Kassi Ashton’s Relationship with California, Missouri: It’s Complicated
Kassi Ashton's new song "California, Missouri" is the one song she always knew she had to write, just like the town that inspired it was the one place she knew she had to leave.
The country newcomer released the song to digital services on Friday (Jan. 19), and while it's not her official first radio single, it's the song that best introduces who she is. Ashton was raised in California, Mo. — yes, that is a real place, a map dot south of I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis. The song, she says, is the antithesis of country hometown songs.
"Most of them heavily romanticize hometowns, and I think that’s really beautiful," the Belmont University grad tells media during a roundtable conversation. "But mine is a little different. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. I love it, but love to leave it."
At some point you either knew this girl or you were this girl. "If you wear cowboy boots ... I own four pair, but I’m not wearing them to school because you wear those and you’re mean to me," she says, thinking back on her high school years, which were filled with so much antagonism that counselors would she suggest her parents homeschool her.
"I would wear combat boots and a pencil skirt and a Lady Gaga T-shirt from Hot Topic just to like make people mad," she adds.
Musically Ashton is as much of an enigma as she appears to be. Classic country dominated her musical diet until she learned of Adele and Amy Winehouse (both of whom she's drawn comparisons to), and then John Mayer and Beyonce. Her parents were split up, and depending on who she was with she would lean into different extracurriculars.
At Dad's it was guns and dirt bikes. "Deer season is bigger than Christmas in my family," she deadpans.
"At moms I was in dance six days a week, beauty pageants, any stage that she could put me on," Ashton says during Country Cares weekend at St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis. "So that makes me a very weird individual."
The song "California, Missouri" is an avant-garde track that tells her story. "I was born in the wrong place at the wrong time," she sings. "But sometimes the wrong way makes you the right kind." Luke Laird and Shane McAnally helped write the song, and she remembers the session as being very natural. No one worried about how to say a thing, they just said it.
The chorus goes:
"I was all in a hurry / And if I got past that one stop light I could get a head start on anything that hurt me / Anywhere I go don't feel like it was that good or bad / I don't know if I'm running away / I don't know if I'm running toward ya / i guess that's what you get when you're born and stuck in California / California, Missouri."
Expect more new music from Ashton in March or May and expect her sound to continue to defy genres. "I’m not trying to fit a mold," she says. "I’m trying to make a mold of myself that other people can slip into."
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