There’s a long line of country songs about big dreamers in small towns. And for every song that romanticizes rural living, there’s a song that explores the lonelier side of small town life, from Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A” to Kacey Musgraves’ “Merry Go ‘Round.” It’s that side that Kassi Ashton explores in her new single “California, Missouri,” written about Ashton’s real hometown, a one-stoplight town of less that 5,000 people smack dab in the middle of the country.
Written by Ashton, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, the song is an anthem for anyone who’s ever felt like an outcast in their hometown.
“I was born in the wrong place in the wrong time,” Ashton sings. “But sometimes the wrong way makes you the right kind.”
Small Town, Big Dreams
“California, Missouri” is a perfect introduction to Ashton, a rolling stone who long ago set her sights on conquering Music City. She’s influenced as much by Adele and Amy Winehouse as Loretta Lynn. Her powerhouse vocals will remind listeners of the stadium-filling voices of Martina McBride and Wynonna and the modern country soul of Chris Stapleton.
Ashton grew up straddling two worlds. She went to beauty pageants and dance classes with her mom. She spent the rest of the time hunting and riding dirt bikes with her dad. Equal parts grit and glamour, her upbringing taught her that she didn’t have to choose. She could just be whatever she wanted.
In the final seconds of her soon-to-be breakout hit, Ashton asks, “Are you proud of me, California, Missouri?”
It’s hard to imagine they could be anything but.