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Think Country Superfan Series – Ashley McBryde Superfan – TRACEY BLAIR

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

When it comes to numbers and analytics, Ashley McBryde sits way at the top of the heap here at Think Country.  No matter what we do or say, if it involves Ashley McBryde, people look and listen.  Not that we’re surprised.  She’s as talented as they get.  No big bells and whistles either.  She does things her way and that’s all that’s needed.  In fact, if anyone ever tried to change her up, that would be the beginning of the end.  Her fans love her exactly as she is.  That’s a major reason she’s as successful as she is.  Her official fan group is called The Trybe.  One of the members of that group is also one of our very own Think Country followers and she was nominated by a friend as an ASHLEY McBRYDE SUPERFAN.

This is our fourth installment of the Think Country Superfan Series and we’ve switched gears a bit.  Instead of our superfans telling us why they deserve to be featured as such, from this point on, we will be asking others (friends, family members, etc.) to nominate someone they feel truly deserves the honor.  We received some great nominations and it was tough to decide, but we finally decided TRACEY BLAIR was worthy of wearing the crown this time around.  We would like to thank NANCY HELMKAMP for nominating Blair.  Let’s get to it and find out a little bit about Blair and what makes her such a big Ashley McBryde fan!

Tracey Blair was born and raised in Geneseo, Illinois.   She has called Edgewood, Illinois home since 2003.  She is married to the “wonderful” Robert Blair, Jr. and has one daughter, Nichole.  Nichole is married to Ryan Davis and together they have three sons, Keegan, Jace and Gunnar.  Nichole, Ryan and Blair’s “awesome grandsons” live in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Image courtesy of townmapsusa.com

Blair was brought up on country music and, of all things, Lawrence Welk!   When she wasn’t watching the “Champagne Singers”, she could be found listening to the likes of Patsy Cline, Red Sovine, George Jones, Johnny Cash and Tammy Wynette when her parents got home from work.   She enjoys spending time with her family, riding her Harley-Davidson motorcycle, listening to “tons of music”  and generally relaxing and enjoying life.  She works with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia patients and loves her job.  In the past, she has driven a semi with her husband, but always finds herself going back to the healthcare field which she has an affinity for.

We all know that Blair is a huge Ashley McBryde fan, but before that, some of her favorites were Jennifer Nettles, Reba McEntire, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr., Gretchen Wilson and George Jones.   It was some random scrolling on YouTube that sealed her fate with Ms. McBryde and she’s never looked back since.  She found a video of Ashley McBryde about ten years ago on YouTube and has followed her career every step of the way since.  “That’s when you can say I officially became an Ashley McBryde junkie,” Blair explains.

How in the world does a superfan choose a favorite song?  Well, it’s difficult.  In Blair’s case, she told us that “Sparrow” is her favorite Ashley McBryde song at the moment.  “It touches me in so many different ways I can’t really even explain.  It makes me think of my mom and dad a lot.  I lost my mom in 2013 and my dad in 2018, so when I listen to ‘Sparrow’ it brings happy thoughts of them.  It is hard to choose just one song because I love all of Ashley and Deadhorse Band‘s music.”

Video (Visualizer) courtesy of Ashley McBryde and YouTube

It was a show at the former Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana that Blair first saw Ashley McBryde live.  She was opening for Hank Williams, Jr. and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Blair told Think Country, “When Ashley came on I was totally blown away with hearing her live, and her stage presence was also amazing.  I could have watched her all night.  After that show I was hooked.  I tried to see her live as much as I was able, depending on location and work and home life.”  It’s safe to say Blair has done her due diligence in that respect.  With approximately 20 live shows under her belt, two of them already in 2020, and a few she had planned further into this year that were rescheduled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s apparent Blair certainly enjoys seeing Ashley McBryde in concert.  She’s been fortunate to chat with McBryde at all but maybe three of those past shows as well.

