The rising singer-songwriter opens up about her legendary influences.
In Elite Daily's series Early Influences, musicians reflect on the songs and albums that left a lasting impression on them in their formative years. Here, singer-songwriter Ashe talks about some of the artists she loved listening to growing up, and how they shaped her sound today.
Ashe wouldn’t have expected that one of the hardest moments in her life could lead to one of her greatest joys, but that’s exactly what happened with her new single, “Love Is Letting Go.” The singer-songwriter teamed up with Oscar winner Diane Keaton to sing about their experiences losing loved ones.
In September 2020, Ashe’s brother died suddenly of a relapse following a 14-year battle with substance use disorder; earlier that year, Keaton also went public about her evolving relationship with her brother, who is living with dementia. “Love Is Letting Go” is just one of the many emotion-packed songs on Ashe’s sophomore album, Rae, which dropped on Oct. 14.
You might know Ashe, 29, from her hit songs like “Moral of the Story” and the Finneas collab “Till Forever Falls Apart.” You might also know her by her real name: Ashlyn, the title of her 2021 debut album. With Rae, which similarly takes its title from her middle name, Ashe is her most vulnerable, as she takes listeners through her personal journey of love, heartbreak, and rising from the ashes stronger than ever.
Keaton is just one of several entertainers Ashe has looked to for inspiration over the years. Below, Ashe talks about offering Keaton her first official job as a record artist, finding her Carole King phase in Nashville, and gearing up for her upcoming tour.
If Diane Keaton is Ashe’s No. 1, Carole King is No. 2. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter has written beloved songs like “You’ve Got a Friend” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” to name just a few.
After graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2015, where she studied contemporary songwriting and production, Ashe moved to Nashville in the hopes of becoming a professional songwriter.
“By Nashville, I was really in my Carole phase,” she says, having recently bought a home in the area. It’s there that she started to familiarize herself with King’s music and began refining her own sound: emotion-filled, acoustic-heavy songs.
With Rae, Ashe says she’s feeling “liberated.” Her voice has never felt more her own. Still, on some songs, like the single “omw” and the heartfelt ode to her hometown “San Jose,” Ashe has a secret: “You’ll still hear Carole in there.”
Ashe isn’t one of those musical wunderkinds who knew they always wanted to be a singer. “I didn't know what the hell I wanted,” she says. “I didn't think I was good enough to be a music artist [and] dealt with a lot of insecurity around that.”
So when Ashe performs on stage, she channels the charisma of iconic rockstar Janis Joplin. While Joplin is “a little bit more rock-and-roll” than she is, Ashe matches some of Joplin’s frenetic energy on stage.
“I'm running around stage whipping my hair around and getting on my knees and doing back bends,” she says, though her stage presence is less intimidating than the rock icon’s.
“She was so intense and rock-and-roll, and I can be,” she says. “Angry Woman,” a song about women expressing themselves however they please, certainly has that Joplin-like intensity. “But I think I have a little bit more of a sweetness,” she says. “I'm smiling most of the show.”
As for another musician who knew how to light up the stage with a huge smile: Queen’s legendary frontman Freddie Mercury. Mercury was a vocal powerhouse on stage, able to electrify entire stadiums full of people with his live performances. It’s a talent Ashe aspires to perfect one day. In fact, she regards Mercury as “the best performer of all time.”
“I’ve always been really inspired [by him],” she says. “I just think if the artist looks like they're having fun, then so is the audience.”
While Ashe’s music doesn’t tend towards stadium rock like “We Will Rock You” or “We Are the Champions,” traces of Queen can be heard on Rae tracks “Shower With My Clothes On” and “Hope You’re Not Happy.” These guitar-driven songs are a far cry from Ashe’s early days in Nashville, when she got her start as a featured singer and songwriter for electronic acts on songs like “Right To It” with Louis the Child and “Love Me For the Weekend” with Party Pupils.
“I love live drums, I love acoustic guitar, and ... I think there was a part of my soul that was aching for that,” Ashe says of her transition from EDM to folk-rock. “[But] I'm grateful for the way I started out because it gave me a lane to start creating in the way that I wanted to.”
With Rae officially out, Ashe is ready to take her show on the road with the Fun While It Lasted Tour. She’ll be touring Australia and New Zealand in November before hitting various cities across Europe and North America in spring 2023.
Don’t expect to only hear songs from the new record, though. Ashe plans to show love to both Ashlyn and Rae on tour. “I'm excited to marry both albums into one show,” she says.
As far as her next album goes, Ashe joked that she’s “trying to be really mysterious about” the title of her eventual third album. (Fingers crossed it’s Wilson, her last name.) “My best practice is to go and live my life and then pull from my life,” she says. “The next album's going to be crazy because I've just been journaling out of my mind.”