I was lucky enough to meet Ashley at Queer Idol where she was learning to get comfortable on stage and fell in love with both her beautiful voice and her magical spirit. To think that in a few short years she has become both a writer and found herself a band to record and perform with. I am truly delighted to be able to present Ashley in performance at our June 5th Singers Playground concert. This is a young artist to keep your eyes on people!
Micah: How did your family connection to music help you believe you could do this for a career?
Ashley: When I was little I used to go to the studio with my dad and his band. Sitting there, playing with the keyboard sounds was more fun to me than any toy. My little sisters and I would copy the singers and make "plays" about our experiences. My dad always told me I would be a singer and I believed him the first time he said it. Eventually, I was big enough to sing with him in his country band. Since my dad was a singer, you could say it's in my blood, but my family also really encouraged me to persue music as a career.
It seems that it took a lot of personal growth for you to become ready to function as an artist. What has that journey felt like?:
It certainly took me a long while to get to this point. In order to become a high functioning shy girl, I had to overcome some physical and emotional issues years in the making. I lost 60lbs, learned how to manage my severe anxiety disorder and discovered who I really am as a person. All this happened in three years.
You overcame a huge issue of anxiety in order to become a performer what methods did you/do you use?
Since I was three I've had a pretty bad problem with panic attacks and anxiety. As all performers know, nervousness is a part of the deal which I accept to a degree. I made the decision to seek psychotherapy and learn ways to control the insane levels of fear that I got to. Deep breathing,yoga, meditation and regular exercise help me stay calm. I avoid caffeine and fatty foods because I know they upset me. Writing songs about this issue is also very helpful, not only for myself but hopefully for other sufferers too.
You were involved with Queer Idol (Now Spectra) in what ways did that experience support your growth?
Queer Idol (now called Spectra) was an amazing opportunity for me to overcome stage fright. We performed very often and were always singing together. It's really true that the more you perform, the easier it gets. Idol introduced me to the Singers playground as well as a whole family of musicians of whom I will love forever! Queer Idol planted a tiny seed that has now become a flower.
In what way has Singers Playground played a part in supporting your becoming the artist you have become?
Singers Playground....what can I say without sounding cheesy?? It's actually changed my life! When I started with Singers Playground, I was singing classical music and just about every genre there is. I couldn't really settle on a style that expressed all the colours that I am. We explored different elements of most styles and were able to blend them all into neo soul. Micah worked with me on learning to breathe properly. Breath support was my biggest issue. Unlocking the power of my diaphragm has made me a completely different singer that I was two years ago.
You became a singer who can write. Why was this important to you and how did you accomplish that goal?
I believe we were all born to help one another through love and wisdom. This is why I feel its so important for me to share my music and light with everyone. Last year I wanted to begin to share my inner world with an audience. On Micah's advice, I started to listen to songs that I really related to, paying attention to structure and lyrics. Then, I played instrumentals on Youtube and recorded myself freestyling on them. Next thing I knew I was starting to get ideas in the shower, at work...anywhere and recorded them. Lastly, I hibernated all winter and continued to write piece by piece, song by song. Now, I have twenty-seven songs.....and counting.
You now perform regularly with your own band! How did you find your musicians?
Oh! My band! I love these people! I was doing a lot of back up work last year and ended up singing with this awesome band called Jackson Live,a Michael Jackson tribute band. That's where I met Julian Clarke, our drummer. We sort of simultaneously realized we would work well together. I brought the idea to him to start a neo soul band. He pulled together some members of his band Theflow. One of our back up singers went to school with my little sister, and I knew she'd be a good fit .These guys somehow understand the craziness inside my head. I love them to death!
What are your goals in this industry and who career inspires you?
My goals in the industry....so many! I would love to have a career exactly like Erykah Badu, the queen of neo soul. I wish to release multiple albums all of which do really well and reach a world wide audience. I also want to receive Out Music, grammy and NAACP awards. This would make me feel like I have represented and contributed to the queer, black and music community the best I possibly can. I'd love to perform in countries that don't speak my language, but still feel the music. One of my ultimate goals in life is to affect change by starting or being part of a foundation for girls that elevates their self esteem. MUSIC+LOVE+CHANGE=LIFE