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Was there any particular meet and greet that stands out?  You bet.  It was the time Blair and her daughter Nichole Davis took Davis’ oldest son (Blair’s grandson), Keegan to his first concert.  Of course it was an Ashley McBryde show and it was at the Valparaiso, Indiana Fair.   Prior to the fair, Blair had posted something to one of McBryde’s social media pages about taking Keegan to his first concert and how it was going to be an Ashley McBryde show in Valparaiso.  McBryde acknowledged the post which Blair thought “was pretty cool”.   Upon arrival at the fair, the trio received three meet and greet passes from the local radio station, although they had no idea how or why they were given to them.  When it got to be their turn to speak with McBryde, the country star greeted Keegan by name and mentioned she had heard it was his first concert.  That’s when it clicked for Blair.  The social media post!  McBryde remembered!  Keegan was starstruck.   After the show, Blair and her family were able to meet the Deadhorse Band, something that Blair said Keegan will never forget.  “Ashley and the Deadhorse Band are all so amazing, friendly and down-to-earth, and so kid-friendly!”  What great memories were made that day for a mom, her daughter and her grandson!

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Just about any fan has some kind of artist merch they like.  Superfans generally have something extra special.  Blair’s favorite piece of Ashley McBryde merch is a leather wristband that McBryde personally gave her right off her wrist during a show a few years back at 8 Seconds Saloon in Indianapolis.  Now, that’s some cool piece of memorabilia.  No wonder Blair loves it so much.

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Blair has done some hopping around to see Ashley McBryde play live and the furthest she has traveled was to Las Vegas in February 2019 when McBryde opened for George Strait.  Blair’s daughter Nichole Davis also attended that show.

Superfans are often heavily into the lyrics their favorite artists sing.  For Blair, the words to the song “Stone” stand out.  She says the lyrics of “Stone” pull at her heartstrings.

“Yeah, there’s a lot of things that should be written in one, your name ain’t one of ’em, so I carry one, and it’s a heavy one.  I’m just now finding out now that you’re gone, we were cut from the same stone, the same stone.”

Video courtesy of Country Rebel and YouTube

When asked what it was about Ashley McBryde that makes Blair love her so much, it wasn’t just her music and it wasn’t just one thing either, it was a multi-layered response.  “Ashley being herself.  Ashley’s talent and voice.  Her kindness.  Her being a down-to-earth person, the humble person that she is.  She stands her ground and has never changed for anybody in order to reach her dreams.  I believe she would do anything for anyone if she had the capability to do so.  I could go on for hours about my thoughts and feelings about Ashley and the Deadhorse Band.”

At the start of this piece, I said numbers don’t lie.  Our Think Country numbers tell us over and over again that our followers adore Ashley McBryde, and those numbers come from all points across the globe.  Tracey Blair isn’t alone in her devotion to McBryde, which is why The Trybe, Ashley McBryde’s official fan group is such a force.  Blair is one of them.  Obviously, she enjoys being a Trybe member.  What does she like about it?  She told us.  “I love being a Trybe member.  We are all so kind to one another.  We’re just a huge group of people all there for each other.  The Trybe feels like family to me.  I have met so many amazing people through it that I have become very close to some of them, so much so, that I speak to them on a weekly, sometimes, a daily basis.”

Ashley McBryde and her band, the Deadhorse Band are like a family.   They tour and record together.  They are with each other a lot.  If you’re an Ashley fan, it pretty much goes without saying that you’re a Deadhorse fan too.  Blair shared her thoughts on one of the most well-loved backing bands in all of country music these days.  “They are all so talented and a band of wonderful, friendly guys.  They’re always willing to take pictures with their fans.  Chris Harris (guitar/mandolin) Quinn Hill (drums), Matt Helmkamp (guitar) and Chris Sancho (bass) are all amazing and talented beyond belief.  I am so glad to see Matt starting to sing along at times.  Matt and Sancho have some mad guitar skills!  Quinn can drum like no other drummer I have ever watched and I can get lost in his drumming it’s so good.  Sancho’s bass playing and his stage presence and facial expressions show the love he has for what he is doing, and he does an amazing job.  Chris Harris, his talent almost makes me have a loss for words!  Chris also has mad guitar skills, but with that being said, his voice is so, so amazing and when he pulls out his mandolin it takes me to another place.  Deadhorse guys are all a truly talented bunch.  Ashley and Deadhorse are a perfect fit for each other.”

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Earlier we also talked about the person who nominated Blair to be a Think Country Superfan.  That person was Nancy Helmkamp.  Obviously, she knows enough about Blair and her love of Ashley McBryde to nominate her and believes she really deserved the honor.  We asked Blair to tell us a little bit about Nancy Helmkamp.  In Blair’s own words, here’s what she had to say:  “She totally blew my mind.  She’s such a sweet, kind person.  She’s Matt Helmkamp’s mom.  He’s lead guitar player for Ashley McBryde.  I cannot thank her enough for nominating me for Superfan.  I was actually driving to Indianapolis when my phone notified me that Nancy had mentioned me in a comment, and when I read it, I had to pull off the interstate because, yes, it made me cry with honor that she thought I deserved to be nominated as Ashley McBryde’s superfan.  That means so much to me.  All the ‘McMoms’ are so sweet, but this goes beyond anything I ever thought I would be given or involved in.  Thank you Nancy, and also Robin Sancho for agreeing with Nancy.”

