Sasha McVeigh may only be in her early twenties, but already the British-born singer-songwriter is a favourite on the Nashville scene. Her down to earth personality coupled with a mature approach to writing has helped her to be part of the 'British invasion ' of country music. Following the release of her debut album I Stand Alone last year, she's toured with fellow country singer Sonia Leigh and is currently on tour with American Young.
PG: YOU'RE VERY BUSY PLANNING FOR YOUR TOUR, WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?
SM: It's crazy and very manic, but frankly I'd rather it be like that than be quiet. The single (When I'm Over You) is announced on 4th March and then it's going to be released on iTunes on the 25th and then it hits radio around April 22nd. In the meantime, there's going to be a music video which we'll have to shoot. Eventually, what I want to do is release another EP because I've been working on a lot of new stuff, but I'm not in so much of a rush this time. When I released my last album in June it was hurried because I hadn't really got anything else out apart from some acoustic stuff, so we really wanted to get a full band album to coincide with what I was then doing on my tours.
PG: YOU WROTE I STAND ALONE WHEN YOU WERE 14 TO DEAL WITH BEING BULLIED. HOW HAS THE SONG HELPED OTHERS?
SM: When we started to build more of a focus on that particular song loads people were coming to me and telling me their experiences. I've got a lot of fans who are in the age group where they are still at school and going through similar things right now, it's amazing to hear them say that the song has been helping them.
PG: YOUR NEW SONG WHEN I'M OVER YOU IS ALSO CATHARTIC. DO YOU FIND THAT WRITING HELPS YOU TO PUT YOUR EMOTIONS IN PERSPECTIVE AND YOU CAN DEAL WITH THINGS MORE OBJECTIVELY AND DIFFERENTLY?
SM: 100 per cent! Whenever I'm going through anything, nine times out of ten it will end up in a song. Although not necessarily straight away, I have to be in the right mind set. For example, I've got a couple of songs on the go that I started writing when I felt a certain way, and now I don't. It's difficult to put yourself back in that place and be genuine, in those cases, you just have to wait it out and see what happens. But definitely, anytime I'm going through anything it pretty much ends up in a song.
PG: COUNTRY MUSIC IS SO SYNOMOUS WITH AMERICAN CULTURE, HOW DO YOU ADD A BRITISH ELEMENT TO YOUR WORK?
SM: I first went to Nashville in 2012 to pursue music properly. Up until that point I was in sixth form collage and anything to do with my music had only been done halfway because of my studies. The deal I had with my parents was I had to get all my qualifications and they would support me with my music. My Mum said we have to go to Nashville because if they accept you there then you know you're on the right track. Being British there was this worry in the back of my mind that the Americans would feel as if I was encroaching on a part of their culture, which I wasn't - but I wanted to see what the reaction was. It was so positive, people in Nashville loved that I was singing all these songs they had grown up with and I had this British accent and was talking about trousers rather than pants – they loved it, it was incredible.
PG: COUNTRY MUSIC IS SO EMOTIVE AND IT COMES STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART, YOU CAN'T REALLY FAKE IT OR IT COMES ACROSS AS CONTRIVED AND THE AUDIENCE PICK THAT UP DON'T THEY.
SM: Exactly! One of my new songs, I've never actually performed it or anything in the UK, and nobody actually knows about it, so you're going to be the first one...
PG: WE FEEL HONOURED.
SM: I have a song called Coffee and Closure and I was talking to my friends in Hereford about it and because I usually drink tea she said 'you should have called it Tea and Closure'. But the whole story is that we met at a coffee shop and we genuinely did drink coffee. I always like to get the story as accurate as I can. That can be a good or bad thing and tends to be why I get song-writers block because I'm trying to be so exact with what I want to say.
PG: YOU'VE ALREADY PLAYED FIVE OF THE BIGGEST US COUNTRY FESTIVALS. DO YOU FIND AMERICAN AND BRITISH COUNTRY FANS ARE VERY DIFFERENT?
SM: Maybe to an extent. One thing I have noticed is that they are just as enthusiastic. The Americans are enthusiastic about the genre and the artists and music simply because it's such a big part of their culture, it's like patriotism for them. Over here the genuine fans have enjoyed the music for so long that now it's getting more mainstream people are understanding it more, so they are passionate about that.
PG: WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE COUNTRY ARTISTS?
SM: Definitely the Zac Brown Band, I am obsessed with them. I love the old artists like Dolly Parton and Willy Nelson who I grew up listening to with my Dad, equally, I love what Sam Hunt is doing. The Band Perry are great, Jake Owen is awesome and a really nice guy. I know there's this big debate going on with 'what is country?' but I think music is just music. Whether you're listening to Chris Stapleton's soul-infused country or Sam Hunt hip hop/pop country they are all stories. If you ask them to tell you the stories behind the song they are all true stories. I think that's what country music is.
PG: YOU'VE DONE A COVER OF BONNIE RAITT'S 'I CAN'T MAKE YOU LOVE ME', SO YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY A FAN OF HERS TOO?
SM: Oh she's great. Her voice is effortless and she doesn't sound like anybody else. I love an artist who brings something different to the table like Maren Morris. She is an artist who is just coming out of Nashville, her voice is really cool, it's gritty and she's singing songs from a different perspective to anybody else. ( PG – ed coincidently Bonnie Raitt is also a fan of Morris too.)
PG: WOULD YOU SAY THAT MODERN COUNTRY MUSIC IS AIMING TO CHALLANGE THE GENRE NORMS OF 'WHAT IT MEANS TO BE COUNTRY' BY COVERING DIFFICULT AND CONTROVERSIAL SUBJECTS ?
SM: I think so. The great thing about country and music, in general, is that it pushes boundaries. It's one of the few forms of media that can talk about difficult subjects and actually make them real. With film it's different, if you want to see a film about a subject you have too actively go and see it or buy the DVD. With music it can be playing in shops when you are walking around, it can be on the radio or when you go to somebody's house, when it deals with difficult subjects it's going to get heard. As an artist you have a great platform to speak about things you believe in or things that worry you and the people around you, that shouldn't be taken for granted.
PG: THAT'S A GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.
SM: Definitely. It should be cherished, especially if there's something you are passionate about. If you are in a position where you are signed to a label who really understand you as an artist and they let you put a song like that out, or if you are an independent and you have enough of following that your message is going to get heard, that is an enormous platform to have.
PG: DO YOU THINK IN THE FUTURE YOU'D LIKE TO WRITE FOR OTHER ARTISTS?
SM: Sometimes I write songs that I don't particularly want to sing myself and it would be cool to pitch it to other artists, when those kind of songs come along I'd be open to that. But I've also got a lot of songs that I couldn't give away because they're too personal. (Laughing) It would be so weird to have other people singing them and I'd be going 'but I know the actual story, it was me!'
PG: I GUESS YOU HAVE TO BE A BIT DETACHED TO GIVE IT AWAY.
SM: Definitely. I write with a friend of mine, David Evans and some other people. Often the songs I would be happy to let people cover are the ones where other writers have brought their ideas. I feel a bit more detached because it's not directly about me, those are the songs I'd be happy to give away.