Ashe is no stranger to being candidly vulnerable and intimate through her storytelling. It’s something that she’s built a career upon, and has rapidly built a fanbase who turn to her music as a cathartic and therapeutic release of emotions. But her debut album ‘Ashlyn’ turned out to be more introspective than she could’ve ever imagined. Calling it after her full birth name “Ashlyn” she took away the barriers of separation that she put up at the start of her career between her as a person and as an artist. “The most honest title is ‘Ashlyn’ because the album is about my life as the human. There’s no separation between church and state, it’s me the artist and the human. I’m one person” explains to ThomasBleach.com
The 14 track collection is full of honest truths. From exploring a toxic relationship, to the breakdown of a marriage, addressing the grieving of her brother, to finding herself again after feeling so lost; this album tackles it all. There’s nothing left to the imagination, and that’s how she wants it to be. She wants to give her listeners everything possible as in turn she might be able to help someone who needs to find comfort in her words.
I recently chatted to Ashe about the vulnerable nature of calling her debut album by her full name ‘Ashlyn’, to the creative processes behind ‘Me Without You’, ‘Always’ and ‘Not Mad Anymore’, and learning to dance with FINNEAS. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut album ‘Ashlyn’ is sincerely a very vulnerable collection of tracks. On top of the lyrical nature of the songs, the album is self-titled by using your full name ‘Ashlyn’ opposed to using Ash. Did doing that feel as vulnerable as the personal revelations on the record, because in reality you’re truly giving your whole self?
ASHE: For the rest of my life I’m going to feel like a bit of an idiot for doing this. I’m really proud of it and will always stand by the decision, yet there will always be 10% of me that’s like “you’re an idiot”. At the end of the day Ashe was a protection in the sense that there’s always been the tiniest barrier between me as the human Ashlyn, and me as the artist Ashe. I knew I was entering dangerous territory by taking that barrier down, but at the end of the day I am a) proud of the record as it’s everything I wanted to say. And b) the most honest title is ‘Ashlyn’ because the album is about my life as the human. There’s no separation between church and state, it’s me the artist and the human. I’m one person.
TB: One of the album’s standout tracks is ‘Me Without You’ which is this big track about finding your self worth after a toxic relationship. So can you explain the creative process behind this track in particular?
A: I would say ‘Me Without You’ is definitely one of my favourites on the album. I think it’s because when I came out of my marriage, I was so empty. I didn’t now who I was or who I wanted to be. All my opinions and everything I thought about myself was so wrapped up in this other person. It was a really toxic and psychologically abusive relationship so while getting out was amazing, there was still so much of this lingering injury from that abuse that I had to figure out and come out into that independence.
The thing I’m most proud about making is the music video for this song because every tiny detail is a metaphor for coming out of an abusive relationship, what that looks like, and the healing and pain of it, as well as the exhilaration and freedom of it.
TB: The lyrics in this track are hyper-relatable, and the whole sentiment of “but I can be me without you. I don’t feel lost without you. Go find yourself” is empowering and assuring to anyone that finds themselves in a similar situation. But a lyric I really liked and found interesting was “you let me down”. It very prominently puts the blame on them. Did you find there to be a power for you to finally say that line through this song?
A: Oh yeah! For so long I was made to believe that I was the enemy, I was the problem, and that I was the one with mental illness. I would get “you come from a family with mental illness so this is probably your mental illness coming out”. It was so not cool, and vey messed up, and I remember feeling so crazy because of it. I was like “I know I’m not crazy” but it’s like if you were looking up at the blue sky and the person next to you who love is like “the sky is actually red. Have you thought this whole time the sky is blue? Oh my god, you need help”. And they keep telling you it’s red over and over again until you think you are insane. It’s gaslighting, and awful.
In reference to the line “you let me down”, in a relationship you are meant to be lifting each other up and cheering each other on and not make each other feel crazy, and I felt really let down in that way. There are always two sides to the story, and I never want to point the finger and be like “you’re the bad guy” however it’s a massive part of healing to acknowledge when someone has hurt and harmed you.