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Putting Blair on the spot, we asked her to imagine that Ashley McBryde was going to read this piece.  Blair could say anything she wished directly to McBryde.  The floor was all her’s.  So, Ashley, if you’re reading this, this is Tracey Blair speaking to you via Think Country:

“I would thank Ashley McBryde for putting 100% into her dreams and letting us all go on this ride with her as she is reaching the top.  I’d thank her for staying true to herself and working hard to put out amazing music.  Her music has pulled me from some very deep, dark places in my life.  Thank you.  It has brought me out of depression many times.  I just really want to thank Ashley for all she does for all of her fans.” 

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Finally, many people believe themselves to be superfans, and many people are, indeed superfans.  They come in all different forms.  So, what does Tracey Blair think makes her a superfan?  Sure, she was nominated by someone else as one, but she accepted that nomination, so certainly she must believe herself to be one, but why?  To say we loved her answer would be a gross understatement.  Blair responded by saying, “I’m just a 57-year old ‘groupie’ that lives on Ashley’s music daily.  If I run into a person that doesn’t know Ashley McBryde and her music, I will go grab her two new CDs out of my Chevy Tahoe and give them to that person.  I always have extra unwrapped CDs in my vehicle just for that reason.  I have given out CDs to several people.  In fact, my doctor, Seth Hahs, of Salem, Illinois, finally asked one time at an appointment who she was, because I wear a lot of her shirts, so I ordered him both vinyls and both CDs.  Now he, his wife and eight kids are hooked on Ashley, and his kids are trying to learn her music because they all either play instruments or sing.  I have also bought shirts for other people that wanted them but were not able to purchase them.  I have paid forward tickets to her shows.”

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

She continued, “I have an Ashley McBryde and the Deadhorse Band wall in my living room.  My daughter says if I keep on adding to my Ashley wall that we’ll have to take down our family pictures.  I have every piece of merch except the hoodie which I’ll get when it’s cooler outside.  Because all shows were canceled since March, I feel like part of my concert family has left.  It’s just a big part of my life going to see them live and hopefully soon we will be able to.”  We couldn’t agree more Tracey.  We sure do miss live music here at Think Country too.  It’s really a different world right now and we hope it gets back on track soon.  We know the artists hope so too.

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

We think Tracey Blair was an excellent choice as one of our Think Country Superfans.  We think she not only represents what every superfan should be, and that’s someone who is truly devoted to an artist or band, but she is the embodiment of what an Ashley McBryde Superfan should be.  Someone with a huge heart who just wants to share the music she loves.  Music that soothes her soul and makes her happy.  She’s paying it forward every chance she gets and we think that’s something Ashley McBryde would really dig.

 

Photo courtesy of Tracey Blair

Thanks so much Tracey Blair for sharing your stories and thank you to Nancy Helmkamp for nominating her.  Stick with Think Country for another chance at nominating someone you think should be our next Superfan!  Watch our Think Country Facebook page for that opportunity because it could happen at any time.

Ashley McBryde Website:  https://www.ashleymcbryde.com/

*Featured image courtesy of Tracey Blair

 

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Patti McClintic
I’m Patti. Rock music is my first love. My daughter, who was a country fan as a teenager, dragged me in when I'd drive her to school and we would have radio wars in the car. I'd have on my rock station and she would switch it to the country station. Guess who always won? As they say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, so I did. patti@thinkcountrymusic.com First it was all modern country, but my parents were big Merle Haggard fans. I went along with them to a Merle Haggard/Phil Vassar show at the local fair and that was it. I was hooked on the Hag. Since that day, I've become a fan of bluegrass and I continue to explore all facets of the country genre. I guess you could say, I'm all in. When I'm not up to my neck in any kind of music, I enjoy genealogy, history, my granddaughters and my addiction, SongPop. I guess it could be worse, right? I'm a Buffalo, New York girl living in a Nashville, Tennessee world, and I'm livin' the dream with my husband, my dog and my two cats.
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