Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
Kassi Ashton never thought her first song, "California, Missouri," which detailed the singer's complicated feelings towards her hometown, would be her most controversial. Not that far into her professional music career (if we don't include the karaoke bars, Ashton was singing at before she could even read), she was already being accused of turning her back on her roots. But it's her California, MO childhood that's inspired so much of her sound, especially when it comes to her latest single, "Field Party." The song's music video, premiering exclusively on Refinery29, was directed by Kristin Barlowe and distills Ashton's affection for her upbringing down to one of her most frequent pastimes: drinking, hanging out, and partying in a field with friends.
"Did y'all think I forgot just where I was born and raised?" she asks in the lyrics, promising "Just when big city lights get to clouding up my mind / You will find me, you will find me / Hey, at a field party."
Despite the tension that inspired the song, Ashton is in a pretty good spot. Behind her? A feature on Keith Urban's 2018 song "Drop Top." Still ahead? is Opening for Maren Morris on the "The Middle" singer's GIRL world tour. But for now, she's kicking back with a cup of beer, her cowboy boots, and all her close friends who made the vibrant, playful music video for "Field Party" come to life. Ahead, we spoke to Ashton about the process of filming the video (yes, it was as fun as it looks) as well as how she's championing her own musical journey.
Refinery29: First, can you tell me a little bit about the process of writing this song? What inspired it?
Kassi: "The first song I ever put out was titled 'California, Missouri,' which is the name of my hometown. I didn't have the typical kind of country, romantic, hometown thing. I was the weird art kid. "California, Missouri" was the point of view of, I love you guys, but it's a double edged sword and I love to leave even more. And then it was so funny because when that song came out, it really connected with a bunch of people.
"But there are people I think actually didn't listen to the song. People love to assume and they were like, She forgot where she came from. You know, She's trashing her hometown. Like none of those things are true. I was writing with my producer and one of my best friends and I was like, Do they think that I just don't do that small town stuff anymore? That I just completely forgot how to ride four wheelers or drink beer and have a field party? And we were like, Oh, let's do that."
How did you translate that into a video?
"I wanted something that, one, you could tell was a field party. But also I want it to be as trippy as possible, and actually fun. I want people of all styles and all backgrounds coming together. And Kristin Barlowe, the director, was the one that was like, What about these minibikes? And this hippie van that looks like it's from Scooby Doo? I just wanted it to feel wacky and I want people, wherever they are, wherever they're from, to watch it and say, I want to party."
So was filming it basically an actual party?
"Yes. I wanted an actual party with real beer. We made sure every one that had to be there was over 21. There are parts in that video where the ends of my hair look wet because it's beer. It was a blast. We went 'til probably 3, 3:30 in the morning and all of us at the end were like, We want to do this again. Like without cameras."
All the clothes and graphics for the video you made yourself — tell me a bit about that.
"I consider myself a creative to the fullest. Music just happens to be the forefront of all of the things I love to do. I learned to sew from my mom when I was in probably late elementary school, early middle school, and so now as a new artist it's so convenient. Every music video that I've ever put out, I designed all the costumes in the video. Fashion is a huge part of everything I do just because I see clothes as an art form and a way to show your mood or how you feeling. Clothes can say so much or say so little.
"And then I also am a Photoshop nerd. All the graphics that you see, the "Field Party" artwork, all the past songs I put out, everything — that's all me in Photoshop."
Is that level of creative control important to you?
"No can understand my brain better than I can. And that's why I'm applauding Kristin Barlowe as a director so much. She lets me say exactly [what] I want and be really vocal and kind of do everything, and then she just expands that further. She just nails it to a T. Like one of the best things is watching a video when it's done and looking at the mood board and going, Holy Shit, this mood board looks like I described it to you after it was done, not beforehand. She's an amazing collaborator and I get to have fun and make cool shit."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.