After moving from Winston-Salem to Nashville, Tenn., in 2009 Todd Ashburn began a full-time career as a session and touring bassist.
He had been in Tennessee for six years when he bought a 125-acre property. Since his purchase, three music videos — two of which have won Academy of Country Music awards — and an independent film have been filmed on the Ashburn Homestead.
Rolling hills, green pastures, several ponds, a stream, three old farmhouses surrounded by huge trees on the edges and a mountain in the background make it easy for people to be attracted to the property.
“It’s just 10 minutes from downtown Nashville,” Ashburn said of the first time he saw the property. “I pull off this highway, then take a left and drive a mile and boom. I said, ‘First postcard on the left.’”
Six generations of Ashburns are from Winston-Salem, and family members still live in the area.
After graduating from R.J. Reynolds High School in 1985, Todd Ashburn attended UNC Wilmington. One of his fondest memories at the university was being a member of a summer basketball team and member of the winning team in the Domino’s Pizza 3 on 3 championship in 1986, along with Brian Rowsom, who was a power forward at UNC Wilmington and played for the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets; and Kenny Mickens of Winston-Salem, who was a guard for UNC Wilmington.
“I had grown to 6-foot-1 by then and played point,” Ashburn said.
In late 1988, Ashburn left college after three years to be with his family after his father, Clint Ashburn Jr., was diagnosed with a brain tumor. At the time, his family was living in Bethania.
While at home, he was looking for something to do and bought a bass guitar from a pawn shop in downtown Winston-Salem.
Something about the bass had always attracted his attention when he listened to music, even as a child, so he started learning how to play it.
“I hear all the music, but the bass guitar is the one thing I always focus in on,” Ashburn said.
He said the thumping is what turns him on.
“A lot of my bass stuff came out of sadness and anger from my dad’s sickness, not being able to do anything to keep him healthy,” he said. “In turn, that’s when I started writing music through the bass, and the basslines were heavy, like aggressive, thumping and kind of angry. To be honest, they were angry basslines.”
He still plays that same style of music today on bass — slap and pop — along with other styles of bass playing.
Ashburn began playing locally with singer/songwriter Bob Sullivan’s band and some musicians who were in folk singer/songwriter Arlo Guthrie’s band.
A few months after his father died in December 1989, Ashburn moved to Charlotte, where he and his best friend, Jimmy Hamblin, formed a funk metal band called Candy Pig.
“The aggression came out in that band,” Ashburn said.
Candy Pig had some gigs and opened for several national acts such as Vanilla Ice, Korn and Social Distortion at the former Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem in the mid-to-late 1990s.
“We played a ton of places throughout the United States,” he said.
Candy Pig released its debut album, “43” in 1997 on Clutchdogs Records. In 1999, the band was signed by Atlantic Records, but its second album was never finished.
In 2000, Ashburn moved back to Winston-Salem and flipped houses until he moved to Nashville.
Ashburn moved to Nashville in May 2009 and has had his 125-acre property there since 2019.
Ashburn said the houses on the property are nothing extravagant.
“The one I live in is built into a hill,” Ashburn said. “It keeps it cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”
He said he has enjoyed having music videos filmed on his property.
The first music video featuring scenes filmed on the Ashburn Homestead was Thomas Rhett’s “Remember You Young,” which was filmed in 2019. It was directed by TK McKamy and produced by Dan Atchison.
In August 2020, scenes from Kane Brown’s “Worldwide Beautiful” were filmed in downtown Mt. Pleasant, Tenn., and on Ashburn’s homestead. The video was directed by Alex Alvga and produced by Christen Pinkston in accordance with RCA records and Kane Brown’s production team.
Alvga said the “Worldwide Beautiful” video was a two-day shoot and filming on Ashburn’s property was on the second day.
“It was a beautiful day during sunset, so it was even better,” Alvga said. “The land is beautiful.”
He said the property was totally different from the Nashville landscape people typically see in country music videos.
“We saw it while we were scouting ... It was the perfect place,” Alvga said.
“Remember You Young” won the 2020 Academy of Country Music Video of the Year award and “Worldwide Beautiful” won the 2021 ACM Awards Video of the Year honor.
Ashburn said Kane Brown is a neighbor of his who dropped by and told him he loved the looks of the land.
The third video filmed on his property was for an up-in-coming artist and the independent film was a B-horror movie, filmed before the music videos.
“I’m wide open to and welcome the idea of somebody else or whoever filming on this beautiful property,” Ashburn said.
Initially, Ashburn moved to Nashville to play bass with country artist Jimmy Wayne, who was a friend and used to follow Candy Pig.
But after he moved, he met Buddy Hyatt, and they started writing songs together and working in the studio. Hyatt is a singer/songwriter, composer, producer, session leader and member of the band Toto.
“He hires me to play bass,” Ashburn said.
He said he has recorded bass guitar as a session musician in virtually every Music Row Nashville recording studio, as well as in Paramount Recording Studio in Los Angeles and Westlake Recording Studios in West Hollywood, Calif., and Platinum Sound Recording Studios in New York.
He has played bass with members of the rock bands Toto and Steppenwolf, as well as some members of the bands that play for country artists Carrie Underwood and Kenny Chesney, and pop artists Taylor Dayne and Taylor Swift.
For six months during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, session musicians took time off because a lot of artists were not touring, Ashburn said, but now, work is picking up.
He said a lot of singers coming off TV shows such as “The Voice” and “American Idol” are cutting albums.