ashley purdy 2020
[Photo by: Jason Herring]

Last November, the news of Ashley Purdy’s separation from Black Veil Brides threw the band’s fans for a loop. Purdy was right there with Andy Biersack when the charismatic frontman moved to Los Angeles all those years ago. After five albums and countless road miles later, Purdy’s tenure in the band had ended.

For anybody else, the story would’ve stopped right there. But even in his downtime from BVB, Purdy was always working on something. From a clothing line to consulting young talent to writing his memoirs, Purdy has always kept in motion. Now fans are getting to hear him in ways they hadn’t expected. Since his separation from BVB, Purdy has written, played, sang recorded and released three songs that sound nothing like his previous band. 

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He discovered this renewed confidence by going through a vicious reality check of his own design. He speaks candidly about his mental health travails and their familial lineage. More importantly, he shows no rancor and throws no shade at the BVB camp. Clearly, his priority is about moving forward in every direction possible. From music, production, management and construction (more on that, too), Purdy is waiting for no one.

“I’ve gone through everything and came out on the other end,” he tells Jason Pettigrew. “Bigger and better. I feel stronger and just well balanced. Mind and health and body and all that kind of stuff.”

You’re speaking from Nashville. Are you working there, or have you moved?

I moved here about three years ago, I guess. It goes by fast, man. I’m on my lunch break. I’m doing rehabilitation to homes right now. I did a flip with Jeremiah [Scott, guitarist] from Demon Hunter recently. He renovates homes, too. We got together in Nashville and did some flips together.

That’s really cool. You’re flipping a house, but the process is still a creative venture.

That’s the way I see it. People are like, “How did you get into that? How do you know about that?” Like, I’m an artist, man. I’m creative. It’s what I do. I have the vision for it. That’s what I’m in the middle of doing when [I’m] not working on music.

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One of the [properties] I’m actually doing right now, instead of flipping it, I’m holding on to it and making it into a musician’s pad. It’s like the old-school, ranch-style house where there’s a basement and a separate entrance. So the upstairs is all like livable community space, and then the downstairs will be a rehearsal studio and a recording studio. A whole live-work-create space. Because it’s necessary here. There’s just so many young musicians looking for a place like that. So let me make one. [Laughs.]

And then you’re making music. Were the three songs you’ve released ["Happy Birthday,” "Nowhere” and "King For A Day”] written prior to leaving Black Veil Brides?

Yeah. As you probably know, we’ve had so much downtime with Black Veil Brides toward the end, and it was like, “What else are you going to do?” So a year ago, I wrote an entire record; I have a record finished. It was in that period [where[where]n’t know if we were going to go back on tour or what we were doing. So I was like, “Maybe I’ll write a bunch of music.” So I did. 

I got together with a producer named Jim Kaufman [AWOLNATION, Anti-Flag] I finished the record, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. At that time, I didn’t know that I wasn’t going to be in Black Veil Brides. So I was just hanging on to it. And then when the opportunity came to start releasing music, I already had it. So now it’s just strategy on what songs we’re releasing and when.

Read more: Ashley Purdy drops first solo song since Black Veil Brides departure
I couldn’t help but think that there would be a knee-jerk reaction from fans and critics wondering, “Dude, where’s all the metal?” Is your new music a response to where you are now? Or were the synth-driven melodies something you always wanted to explore but couldn’t?

It’s a lot of those things. First, I came from such a heavy guitar, bass and drums band, I said, “I’m going to do the complete opposite. I spent 10 years doing that, you know? I love ’80s metal, and people thought I was gonna do another glam project. Or moving to Nashville, people thought I was going to do a country-rock project. But just where I’m at in my life, and from the band I just came from, it was a culmination of those things. Right now I really enjoy synths and more vibey music. 

As an artist, you write what comes out of you. You know what you’re feeling in that moment and that space. And that’s how I approached it. I sat down with an acoustic guitar, and that’s how I write songs first. And then we layered keyboards on top. And a lot of all the instrumentation was mainly keyboards. That’s the major instrument, not even the guitar. Like you said, it was intentional that I wasn’t going to have drums and crazy guitars in my music. But maybe I will in a song. I don’t know. I’m approaching it very genre-less. I just want to write songs now that don’t fit a parameter because they don’t have to. Like in my previous band, when you’re in a certain project, it has to sound like that band otherwise it doesn’t fly with the fans.

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Do you feel like you could go in any direction right now?

That’s exactly how I’m approaching it. It’s just very honest right now. It’s very liberating, coming from a project where you have to write in a certain way. Even when you’re writing for the other project, sometimes you’re writing a pop song or writing an alternative song where it “just doesn’t work for us.” And then it gets thrown away—we just don’t use it. In [my] b[my] I can write whatever song I want because it just suits my mood. Because it’s intentional, and it’s honest.

