"Why pay for that?" the country musician jokes about therapy. "Just hit up your friends and write a song"
Ashley Ryan used to call California home.
"It was there where you could find me in my bedroom just writing songs about the high school guy that broke my heart, singing into my hairbrush in the mirror, pretending I was Carrie Underwood," Ryan, 25, reminisces to PEOPLE in a recent interview. "I loved music. I loved singing. I loved performing."
Nevertheless, it was a love that seemed to materialize when Ryan’s life was rocked by the sudden death of her brother. "He passed away when I was about 7 years old,” Ryan says quietly. "He died in his sleep from type one diabetes. From then on, writing has become a way to cope with pain."
But little did Ryan know that there was more pain to come.
"My father struggled with alcoholism and things like that, so I think there is a correlation when it comes to my writing style," says Ryan, who went viral last year with the release of the powerful "Hush Little Baby" amassing over 12 million views on TikTok and Facebook, and over 2 million streams on Spotify alone. "I'm almost attracted to the justice and the songs of the women getting back at the men that have neglected them in a sense like 'Gunpower & Lead' by Miranda Lambert and 'Before He Cheats' by Carrie Underwood."
And for the past seven years, she has coped with that relentless pain still living in her heart at her home in Nashville. "I've had a lot of women from abusive relationships or just absent fathers tell me their story," says Ryan, who first made musical waves as a Belmont University student when she was invited to perform with Keith Urban at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena back in 2018. "And it's just amazing to see how something that I wrote really for myself to heal from whatever hurt me can go and help other people."
Take for example the angsty "Bad for You."
"'Bad for You' is about a specific person that really broke my heart a couple years ago," Ryan says of her new single premiering exclusively on PEOPLE that she wrote alongside Larry McCoy and Neil Coty. "It’s really true what they say. One heartbreak can write a hundred songs."
Ryan won't mention any names when discussing the man that inspired "Bad for You," but she can confirm that he had green eyes, the very same color eyes she sings about in the bridge of "Bad for You."
"I'll respect the person enough not to share who it is," explains Ryan, who also releases her new EP, Too Far Gone on Friday. "But when songwriters go through heartbreak, they don't go to therapy, because why pay for that? Just hit up your friends and write a song. It becomes a story based off the emotion of the time."
But that emotion was so six months ago.
"When I'm sad, I don't listen to sad music," says Ryan, who casually mentions that she is currently single. "I need to put on a rocking song that'll just lift my spirits. And I hope 'Bad for You' is that sort of song for other people. It shows a different side to me, which I really like people to see."
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