In the past year, Ashe has emerged as a fresh and talented singer/songwriter who is having success on the pop, rock & alternative charts. It was in early 2019 that she released her single “Moral of the Story,” which has put her in the spotlight, and it continues to move up several Billboard charts. Also propelling this single is a new version that Ashe has recorded with pop star Niall Horan (from One Direction).
Ashe during this period, Ashe has released two quality EPs (Moral of the Story: Chapters 1 and 2) that display her unique personality and creative music style. The eight songs on these two EPs provide a solid body of work, and recently Ashe released an impressive new single called “Save Myself,” that has a rich, orchestral arrangement that shows that she is adding new sounds and ideas to her music.
Ashe (whose birth name is Ashlyn Rae Willson) grew up in San Jose, CA, and she began playing piano when she was eight. She became a fan of pop singer/songwriters Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) and Carole King, and she started to write her own songs.
As a teenager, Ashe focused on developing her music skills, which eventually led her to applying to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. She was accepted into Berklee and received a small scholarship, and she then spent the next few years studying composition & production there.
After graduating from Berklee, Ashe moved to Nashville for a year, where her initial goal was to pursue a pro career as a songwriter. However, she realized that she preferred to write songs for herself as an artist, and from that point on, she has created music to fit her own unique style.
Following her stay in Nashville, Ashe moved to Los Angeles, where she subsequently signed a music publishing deal with Kobalt Music Group, and a label deal with Mom & Pop Music (based in New York). In 2017, she co-wrote a song called “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore,” which was recorded by Demi Lovato. Then in 2018, she released her debut EP, The Rabbit Hole.
Here’s the video of Ashe’s hit, “Moral of the Story.”
In February 2019, Ashe released her single “Moral of the Story.” This was followed two months later by the release of her EP Moral of the Story: Chapter 1, and in August 2019 she released the EP Moral of the Story: Chapter 2. Notably, both EPs were executive-produced by hit writer/producer/artist Finneas, who is known for his Grammy-winning work with his sister, Billie Eilish. Other key songs on these EPs are “Cold in California,” “Shitty Places, Pretty Faces” and “Figured Out.”
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Ashe. She tells how she got started in the music business, and how she co-wrote her hit, “Moral of the Story.” She also discusses her new single “Save Myself,” and her songwriting.
DK: I read that you grew up in San Jose, you learned to play piano, and later you graduated from Berklee College of Music. Can you talk about your early years doing music?
Ashe: The early years were a lot of piano lessons that at first I felt forced into, but that I’m so grateful for now (laughs). And I remember always wanting to write my own songs. Luckily, I learned enough about music theory to get ready for Berklee. I applied and gor a small scholarship to go there, and it was the only place I applied to, because it felt like the only right choice for me. So I went there and just soaked up everything, and I remain close to the teachers there.
DK: After Berklee, you moved to Nashville for a year, and I read that you initially wanted to focus on being a songwriter instead of an artist. Was that true?
Ashe: Yeah, I think it was borne out of a lot of insecurity and immaturity. [At the time],I didn’t think I was good enough to be an artist. So I was like…I’ll be like a Carole King, without the artist side. I just wanted so badly to be a famous songwriter. But halfway through being in Nashville, I started to prefer singing my own songs. I felt like [being an artist] was the right thing to do.
DK: In 2017, you co-wrote a song, “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore,” that was recorded by Demi Lovato. How did you connect with Demi and place that song?
Here’s the video of Ashe’s new single, “Save Myself.”
Ashe: When I first moved to L.A. after Nashville, there were a couple different publishers that were looking at me, and they threw me into a session and put me in this writing camp. The writing camp [was for] the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato. At the camp, there were some amazing L.A. writers such as Ross Golan and Chloe Angelides. So we wrote that song there, and everything sort of changed after that.
DK: Soon after, you signed with the label Mom & Pop Music, and then you released your first EP, The Rabbit Hole. Can you talk about making your first EP and signing with Mom & Pop Music?
Ashe: I flew out to New York to meet with Goldie (Michael Goldstone) at Mom & Pop. I knew he signed Regina Spektor back in the day, and she was one of my favorite artists. So I was like…this guy’s got taste and we’ll check it out. Then we flew to New York and right off the bat, you could tell he was not your regular label head & music industry exec. I thought…I like this guy; it felt like he really cared about the music. And that’s been true since I signed with them three years ago. As soon as I signed, I started working on my first EP and put out The Rabbit Hole. Then I toured off of that and became a support act for a bunch of artists I really loved.
