matt Schuster and Vincent Mason.

“We start Luke Bryan tour this week, tomorrow actually, which is gonna be a lot of fun, and then I’m on Luke Bryan tour for a minute, and then I start my very first headline tour, which we’re hitting a lot of different cities. We’re playing in Nashville at The Basement East, which is gonna be a lot of fun… They’ve already said that the tickets have been selling like crazy,” Ashley shared.

In an Instagram post back in January, the emerging artist expressed her gratitude for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour with Luke Bryan.

To accompany a graphic featuring 16 different tour dates, she wrote, “I’M GOING ON TOUR WITH @lukebryan!!!!!!! If you told 15 year old Ash who’s life changed after screaming “crash my party” on a concert lawn that she would be opening for @lukebryan on tour 10 years later… she might’ve sh*t her pants. truly honored and can’t wait to get out there. tickets on sale friday 🎫 #CountryOnTour


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A post shared by ASHLEY COOKE (@theashleycooke)

Then, the star-in-the-making dished ALL about it to Celeb Secrets: “I looked up to Luke Bryan so much as a kid, [and] I still do. He was one of the first concerts that I went to at my hometown amphitheater that I like fell in love with country music at, and I just remember watching him onstage and just being like, ‘I want to do whatever he’s doing. He’s entertaining. He knows how to have them in the palm of his hand. He gets it,’ and so getting to go out with him and also, you know, Cole Swindell and Brett Young [and] the people that I’ve opened up for the past couple years, you just learn so much.”

“That’s the beauty, not only of getting to just play for these crowds and they’re allowing their fanbase to see you and to experience your music, but you get to learn from these people that have done this for so long and have built these massive, amazing careers… The most amazing gift that any artist could ever give a younger artist, is to let them in on their worlds and what they do in their, you know, their daily lives and their tours,” and we seriously couldn’t agree more.

When asked if there’s a certain song she is especially excited to perform on the road, either with Luke Bryan OR on her very own headlining tour, two different ones came to mind: “moving on with grace” and “your place.”

“There’s a song called ‘moving on with grace’ that I love, and it’s such a fun song. It’s kinda almost like an OG Miranda [Lambert] kind of vibe, but like with my taste and my flair on it, and then there’s a song called ‘your place’ that I just put out and it’s insane,” Ashley revealed to us.

“I put it out 24 hours before I played this festival and everybody in the crowd knew every single word to it the day after. People really love that song, and it’s amazing that people love that song, so I’m pumped to play that one live too [and] to get to experience that in a real room with people that, you know, have heard this song online and want to sing it with me,” she gushed.

Until we can catch an Ashley Cooke performance and hear “moving on with grace,” “your place” and the rest of shot in the dark live, be sure to watch our full interview with the budding songstress below.

Afterwards, be sure to presave shot in the dark HERE, as well as follow Ashley Cooke on all of her social media platforms so you do not miss a single update: Instagram @theashleycooke, Twitter @theashleycooke, TikTok @theashleycooke and YouTube @ashleycooke.

Then, leave a comment at the bottom of this post and/or send us a tweet at @celebsecrets to let us know how excited you are for her debut album — We want to hear your opinions!

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  • Melanie Rooten

    Melanie has been working at Celeb Secrets since May of 2022. Originally from Southern California and currently residing in Nashville, Tennessee, she graduated from Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma in 2023 with a BA in Journalism. During her free time, she loves going to concerts and music festivals, binging her favorite TV shows, spending time with her friends and family and cheering on the Oklahoma Sooners (of course).

Written by Melanie Rooten

Melanie has been working at Celeb Secrets since May of 2022. Originally from Southern California and currently residing in Nashville, Tennessee, she graduated from Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma in 2023 with a BA in Journalism. During her free time, she loves going to concerts and music festivals, binging her favorite TV shows, spending time with her friends and family and cheering on the Oklahoma Sooners (of course).

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