Little Jane and the Pistol Whips

Brian Ripple  |   Friday Sep. 1st, 2023

Montana born lead singer, Ashly Jane’s dynamic voice has a vintage country feel like Loretta Lynn, but she can sing anything.  Her breadth of ballads to barn dance top tapping tunes has delighted audiences across The Big Sky and beyond.

In addition to headlining Montana festivals like Sweet Pea, Harvest Festival and more, Little Jane has shared the stage with Grammy-winners Zac Brown Band and John Mayer to LeeAnn Rimes. Recently, and Little Jane’s music was featured on the hit ABC television show Big Sky.

Brian Ripple: Hello, Ashly; you guys are just about to drop your new album, Long Road Ahead; can you tell us a little bit about it?

Ashly Holland: Hi Brian, and thank you for having us. Yes! Long Road Ahead is about to drop next month, and it has been eight years in the making. The album’s songs touch on various topics and experiences that I, Ashly (Little Jane) have witnessed, heard about, or experienced firsthand. The recording timeline was pushed back a few years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this worked in the song’s favor; with the extra time, I sat with five of these songs, tweaked endings, and added a bridge, making them more interesting and, at times, finishing the storyline. So, while I would have liked this project to have been completed sooner, I think the timing worked in my (and the song’s) favor.

BR: Where was it recorded, and by whom?

AH: The project was originally slated to be recorded a couple of years ago, but with the pandemic, the project was delayed for a year or two. Luke Scheeler (of Jereco Studios) and I started pre-production on the album by meeting for coffee/tea and discussing which instruments would sound good on which songs. The album was initially supposed to be recorded at Jereco, but due to a scheduling conflict was moved to Basecamp recording at the last minute. A core group of musicians that included Russ Smith (on bass), Quinton King (on electric and acoustic guitar), Ethan Decker (on drums), and Ashly Jane Holland (lead singer and acoustic guitar) walked into Basecamp studio on 9/17/22, and completed their 12 songs the next day. From there, a handful of incredible local musicians were hired and scheduled for their recording time to add their parts. As the audio engineer, Luke captured the sound for the project and prepared it through pre-mixing for the next step, mixing. Darryl Neudorf of Canada (who mixed/produced many of Neko Case’s albums) did the mixing, putting his unique vision and sound into the finished product. Finally, the album was mastered by Peter J. Moore, also of Canada, known for his “one microphone” recording of the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions. It was worth the wait; the album is finally ready for release! 

BR: Where can people go to listen to the new album?

AH: Three singles are available now to listen to on YouTube, on iTunes, Spotify,  and on our website, as a digital download. There will be an album release party on September 16, 2023, at the Eagles Lodge in downtown Bozeman.

BR: Can you tell us a little bit about your band, The Pistol Whips? 
AH: I would love to! The Pistol Whips have changed many times over the years. Sometimes, the group was more acoustic, featuring a banjo and mandolin; other times, it was more electric, featuring drums and electric guitar. For this album, there is a mix of both incarnations of the band. Some songs have a straight bluegrass feel, while others are unmistakably country.  The core group of guys that walked into the studio with me on the weekend of 9/17/22 were the ones (minus Ethan) that made our first studio album, This Town, in 2010. Russ Smith has been with the Pistol Whips since its inception in 2008, Quinton King has been with the group since 2009, and Ethan’s dad, Paul Decker played drums on This Town. Having Ethan was fun, both a new and familiar feel, and the only choice for this project.  

These guys helped capture the bass tracks from which the entire project was built. We recently got together during the first week of August to listen to the project for the first time. Everyone was so proud of what they created; it was truly a group effort! The additional musicians included Natalie Padilla (fiddle), Tom Murphy (mandolin/backing vocals), Luke Scheeler (percussion), Julia Slovarp (cello), Cortnery Peres (bowed bass), Mike Parsons (fiddle sound effects), and Krista Barnett & Jody Engstrom (backing vocals). When all put together, these musicians helped make these songs come to life!

BR: When did you first pick up music? When did you start playing guitar?
AH: I remember being interested in and loving music for as long as I can remember. Officially, I started piano lessons in middle school in Missoula, followed by violin during that same period. I sang in the high school girls’ choir in Helena, and then took a break from music and picked up the guitar at age 26. I taught myself guitar, so I did not have to rely on anyone to help back me; I loved to sing and wanted to sing in public at any chance. I remember a couple of times when sleazy older men would say, “Quit your job; I will play backup guitar for you; we will go on the road.” I thought, “I will teach myself guitar so I do not have to rely on anyone!” I did that, and I have been playing and singing ever since.  

