For our second installment of #MDInterviews, we got to know London’s R&B/Soul artist Ashleigh Ashley.
Ashleigh Ashley blends rock, soul, and electro in her first EP, Criminal Angel. Released in June 2014, the title track “Criminal Angel” was featured by BBC Introducing, the BBC Radio platform that discovers and promotes new music by emerging artists. The native Londoner recently launched her first European tour, #CriminalAngelTour, and headlined the Bulgarian festival, Meadows in the Mountain. Read more on Ashleigh Ashley’s success, and find out why she describes Criminal Angel as a “very cinematic” record.
MD: Ash – thank you so much for taking the time to chat today. How’s everything been in your world?
Ashleigh: My world has been spinning at a million miles an hour in recent months…and thankfully all is more or less returning to normal speed now. It’s been challenging, fun and rather scary all in one; as I locked down a 2hr set with my band, embarked on my first European Tour and released a music video.
MD: Tell us more about your recent tour.
Ashleigh: Oh boy!! Where do I start?? 8 shows in 4 countries over 2 weeks!! We started in Bulgaria playing at my first festival (Meadow in the Mountains), then went onto play in Ibiza (Ibiza Rocks and the infamous Hippy Market). I was totally freaked out by all the lovely people coming up and asking for pics, and asking me for my autograph :P
And then… we went to Amsterdam and played in an amazing blues bar called The Waterhole – one of my favorite singers Joss Stone has performed there so it was a real honor. I’ve been to Dam a couple of times, so I really feel at home there.
The last leg of the tour was just me in Nice with a wonderful ‘veteran’ blues guitarist called Teck. There are sooo many stories from this trip MD… too many! You can catch up on all the shenanigans from the tour on my VLOG – The Constant Wonderer.
[Above] Ashleigh Ashley and her super-band on her #CriminalAngelTour
MD: What would you say is the most rewarding feeling when you’re out interacting with your fans?
Ashleigh: Songwriting for me is a very internal process. We artists spend many a day locked in the studio or in rehearsals perfecting our music, writing new songs and testing new things. So taking music public and seeing the effect it has on people is SO fulfilling. This is the best reward…it reminds me why I do this…to move people and touch places in their hearts that no-one else can.
MD: How would you compare playing in London versus performing on the road?
Ashleigh: London is a really tough audience. We’re spoilt with an endless conveyor belt of artist and music. Music is shoved down our throats every day and I think it makes people a bit nonchalant about what it actually takes to do what we do. Being on the road is tough in itself…but I found the audiences across Europe were extremely supportive! In London people often try and haggle you down from £5 to £3 for your CD…in Amsterdam for example I’d ask for 10 EUR and have 20 EUR shoved into my hand with a smile and a pat on the back. People really valued what we did.
Home is where the heart is though…and London is where I’m at so I relish the challenge!!
MD: What inspires you during your writing process? Is it a “process” or do you live your life and let the music come to you?
Ashleigh: My first EP (Criminal Angel) was a real process. Each and every song evolved in stages and it was all about creating an escape from reality…working through themes of good and evil, and really exploring the darker side of the human psyche. I’m going through a new lack of process right now and embracing the music within (sounds so pretentious lol). But what I’m trying to say is that my next project is really personal, and as opposed to creating an audio construct for my listeners I’m just going to open up and let them in. I can’t wait to share!!
MD: It is very apparent that you have a close relationship with your art. How do you want your fans to feel when they listen to your songs?
Ashleigh: The Criminal Angel project was about ESCAPE. I want listeners to feel a sense of fantasy and dystopian reality. With my next body of work, I want people to look inside themselves. I want them to cry and laugh with each song… I’ll be exploring a full range of human emotions…INSIDE OUT!
MD: The Criminal Angel visual is great! It really fits the song and embodies the EP as whole. How was it shooting the video?
Ashleigh: Ah…the Crim Ang Vid! That concept lived in my dreams for over a year before we brought it to life!! I’ve produced all of my music videos but this was by far the most technical. We had a crew of like 17 people and shot on an Alexa (which is a film industry standard camera), and we had lights, smoke machine, turntables… EVERYTHING! My mum (Millicent Ashley) is a fashion designer, and she styled me for the shoot, and I roped in my boyfriend (Daniel Evans) to direct and my cousin to production manage, so it turned out to be quite a family affair! Samantha Schnitzler (the dancer on the left in the video) choreographed the moves for the shoot, and she also featured in a short film I made for Intel a few years ago! And how buff is our Crim Ang! Us girls had a running joke that Kwesi is going to earn that title for all the hearts he’ll break!
When we called WRAP…I couldn’t help but say “I’m sooo blessed to have such beautiful & talented people in my life”!
Ashleigh Ashley “Criminal Angel” (Official Video)
MD: Let’s think about your songs as they would sync to screen. If you were the music supervisor, where would you place songs by Ashleigh Ashley?
Ashleigh: The Criminal Angel EP is very cinematic! The song Criminal Angel itself would serve as a formidable soundtrack to a James Bond movie, and softer songs like Back To Me would go well with a rom com/or something equally sentimental.
Songs like One Wish would be great on a console game. And Gonna Be There is a bit of a summer anthem so yea…I could hear that on more lifestyle / sports / festival / fashion commercials.
MD: How would you describe your sound in 5 words?
Ashleigh: Narrative, Courageous, Captivating, Fearless & Fantastical
MD: We know you’re always busy so what’s next?
Ashleigh: We go back in the studio to write / record the next project…well it’s actually a trilogy (three part EP) called STAND, WALK, RUN. We’ve got a couple of really cool collabs lined up, but I can’t say too much about that at the moment :P There is still lots of steam left in the Criminal Angel project too so I’ll be gigging that material and speaking to publishers about getting the music sync’d and out there!
MD: We really appreciate you for being so candid and look forward to seeing what tomorrow holds for you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
Ashleigh: Pleasure! Look forward to working with you guys more in future! I love what you’re doing for independent artist like me…and I’m really excited to get deeper down the Music Dealers rabbit hole!
Interview by Zachary Lyons, Music Dealers