All About Ashley McBryde’s Parents, William McBryde and Martha Wilkins

Ashley McBryde has many musical inspirations, including her parents, William McBryde and Martha Wilkins.

The pair raised their children on a farm in Arkansas, where William was a physician and preacher. The family sang together in church, and their house was often full of music.

“There were always instruments around,” Ashley told NPR in 2018. “All six siblings can sing well.”

At age 5, Ashley told her mom she wanted to be a country singer, and William bought his daughter her first grown-up guitar when she was 9. The CMA winner wrote her first song at age 12, and both William and Martha would later inspire some of Ashley’s hits, like “Bible and A .44” and “Light On In The Kitchen.”

Over the years, Ashley has been inspired by her mom’s strength and kindness.

“Through my mother and her sisters and that side of the family, I learned that you are as strong as you are kind,” she told PEOPLE in 2023, adding, “If you’re gonna be tough — and you have to be tough if you’re gonna do this for a living — then you have to carry all things in equal measure.”

Ashley has said that Martha is her strongest supporter. “My mom is my biggest champion,” the “American Scandal” singer told PEOPLE in 2018. “When people compliment my voice, I always tell them ‘I sound a lot like my momma.’ ”

Here’s everything to know about Ashley McBryde’s parents, William McBryde and Martha Wilkins.

They raised Ashley and her siblings in Arkansas

Left: Ashley McBryde and her brother Daniel. Right: William McBryde and Clay McBryde. -.

Ashley McBryde Instagram

Ashley is the youngest of William and Martha’s six children. She was born in Waldron, Ark., and the family moved to the small town of Mammoth Springs when she was young.

William and Martha raised their kids in a “really, really rigid, strict Church of Christ home,” Ashley told Billboard in 2023. She also shared with About You in 2019 that every night, her mom would read chapters from the Bible and a Laura Ingalls Wilder book.

The Grammy-nominated singer told Southern Living in 2020 that she “was lucky because I grew up on a farm.” The family lived on a two-and-a-half mile-long dirt road, where they had horses, cows and chickens, among many other animals, and Ashley has many memories of “working with cattle and finding lost calves.”

William was a doctor and pastor — Ashley opened up about their relationship to Billboard in 2018.

“My father is terminally ill, but he’s still with us,” she said. “He was a preacher when I was growing up, and I don’t ever remember not seeing a gun or a Bible. He raised us that way — as mean as that sounds, and as sweet as that sounds, too.”

Ashley described her mom as loving and strong. “Mom could fix a sink, mow the yard, patch up booboos, and feed the cows with you,” she told About You. “She’s as tender as a kiss. Always wants to give somebody a hug and always looking to help.”

Music was a big part of her family’s life

Ashley McBryde with her mom Martha Wilkins and step-dad Doug Wilkins.

Ashley McBryde Instagram

Music was an integral part of the McBryde household. “I love the way it sounded when we all sang in church together,” Ashley told Bobby Bones on a 2021 BobbyCast episode.

Her dad was a big Kris Kristofferson fan, while her mom was into The Carpenters. Ashley told Bones that “To Beat the Devil” is her favorite Kristofferson song because of her father, and shared a sweet memory of William playing “Amanda” in the living room while Martha sang along from the kitchen. Ashley’s mom also played classical music, like Mozart, and loved musicals.

“I was steeped in great songwriting material from an early age,” she told Billboard.

Naturally, Ashley’s own love of music followed. She told Garden & Gun that her mom would bring her to bluegrass festivals, where the budding singer would sit up front in a tiny lawn chair, strumming along to songs on a plastic guitar.

They divorced when Ashley was a teenager

Martha and Doug Wilkins.

Ashley McBryde Instagram

Ashley was 17 when her parents divorced.

The ballad “Learned To Lie” speaks to William and Martha’s rocky relationship, including references to her father’s cheating. Ashley called her mom and talked her through the lyrics before the song was released.

“Being blindsided by that song would have been really painful. It would have seemed like I was coming at her,” Ashley told Taste of Country in 2023. “But I’m proud of the way I was raised, even though some of that wasn’t beautiful. But I talked her through the lyrics, and she was like, ‘Yeah, none of it’s untrue.’ ”

As for her dad’s reaction? Ashley said she wasn’t sure he heard it or that “he even owns a radio.”

“He’s just that kind of guy. He lives under a rock and it’s beautiful there,” she joked. Ashley is very close with her mom and told Garden & Gun she has a “cordial” relationship with her dad, including texting with him periodically.