BR: Who are a few of your current favorite artists to listen to for inspiration?
AH: A few of my current favorite artists that I listen to for inspiration include Neko Case, Miranda Lambert, and Gillian Welch. Neko Case writes amazingly complex, yet simple, relatable songs, which I admire. From listening to the lyrics of her songs, she has lived through some challenging experiences and has made music out of her sorrow. From what I gather through listening to her, she seems to write music that is for her, not to appease a record label or get a top 10 chart hit, and I admire that. With my album, I wrote the songs to comfort myself and help me through a tough time, if people like that music and find comfort in it, that is a bonus!

Miranda Lambert’s music is easy to listen to and brings up a lot of emotion for me. I relate to the content of her songs, and aside from the music, I admire that she has started a nonprofit called Mutt Nation. This nonprofit “promotes the adoption of shelter dogs and spaying and neutering.” The website also reports that her nonprofit helps “shelters all across the 50 U.S. states.”   

I recently graduated (December 2022) with my master’s degree in social work and am now a working therapist, helping people with both mental health and substance abuse issues. My goal with my career would be to combine my love of music with my love of helping people.
BR: If you could see any bands/artists, living or dead, perform live, who would you go to?
AH: Oh my, there are so many I would like to go see! Let me list a few: first on the list, Patsy Cline. I am mesmerized by her voice and technical singing ability. I would love to sit back and watch her perform. I could imagine I would have arms full of goosebumps the entire time she sang (my physical response when music moves me). Next, I would love to go back in time and see a Pink Floyd concert, and be part of the entire experience. I can imagine seeing one of their shows was life-altering and epic beyond words.

I would like to see Bon Iver play someday, as I have found much personal comfort and peace through his music over the years. I have seen them play before, but I would love to see Gillian Welch and David Rawlings play again. She is such an amazing songwriter and performer—understated, yet so impactful!

BR: What was it like to do 11th and Grant on Montana PBS?

AH: Being part of 11th and Grant was career-altering. Before 11th and Grant, our group had no professional videos and no real professional presence in the Gallatin Valley (and beyond). Eric Funk is the artistic director and host, and he makes you feel at ease, like a real rock star, and that your music is something special. I never felt nervous or uncomfortable working with Eric, and to this day, we share a mutual respect for each other’s art. The fantastic production team that includes but is not limited to Scott Sterling, Paul “Gomez” Routhier, Jerimiah Slovarp, and Aaron Pruitt is top-notch, and kind beyond belief. Each of these professionals helped me feel relaxed and at my best while I performed on the show. I can report that each of my bandmates felt similarly; we still talk about the amazing experience today! We were lucky enough to be on the TV rotation at the Gallatin Valley airport for an entire season. When our friends and family visited the airport, we often got messages stating, ‘You saw me off on my trip’ and ‘You welcomed me home from my trip.’ That was a special bonus from our time on the show!

BR: What are the next plans for Little Jane & the Pistol Whips heading into 2024?
AH: Our immediate plan for 2024 is to roll out a successful release of Long Road Ahead. This includes radio show performances and interviews, being part of articles such as this one (thank you), getting our music reviewed by blogs and newspapers, and playing around the area to share our music. This album will touch the hearts of many people and I want as many folks as possible to hear it!  We are already getting inquiries about playing events in 2024 and our calendar is starting to fill up. We are incredibly lucky and blessed to have the support of so many people in Montana and beyond. At the end of the day, if we can make people smile, dance, and tap their feet in 2024, we have succeeded! 

BR: Are there any upcoming shows, or anything else you would like to share with our readers about your musical journey?
AH: Summer is not over yet for LJPW and we have some exciting shows coming up where people can catch our music (and a copy of the new album). September 8 & 9, we’ll be at the Cody Songwriters Festival in Wyoming; September 28, come see us at Ted’s Montana Grill, and September 29, catch us at  Jimmy’s Roadhouse in Red Lodge. As far as anything else to share about this journey, I’d say this, from the title track; “It’s a long road ahead, and we don’t know where it ends. So take it slow, dance with me, give me your hand. I promise I won’t leave you, my friend.” I appreciate each and every one of you taking this journey with our group—we would not have had the longevity and success we have achieved without you!    

BR: Well, thanks Ashly. We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. I can’t wait to give the new record a listen.

Local music is alive and well in SW Montana. From big-time tribute bands, to original songwriters and groups who are constantly creating something new and exciting to hear with their unique craft and vision of the world, to loads of street fairs, block parties and full on festivals. Do yourself a favor and go see a show and support live music.    

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