This fall Ashley Condon launches her new album, Can you Hear Me—at the same time she and her husband launch their PEI-based microbrewery, Copper Bottom Brewing. “Offer people beer, and they’ll come to you!” Ashley jokes. In fact, the brewery is a long-time dream of her husband, Ken. But it fits in with Ashley’s own commitment to rooting her music business close to home.
Can You Hear Me features a series of co-writes with PEI artists and with artists who came to PEI through various creative exchanges. There are harmony vocals from Ashley’s fellow-Eastern Belles, Catherine MacLellan and Meaghan Blanchard, and a sonic palette by producer—and Anne Murray’s nephew—Dale Murray (The Guthries and Cuff the Duke).
The songs too speak in various ways to Ashley’s connection to the PEI music community. The lead off track, “Diamond Sky,” grew indirectly out of a local songwriters’ night Ashley and Catherine MacLellan launched with the goal of building community among PEI artists at home.
“Down Home,” written with British folk artist Maz O’Conner as part of a program that pairs British and Canadian artists, was inspired by O’Conner’s fascination with the Maritime phrase “down home.”
Ashley started writing the sparse, haunting, “In the Darkness” after PEI’s notorious crazy winter three years ago, during which cars became buried in snow and three people died in a house fire. The song evolved over the course of two years, as trees mangled by the weight of the snow gradually returned to their previous erect stance—a metaphor for bouncing back after hard times.
She wrote “Come As You Are” as a tribute to the late Hal Mills, founder of PEI’s The Dunk house concert series and proprietor of the property where it was held.
If Ashley seems especially devoted to building community on her Island home, it could be because that community is her surrogate family. The only child of a fishing family from rural PEI, Ashley had lost both her parents by the time she was 22.
She earned two PEI Music Awards for her debut album. Then her musical idol, David Francey discovered her during PEI Music Week and became her mentor. The three-time JUNO-winning folk artist produced Ashley’s sophomore album, This Great Compromise. Ashley earned a 2013 Canadian Folk Music Award nomination for New/Emerging Artist of the Year. The album was the seventh most-played Canadian album on the Galaxie Folk Roots channel in 2013. And it made the Top 20 on Roots Music Report in the U.S.