PopCrush Presents: Ashe on Writing For Demi Lovato and Being an ‘Alt-Pop Girl’
Making the jump from featured vocalist to solo artist is a feat that is becoming more and more rare these days. Fans of Whethan and Louis The Child are no doubt familiar with Ashe, who has played a huge part in making some of their top songs so memorable, but it's pretty difficult to just dismiss her as a featured vocalist.
Recently, Ashe signed to Mom+Pop, home to artists like Flume and Alina Baraz. There, she released her debut single: the raw, lyrically-driven “Used to It," a drop of pure sunshine in pop form.
We spoke with Ashe below, where she discusses upcoming projects and gives a more in-depth glance into what it means to be a solo musician.
How did you get started in music?
I never thought I was going to be "in" music growing up, but music was the only thing right in my life. I applied to Berklee College of Music, received a scholarship to attend and never looked back. I didn't know I had what it takes to be an artist. I thought "songwriter," maybe, but I majored in big band writing and production at school. It wasn't until I started singing on my own demos in Nashville that I grew the balls to be an artist. Then this wonderful underground deep house producer Ben Phipps reached out and he wanted me to sing on one of his tracks. At the time, the role of a feature was a bubble that hadn’t popped yet so I was like, “I’m going to get in on this before everyone else starts featuring”—you know, like the YouTube thing where now it’s really hard to get discovered compared to before.
So I thought, before features become like YouTube, I’m going to find my way in and [“Alive”] was the first track I put my name on. I started driving to Chicago all the time, to top-line electronic tracks, the last genre I ever imagined myself in. This is where I met Whethan and Louis The Child. That was the end of life as I knew it. There was a total underground music scene happening there, with DJs and these cool pop guys. I found my new family out there. Then I just started trying to kill it. And yeah, everything just changed from there.
What are your small goals and big goals for right now?
I don’t know if I have any massive goals. I’m a big believer in taking the next right step. The next right step a couple months ago was signing with Mom+Pop, which is a record label that I’ve looked up to and totally admire because they have such cool, interesting and authentic artists. So that was the next right step and it wasn’t even that I had a goal of signing with a record label, it was just an opportunity to take me on my way. Of course I’d love to say that I want to be successful, perform at the Grammys, travel around the world but mainly, I just want to keep writing and making music that people really understand and love.
I’m going on tour with Whethan at the end of October and then I’m going on tour supporting Louis The Child after that so again, getting to play live is a surreal feeling. I’ve literally been writing nonstop; I’ve been driving to L.A. (I live in San Diego currently) but I’m moving to L.A. which is the next right step for me, another thing I’ve never dreamed about. I’ve been going at least twice a week for writing sessions. I’ve been writing so much, they’re like therapy sessions. So the next EP—it’s probably coming late fall and then an album within the new year—is a total study of the human condition and relationships. I’ve struggled with self-doubt and depression and [these projects] are like a reflection of myself and how I look at the world. It’s going to be tight.
What do you hope listeners will take away from your music and seeing you live?
Seeing me live... I hope to find a new best friend, in a weird way. I love cracking jokes and hanging out on stage, getting to know the people that are in front of me. I hope that for the live show, people will leave thinking like, “Ashe is my homegirl” and that we get each other. And I understand that not everyone’s going to understand but I just hope I make some homies on tour. As far as the music and what people will get out of it, I think I really struggled a lot growing up feeling alone in my insecurities and my depression and a lot of that stuff. I hope that people are going to connect. I mean, at the end of the day, I’m writing this music for myself and this is my passion when I’m writing these songs, from me and for me in a way. I’m hoping that people will really get it in a way of feeling like they’re not alone. I don’t know, I’ve felt alone a lot in life and some of the artists I look up to like Carole King and Stevie Nicks, these people made me feel like I could make a difference in this world, that I am awesome. I want to make people feel awesome.
Who are some of your dream collaborators?
That’s so hard. So John Mayer is like my king and my husband totally knows that I’m like, head over heels for John Mayer. It’s hilarious. So he would be a dream collab. Also Justin Vernon, Bon Iver—he’s a huge, huge inspiration. Lana Del Rey, and obviously Calvin Harris would be a massive dream too.
What kind of sound will your upcoming album have and where do you envision your sound to be in the near future?
There’s a lot going on in this new album. I would consider myself to be an alt-pop girl because it’s definitely off from center. I definitely don’t sound like Taylor Swift or Katy Perry. I’m definitely more in the indie world for sure. I think there’s a lot of weird sounds. We were messing with Indian music, for example. My roots at Berklee were in swing music, composing for big bands, so very orchestral and movie-like stuff. So that’s sort of the EP, it’s going to have elements of jazz and of course electronic production. But it will also have a lot of live instruments, a lot of real guitar, drum, bass. I tour with a trumpet player and he’s on a bunch of the tracks too. It’s going to be a cool fusion of alt-rock, jazz, pop.
What are some of the hardest things about songwriting and being an artist?
I guess the best part of songwriting is also the hardest part, of being completely vulnerable and putting yourself out there fully. Whether you’re alone in a room with a piano or whether you’re in a room with other writers. There’s an honesty you need to have with yourself. It’s both a strength and a weakness at times. I just had my first songwriting cut in the pop world and Demi Lovato just released it last week. It’s called “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore,” and that song was a therapy session.
There were four writers in the room and I think that song, for all of us was a therapy session. Getting to see it performed by a larger than life artist, to me at least, and seeing someone like that sing your words, is completely insane. I don’t know the answer to that question completely. I’m sort of writing all over the place. Mostly I’m writing for myself, most of the other sessions with other writers are for my project but that was for a camp that my publishers set up. It was sort of like, if a song doesn’t work for me or if a song makes sense for an artist and the story they’re trying to tell... We’re all trying to tell stories, that’s all we’re doing. I’m writing for everybody.
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