Local country mainstay longs for audiences
Check out Ashcraft at lots of different venues
There are few local musicians busier than Hubie Ashcraft. With the popularity of country music and his own longstanding popularity, Ashcraft has been playing solo gigs along with appearances with his band and various other configurations for years, having routinely appeared locally and in places from Ohio to Nashville, Tenn.
But like everyone else, Ashcraft saw those dates dry up instantly in the wake of the pandemic.
“On any given week I might have four or five shows, sometimes six if I’m playing at Flashback,” Ashcraft said in an interview with Whatzup. “That was before the quarantine, and all of that changed after St. Patrick’s Day.
“You don’t realize how much you love something or how much you’ll miss it until someone says you can’t do it. You don’t think you’re taking it for granted that you get to do something you love night after night until you can’t anymore.”
Although he was unable to perform live for a few months, he did two full band livestream performances and one acoustic one, something that took a bit of the sting out of not getting out in front of his legions of fans.
“It was a great way to kind of get together to play,” he said. “People would send us photographs of where they were or what they were doing as they listened to the music. That’s the great thing about the communal joy of music. We were all going through something that none of us had ever experienced before, and music is such a big part of our communal experience and really helps us get through some tumultuous times.”
Ashcraft also enjoyed a special aspect of his down time.
“My daughter is six years old, and I had Friday and Saturday nights free for the first time since she was a newborn. It was so great having time and taking care of her and helping her with her Zoom classes and schooling. It was great being there and acting as her teacher when she needed me. That connection and all of that extra time was so special, and I never would have been able to do that if it hadn’t been for the quarantine. It really was a blessing to sit back and reevaluate things from a positive standpoint.”
Ready for the stage
As the reopening efforts continue and seem stalled in 4.5 mode, Ashcraft is getting a few more opportunities to get back on the stage. He’s relishing the excitement of returning to work.
“There are still a lot of things that haven’t opened yet, and some places have to stay to 25 or less,” he said. “I’ve played a few times with Missy Burgess and Travis Gow, and it’s been great to get in front of an audience again. It almost took me back to Woodside Middle School when my friends and I got up on the stage and played for everyone. Being away from it for three months made it all seem fresh again.
“Getting out there and playing for three, three-and-a-half hours has been amazing, but I had to get my dexterity back. You can practice at home, but it’s not the same. I was even starting to lose my callouses a bit!”
Ashcraft is mostly sticking to outdoor venues right now and recently enjoyed a reunion of his full band in Put-in-Bay, Ohio. In lieu of the usual festivals he’d be playing, he’s been picking up smaller gigs and even private parties, enough work to keep the band busy.
New twist for old benefit
Earlier this month, he also played a very special event, one that has meant a lot to him for a decade.
“For the last 10 years we’ve been playing the Rhinestone Rodeo which benefits the Ronald McDonald House,” Ashcraft said. “This is our 11th year, and in the previous 10 we’ve raised $1.5 million. It’s been a huge honor to work with Parkview on this. They have 16 rooms for families to stay, and they’ve dedicated a room in my honor. The room is decorated with memorabilia. One of my guitars is hanging in there. What a huge honor to know families are going into that room. It’s great to be even a small part of that.”
While that event, like many charity events in recent months, was held virtually this year, it still managed to raise $207,000.
In the meantime, Ashcraft is starting to put together a few dates including an appearance at Country Heritage Winery in Nashville, Ind., on Oct. 2 and a performance at the Club Room at the Clyde on Oct. 3, a show that will feature a full band performance.
One performance which was to have taken place earlier this year, a stint as opening act for Josh Turner at the Blue Gate Theatre in Shipshewana, has been rescheduled for June 4 of next year.
In the meantime, keep checking Whatzup for his schedule of performances.
“As we start heading into the winter months, I want to find some venues where people can distance themselves,” he said. “I pray that I can find enough places where people can spread out and feel safe.”