DK: Last year, you released your hit “Moral of the Story,” which keeps doing well on the charts. What inspired you to write that song?
Ashe: It’s definitely the song that’s changed my life forever, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. I wrote it about a year after I got a divorce, and I knew I was gonna write about that experience, because as songwriters, we love to share our stories (laughs). So I started to unpack that with a good friend of mine, Casey Smith, and Noah Conrad, and we sat down to write the record. It was the first time I told them that I had gotten a divorce, and I think the both of them were thinking…Ohh, we’re gonna write a really good song today” (laughs). So we put it out, and I think we felt there was something special about the record. And it did okay, but it didn’t take off the way we all thought it might. But then in February 2020 when it got in that movie (To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You), we were like…Ahh, we weren’t wrong, that song really is special (laughs). I’m just glad it happened.
Here’s the audio for Ashe’s song, “Cold In California.”.
DK: You recently recorded a new version of “Moral of the Story” with Niall Horan. How did you connect with him for the new version?
Ashe: We got connected through a friend of mine, who’s vice president of A&R at Capitol Records, and she works with Niall. She was my champion at Kobalt, which is my current publishing company. Although she left [Kobalt to work at Capitol], she stayed my champion and she brought up the idea of Niall singing on my record. She said, “I want to float this idea to Niall…how do you feel about that? I said, “Oh my gosh, that’s so great. Let’s do it.” Then two days later, Niall and I were on a Facetime call with each other, and he said, “Yeah, let’s give it a try.” And I feel like the luckiest girl in the world because he sounds amazing on the record. So we put that one out, and “Moral of the Story’ is like this little song that keeps going.
DK: On your two EPs, Moral of the Story Chapter 1 & Chapter 2, there are eight songs. What are your other favorite songs from those EPs?
Ashe: Ooh…that’s a gooe question. Probably “Cold In California”…that’s a really special record to me. I also like “Shitty Places, Pretty Faces”—I love the message and writing behind that one.
DK: Your two Moral of the Story EPs were executive-produced by Finneas (Billie Eilish’s collaborator & brother). How did you connect with him?
Ashe: We have the same management company, so about three years ago, they threw us together in a writing session and we hit it off in a pretty unique way. And we’ve been close friends since then. We would get together for coffee, and when I first played him the demo for “Moral of the Story,” he had all these cool ideas to do in the production, and with lyrical changes. So I said, “Why don’t you be the executive producer on the EPs?” This was before he won five Grammys (laughs) and it was a good time to ask him. He said, “Yes,” and he nailed it.
DK: I like your new single “Save Myself,” which has a big orchestral arrangement. How did you write & record “Save Myself”?
Here’s the audio for Ashe’s song, “Shitty Places, Pretty Faces.”
Ashe: I love this new record…it’s really special to me. My executive producer on my (upcoming) album is Leroy “Big Taste” Clampitt. He produced “In Disguise” on my Chapter 1 EP, and I felt really connected to him. He became a close friend, and for the orchestral production, he recorded all these strings for it. I wanted it to feel like the sound was enveloping you and hugging you.
On the day we wrote the song, I was with Jason Evigan, who’s an amazing producer. Casey Smith and Michael Pollack were the other writers. Michael is the most talented piano player that I ever met. On “Save Myself,” he came up with those timeless, classic chords. And the whole song lent itself to this massive production, with Queen-like harmonies. We just wanted to go big with it, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
DK: On “Save Myself” and the songs on your EPs, I think you have a unique sound and personality that comes out. And I read that you’re a fan of the Beach Boys classic album, Pet Sounds. So how do you create your own style and sound?
Ashe: I think that’s a good question. I don’t think it’s so manufactured…I’m not thinking about it too much. I think the best way to be unique and have your own voice, is to almost not think about it…it’s really just being you, [which is this] anomaly that a lot of us have a hard time figuring out. So the barometer was…could anyone else sing this song? And if I felt like someone else could sing it, then it got cut it from the list. I think it’s a good measuring tool. And I think that when you’re heavily influenced by an album like I am with Pet Sounds, then all those intricacies are gonna sneak their way in, which honestly I hope they do, because it’s so good.
DK: I read that you’re working on your first full album. Will you be releasing your album in the coming months?
Ashe: I don’t know when it’s coming…I’ve got to finish it first (laughs). But it’s close. I’m working on my debut album and I love it. I’m so proud of it.