TB: Another song with incredible lyricism is ‘Not Mad Anymore’. When you hear the lyric; “I’m not mad anymore about the madness We didn’t have any more of the magic” back now, where does it take you emotionally and physically?
A: Good question! ‘Not Mad Anymore’ was a really good song for me to write because coming out of that relationship there was a lot of anger. There was so much stuff I was holding onto, and I think that song was me processing; “Oh you’re messed up because of your parents and because of how you were raised. And you’re messed up because of your insecurities and you don’t love yourself”. So once you get to the perspective, while I will never put myself in the position of being loved by that man again, I can also see that there is a new light on it where I don’t need to be mad about it. Mad will only hurt me from here on now.
So “not mad anymore about the madness”; I was so mad for so long about the madness as it was so toxic and an genuine rollercoaster ride. There’s a lyric that goes “the time on the road trip I was being controlling so you got out of the car while it was rolling”, and that is FACTS! I was literally driving and we were in one of those screaming matches where if someone could hear us they would call the cops as it was that level of decibel. And he got out of the car while I was still moving and I remember going “Oh, this is really bad now”. Not a happy, love themselves kind of person.
TB: Sonically the album has quite a live instrumentation sound to it, and it’s really highlighted in the heartbreakingly beautiful ‘Always’. When it came to that sound how did you want to sonically build it?
A: I wanted to be really careful with that song because it is all about the piano, vocal and the story, which is what all of my writing is about; it’s all about the story. But ‘Always’ in particular was important to convey the idea of; what if being with me isn’t the best way to keep you happy?
There is so much pause, and I really wanted everyone to listen to every single lyric. So I didn’t want the production to get too wafty.
TB: Did you try to make it bigger at any point?
A: Me and my co-executive producer Leroy Clampitt definitely talked about it, particularly with the end part of the song. We could’ve gone really crazy, but it was almost like it would feel more powerful the simpler we went with this one. There is some strings and reverse piano things going on it, but for the most part it’s all about the piano and the vocal.
TB: It really is such a beautiful song, and it builds so emotively. The first time I heard it I was like “OH, we are going THERE” *laughs*?
A: *Laughs*, thank you! I love that song purely because I’m such an artist that is very focused on the storytelling, I don’t often get to really “go for it” and belt it like I do on this one. I’m a singer but I’ve always put myself in a category of Carole King and Norah Jones, and never like a Adele or Beyonce. I can’t run to save my life. It’s just not my instrument. It’s like they’re playing a sax and I’m playing an oboe. They’re just very different instruments, and I love my voice and I’m proud of what I have but I don’t often get to really go for it like I do on this one.
TB: For the music videos for this album you’ve really started to embrace dancing. So what choreography in particular has been the most difficult to learn so far?
A: I think because the ‘Till Forever Falls Apart’ music video with FINNEAS was so hard, the ‘Me Without You’ video was a similar effort I needed to put in but I had already done it so there was less nerves. But ‘Till Forever Falls Apart’ was HARD.
TB: FINNEAS was also learning choreography for the first time right? So that would’ve been hard too!
A: You know what, he’s a very good dancer. I think he did lessons when he was younger, but both of us wouldn’t claim to be dancers. We were kind thrown into the fire, and it was deep in COVID period and FINNEAS was taking it very seriously and waited until the day of shoot to run through the dance together for the first time. I was like “okaaaay” I respect you and your decision, but at the same time I was also like *oh no” *laugh*. He came into a Zoom session when I was practicing it and watched, and then on the day we danced together, and by the grace of mother earth we somehow figured it out.
TB: The viral nature of ‘Moral Of The Story’ was ridiculously exciting. Where is the weirdest place you’ve heard the song being played?
A: This is a funny question because so many people have hit me up and been like “I’m at American Eagle” or “I’m getting my car washed, and I’m in in the little store buying air fresheners and your song is playing”, and I still till this day have not gone anywhere and heard it playing. I heard it in a radio station when I was walking in and I was like freaking out *laughs*. All my friends have a story about hearing it and I don’t, it sucks *laughs*.
‘Ashlyn’ is out now!