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As Ashley Purdy, you can do whatever you want. I have to ask you point blank: Is it exciting right now to be an artist, or is it terrifying? You’re hitting “reset” here and starting from scratch in terms of creating this thing that is yours. The old metaphor of a band being a five- or six-way marriage implies a shared vision and some sort of camaraderie here. But now it’s all you.

You’re right when you say that when you’re in a group like I had previously came from, you feel like you’re in a marriage, and you can only contribute so much. But I really feel free right now and liberated. Let’s say sometimes your contributions are squandered, like when you’re in a larger group with other people who have to contribute, you can only contribute so much. Personally, I love being a musician right now where I’m at because I’m very creative, very hands on and I can do it all. 

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For instance, the “King For A Day” music video. I directed, produced, wrote, did everything for it. I love doing that. But in the general scope of being a musician today, is it exciting? I don’t know. Because, as you know, the music world is at a different place right now, and it’s changing. So for younger artists, I don’t know where they fall. But personally, I feel very happy where I’m at.

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I read an interview where you mentioned putting yourself in a psychiatric facility, going through therapy and attending support groups. Did this experience imprint itself in your art? Or was it about the discoveries you learned about yourself in that process?

I think going through therapy allowed me to be more honest. And that’s all I want to be anymore. When you go through stuff and you live through stuff and you survived it, you have a different perspective on the world and life itself. 

I don’t know if a lot of fans know. Part of why I moved to Nashville was [becau[because] raised by my grandparents. My grandmother died while we were in the middle of a Black Veil Brides tour. When I got home [from][from] I needed some change. Other family members had passed and stuff. Every single male in my family has committed suicide. My father, my uncle, my grandfather, it’s like I fall in that lineage, as well as alcoholism.

Then after my grandmother passed, my grandfather was still alive in Missouri, which is close to Nashville. So I thought, “OK, I want to move closer to Missouri, but Nashville is still Music City, so I can still make music.” But when I moved here, it was in December, like a week before Christmas. And I thought, “This is the first Christmas we’re going to spend without my grandmother, who is the woman who raised me.” I traveled to Missouri to spend it with my grandfather. 

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While I was driving up there on Christmas Eve, I was 30 minutes out of my grandfather’s house. He shot himself. I arrived to the house, and he was dead. And that was the reason I moved to Nashville: to be with him and because we just missed her. That was our first Christmas without her, and they were married for 60 years. So it was then [where[where] lost. 

After that all happened, I was like, “All my family members are gone. They’re all dead. I’m in Nashville by myself. Why did I do it? Why am I here?” So I went down that hole of just drinking. And then trying to figure it out and then I just thought I needed some therapy. I tried to go to therapy. It wasn’t working. I tried to kill myself a couple [of] t[of]. Instead of killing myself, I decided to get intensive therapy.

I spent a week doing that. You spend time doing intensive therapy or going to group classes. You hear other people. It’s like you wake up at 6 in the morning, you’re on your meds, they have a schedule for you throughout the day and different classes that you have to go through. And it really helped with grief counseling, as well. After I came out of that experience, my mindset was different. I had a different perspective on life. It helped me cope with the things on all the grief and the tragedies that I had to deal with. The song “Nowhere” was poetry that was written in that hospital while I was there. And then I just put it to music when I got out.

All right. So that’s a lot. [Laughs.]>

Read more: Black Veil Brides’ ex-bassist Ashley Purdy says he “technically” didn’t leave
What are you going to do for the rest of 2020?

Well, it depends. To be honest with you, I need more visibility first before I start releasing more. I’m putting some things out into the world and letting that snowball. But I have to keep releasing things so they don’t just drop in the bucket with no resolution. Like you said before, it’s like starting from scratch.

I’m doing everything myself, producing and distributing it. I can start my own record label and just do everything myself. But still, at the same point, there will be a time when I’ll need a little bit more help than I can do myself. So I’ll stick with that. I’m not going to sign to a major record label anymore. Hell no. I definitely want the control and the reins. I just don’t know yet. We’ll see what happens.

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Finally, what can you say about your relationship with Black Veil Brides at this moment? 

I’m still like, “Well, what can I say?” What can I say without lawyers still contacting me and saying, “Hey, we don’t like that you said that”? I mean, I still don’t know, to be honest.

I guess I can say this because it is the truth. On Feb. 26 [at] 1[at] p.m., I still currently own half of Black Veil Brides right now. The realization is like it’s a corporate buyout. It’s like me and Andy [Biers[Biersack]he corporation 50% each. And they still have to compensate me for them wanting me to depart. But that hasn’t happened yet. And we’re still in negotiations about what that is. I don’t know how to approach it because it’s not finalized yet.