"I've been dancing with a ghost again/ he knows me better than all my friends/ he doesn't care what I have to say/ he doesn't mind if I have a bad day." - Dancing With A Ghost - Ashleigh & Brett Dallas.

When Ashleigh Dallas flew the family nest in Tamworth she hitched her flaxen wings to a superb sister in rhyme.

Dallas hit the Lost Highway with Kasey Chambers - first as a fiddler then as a multi-instrumentalist - as she swung from the rhythm ropes from Australia and Nashville to Austin, Texas.

It was a journey that started as a bedroom fiddler at six and mandolinist at 10 as her genetics kicked up a gear.

The singer is the grand-daughter of traditional country veteran Rex, daughter of guitarist Brett and sister of bassist Lindsay who initially flew the coop with Tamworth family band Chasing Bailey.

She also paid tribute to her late uncle Jeff who died prematurely in the song Taken - she penned that with her dad.

"We wrote Taken together about my uncle who sadly passed away with motor neurone disease," says the singer whose debut album Dancing With A Ghost is an eclectic gem that exposes Dallas's talent as a story teller as it examines her personal and career trajectory.

Comparisons with mentors Kasey Chambers and Catherine Britt are obvious but there's also an organic appeal shared with the debut album by Texan Kasey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe's Like A Rose.

"Dad is always the first one I play my songs to and he gives me his honest thoughts - he is kind of like my best mate - and we wrote Me in my really messy bedroom which was another special moment which really keeps the family thing alive for me."

Jeff Dallas, father of four, died at 41 on August 23, 2010.

But the singer stepped outside her family on writing some of the 13 songs on her album that survived the savage cull from 70 on the eve of recording at Nash Chambers Foggy Mountain Studio in the Hunter Valley.

"Dancing With A Ghost came together a lot easier than I imagined at first," Dallas revealed.

"I spent lot of time writing for the record, which meant travelling, getting out and about, to evoke emotions that I could then put into a song. I wrote that many songs had the hard decision of culling them into an album. But now, I am so happy with all the tracks and feel like they all fit on there. It was great being able to write songs with my Dad, and share our musical ideas with one another as I feel that family is a massive part of me."

Although Dallas has been writing since she was 12 she concentrated on songs she wrote in the last two years.

"I've been writing songs since I was 12," Ashleigh explained.

"But I wrote the tracks that are on this album in the last two years. There's a song on there I wrote only a couple of weeks before I went in to make the record. I made it my priority to write for the record. So it features all new songs - it's what I wanted to say on my very first album."

Kasey produced the disc with Matt Fell who mixed it at his Love HZ studio in Sydney.

Dallas added fiddle, mandolin, guitar and banjo to her album that also featured Fell on bass, guitar, Hammond organ, melodica, harmonium and percussion.


"Well I've heard it all before/ and it's no different now/ and like a paper aero-plane stuck in the wall/ I know I could fall down/ and all my friends have disappeared/ I'm the only one left here/ all on my own and I don't know why." - Me - Ashley and Brett Dallas.

Dallas released debut single, Me, replete with a boudoir video of her singing and playing fiddle and mandolin, as the launch pad for her album.

"I wrote at home with my Dad in my messy bedroom, reflecting back on my time in particular at high school," Dallas revealed.

"I guess I was always a bit of the odd one out being a country music singer, multi-instrumentalist, and on the weekends playing gigs with my family band on the weekends instead of doing what I guess normal teenagers did. For Year 7 I didn't sing, or play any music at school as I didn't want to I guess be picked on as what I sang weren't always the most popular songs you would hear other kids talk about. But my Mum and Dad encouraged me that is okay to be myself, and people will accept me and I will be happier being myself. So from year 8 onwards I was known as the country singer, who played Fiddle, mandolin, guitar and banjo and I just kept doing my thing. I guess deep down I always felt I never did fit in to High school social groups, but I do have a lot of fun memories from school, but also a few not so fun, and that's why I guess Me always hit a chord with me. I think it's really cool that it's the first single of my debut record."

Dallas attributes influences to her family.

"There's lots of different stories when you look at all the songs," Dallas confessed.

"Carry Me is a song I wrote especially for my parents and thinking back on my childhood. I would go along to The Pub in Tamworth and watch my Dad and family play music, and in the car ride home would pretend to be asleep just so my Dad would carry me inside, and no matter what happened in life or still happens now I know my parents will help me through it."

She also wrote Dear Brother to her brother Lindsay and admits her hometown inspired another song.

"One song Devil's Flame, I wrote while I was working a morning shift at Tamworth's local Boost Juice," Ashleigh recalled.

"Normally I sit down with my guitar or fiddle and write my songs not to a blender while making a few fruit smoothies, but looking back now I think it's really cool."


"Well this wall is staring me down/ and this pain will drive me out of town/ this train ride is leaving me blue/ and I'm losing my mind over toy." - Riding The Rails - Ashleigh Dallas-Bill Chambers.

Dallas ascended from her own family to the Chambers clan for a train song metaphor in Riding The Rails and highway imagery in The Candle.

The link began as a 17-year-old when she joined Kasey Chambers' band on a four year journey that honed her playing and opened her eyes to a fertile font of song-writing.

"I feel though I learn lots from all the Chambers family," Dallas explained.

"Working alongside Bill Chambers every night, I feel has improved me as a musician, and I love co-writing with Bill, as he always makes you feel comfortable and never stupid if you say a line that isn't great."

Although train songs are a staple of the genre it wasn't exactly planned that way.

"I didn't really sit down and think I want to write a song about a train," Dallas confessed.

"When I write a song it's got to be what I feel or what's come up in me at the time, something that sparks an emotion. Although I actually did write Riding The Rails after a train trip from Tamworth to Gosford. I think it's best to write a song I can out myself into 100%. And I've caught many trains by now."


"He sleeps his way through the morning sun/ doesn't move an inch until the work is done/ and he stops for nothing at all." - Nothing At All - Ashley Dallas-Tom Busby.

She also collaborated with South Australian singer Kelly Menhennet and Tom Busby of Busby Marou.

"I wrote Money with good pal Kelly Menhennet and I feel she brought out a side of me musically that I don't often explore," Ashleigh added.

"And at first I was really nervous about that song when we tracked it, not because I didn't like it. I love the song, but because it was something more out of my comfort zone. So when I play it live, I always find it lots of fun and enjoy the reaction I get from the audience, and the vibe it creates on stage, and stepping outside your comfort zone is always a good and exciting thing."

Equally as rewarding was heading north to Queensland for another session.

"One of my favourite songs is the one I wrote with Tom Busby," Ashleigh revealed of her writing with a musician who worked for five years as a lawyer for Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions.

"I took my little Holden Astra all the way up to Brisbane on a road trip with my guitar in the boot, and sat on the deck at Tom's house and we wrote the song Nothing at All. It was such an awesome moment for me to be able to write with an artist that I love. It is a fun song that I guess sums up the circle of relationships. When it's the right person you will stop at nothing to make it work even if sometimes you go over and over the same things.

It was a goose bump moment for me when I had the guys come down to the Foggy Mountain Studios and play on the track for the record!"

Dallas recorded Dancing With A Ghost for Nash Chambers label Essence.

It's distributed by Warner Music.

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