From four simple words, you can gage a lot of what Ashley Cooke stands for and what she is trying to achieve with her artistry. Shot in The Dark is an unknowing yet hopeful title to give your debut album; one that embodies a songwriter who is brazen and self-exposing, leaving every emotion on the page through intelligent quips and catchy couplets.
Even with this in mind, no one can say they truly expected her to drop a 24-track double album as her first foray into the format. But what an album it is - a finite collection of heartfelt ballads and gratifyingly relatable pay-offs that immediately cements Cooke as a one of the genre's most engaging new acts, alongside the Moroney's, Springsteen's and Watkins' of the world.
"This first song is kind of about what it's like to date me. It's not weird!" Cooke laughs, ribbing with her guitarist and buddy Louis Johnson as they lead into the catchy yet affirming country-pop song 'getting into'. Immediately, Cooke's sharp banter and unreserved nature comes to the fore, suiting the resilient and memorable essence of the song;
"I can burn it down, be a London pub closer / Sunday sittin' in a pew hungover" Cooke jokes as she sings, unburdened by ideas of who others expect her to be.
"I wrote this next song about the kind of love I hope to be in at some point. It's kind of a manifestation for the kind of love I want". First releasing the song independently, Cooke shared 'never til now' on social media, finding support from none other than Brett Young, who would go on to duet with her on the latest studio version of the song.
"This is just the Ashley version", Cooke laughs once again, "imagine Brett being a part of this too". The most telling thing of all as Cooke performs is the joy she takes in these moments; she gleams from ear to ear as she sings what is a deeply intimate love song about the future.
"I had the craziest year of my life last year" Cooke explains as she introduces her final song. "I signed my first record deal, my first publishing deal, i went out on tour with Cole Swindell and Luke Bryan, my life was insane. I wrote this song kind of like a journal entry to music".
If shot in the dark is summed up by any song, it's this - an artist striving to make sense of a world they've been thrust into, and loving every second of the journey it's taking them on.
Cooke is one of mainstream country's finest new artists, and from a tiny pub in London, UK, she stakes her claim to stay.
Performing her songs 'getting into', 'never til now' and 'it's been a year', this is Ashley Cooke for the Holler Live Sessions.
Director: Tom Francome
Cameras: Tom Francome, Nick Richards and Joe Monk
Audio Engineer: Nathaniel Kastoryano
Editor: Dan Monro (Lookout Productions)
Producers: Ross Jones & Gemma Donahoe