Martha is now married to Doug Wilkins — Ashley refers to her stepfather as “Pop” and told The Boot in 2018 that he “still shows my mother off.”

”Stepdad seems like an odd term. You’re my Pop and I’m your baby. #loveunconditionally,” Ashley wrote of Doug on X (formerly Twitter) in honor of Father’s Day 2018.

They inspired some of Ashley’s biggest songs

Ashley McBryde performs onstage for day two of the 2023 Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on September 24, 2023 in Franklin, Tennessee.

Jason Kempin/Getty

Ashley’s parents have inspired a few of her songs, including “Bible and A .44,” “Light On In The Kitchen” and “Learned To Lie.”

“Light On In The Kitchen,” off the 2023 album The Devil I Know, pays tribute to Martha. The song’s title comes from a phrase Ashley, her mom and her aunt Gloria use in place of “I love you,” “I miss you” or “I’m thinking about you.”

During a Taste of Country interview in 2023, the country singer explained that after shows, she’d leave the stage and check her phone, which often had a message from her mom or aunt reading, “Headed to bed. The light’s on.”

“What a cool thing to happen. And if that’s happening for my family, there’s a good chance that happens to other families,” Ashley said of the inspiration for the song.

Martha even makes a cameo in the song’s music video, appearing with Ashley in the kitchen. The proud mama didn’t hesitate when Ashley asked her if she’d like to be in it. “So supportive,” Ashley said, adding, “And she looked absolutely lovely.”

William bought Ashley her first guitar

Ashley McBryde and her dad William.

Ashley McBryde Instagram

When she was 3, Ashley tried playing her dad’s guitar like a bass. That didn’t fly, but her grandmother soon gifted her with a mandolin. At age 9, Ashley’s dad bought her a 3/4-size guitar and taught her three chords. A couple of days later, tears ensued.

“She came downstairs crying. And she said, ‘I can’t play and sing at the same time,’ ” Martha told CBS News in 2024. “I said, ‘Neither could Randy Travis. Go back and keep trying.’ And she did!”

Ashley told Bones that growing up in a rural community helped hone her guitar skills. “There weren’t a lot of distractions growing up on a farm and with access to instruments, I think that helps everything kind of click,” she said. “There’s nothing else to do.”

The one guitar she always wanted to play though? Her father’s Martin D-35S, which she wasn’t allowed to use as a kid. Ashley knew where it was, though, and when he wasn’t home on his 70th birthday, she took it out and started writing what would become “Bible and A .44.”

“A few months later, I sang it for him, and he gave me the guitar — the one that was supposed to be mine when he passes,” Ashley revealed to Billboard. “I told him, ‘That’s not my guitar. Someday it will be, but it’s not mine now.’ He said ‘I can’t watch you play it after I’m gone, and I’d like to see you play it.’ To this day, the song makes me tear up.”

Martha is Ashley’s biggest supporter

Ashley McBryde and her mom Martha.

Ashley McBryde Instagram

Ashley is very close with her mom, who has always been her support system, telling her at age 5 and then again at 12 that she believed in her country singer dreams.

“It never changed, but I really reiterated again when I was 12. I said, ‘Mom, I’m gonna be a songwriter someday. I’m gonna move to Nashville, Tennessee and I’m gonna write songs,’ ” Ashley told in 2019. “And she said, ’Okay.’ Her answer was always, ‘Okay, honey.’ And not in a dismissive way, but in an absolutely kind of way.”

Martha remembers the first time she heard Ashley on the radio. “It was awesome. I was asleep, and I had my alarm set to come on to wake me up with music, and it was you,” the proud mom told CBS News.

The love is mutual for this mother-daughter duo. “There ought to be a hall of fame for Mommas… If I’m ever half the woman you are I’ll have done good,” Ashley wrote on Instagram for Mother’s Day 2023.

Martha was part of Ashley’s Grand Ole Opry announcement

Ashley McBryde performs during the NASCAR Night At The Opry on December 03, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Terry Wyatt/Getty 

In October 2022, Ashley learned she was being invited to join the Grand Ole Opry in a unique way — Garth Brooks made a surprise appearance during her interview with CBS Mornings to break the news. She happily and tearfully accepted the invitation on camera.

Martha surprised her daughter by being on set just in time for the big news. She sweetly joined Ashley onstage for a big hug and told her, “I’m so proud of you.”

Ashley was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in December 2022.

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