INTERVIEW: Ashley Gearing
Now, at the age of 19, Ashley is busy taking her vocal career to the next level. Currently working in the studio with famed music producer Byron Gallimore (Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Jo Dee Messina) and recently signed to Curb Records, she readying herself for a new single, album and a very busy 2010.
Ashley and I spent some time together recently to talk about her career and her new single “What You Think About Us”
Bev: Ashley, you are only 19 and yet you have been involved with music for most of your life; what are you up to these days?
AG: I’ve just released my brand new single called “What You Think About Us”. I am so excited about that. The music I am singing today is totally me. I am doing a lot of writing. I am going out and visiting radio stations and doing shows. It is my favorite part of this business. I love being able to go out and perform for people. I am taking it day by day, living in Nashville. I am also going to Belmont University. I am a sophomore there. It is very busy and crazy, but I am loving it.
Bev: What are you studying at Belmont?
AG: My major is entertainment industry studies and my minor is public relations. It is really cool to go to class and get an academic point of view of all the things that I am experiencing first hand in the music industry. It is fun because a lot of the kids that I am going to school with are pursuing similar things, so we have similar interests.
Bev: It is interesting that you are able to compare the two, the view from both sides. It gives a whole new perspective to the circle of things.
AG: Education is really important to me and to my family, so when it came time to decide what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, I wanted to make sure I had the college experience. Living in the dorm, on campus is fun! Belmont is the perfect place because I know I am putting my education to good use every day.
Bev: Is it hard to balance the two?
AG: It is a little bit hard, yes. There are times when I really need things to slow down a little bit. But it is fun and it comes to the point that when I have a day off I do not know what to do with myself (laughs), but I love it and it is really a happy medium of splitting up school and work. My record company and the people who I work with every day are very aware of the fact that I am going to school and I am really thankful that I get to do both.
Bev: When you are out performing and talking to the fans, what kind of feedback are you getting?
AG: It is awesome! I have people who have been with me since I was twelve years old and who have watched me grow up, who have watched my music change and evolve. I am getting into more personal songs now, because I am able to sit down with great writers from Nashville where I can write stuff from my heart. It is really cool for the fans because they are able to see a small part of me. People who do not know me personally are able to know a little bit more of what my life is about. I think a lot of fans are really excited because there is more music. We are out doing some shows. We are doing some radio shows all over the country. I have put it on Facebook and Twitter so I am getting all this great response from people who have never seen one of my shows and are excited to come out. That is what really makes me happy. I love being able to interact directly with the fans online and wherever to give them some warmth. It has been awhile, we have been doing a lot of behind the scenes work the last few years and now it is finally happening.
Bev: Some artists say “I know I’ve made it when ----”, but you started at such a young age, you had those things already so much earlier than most. What is your “I know I’ve made it when---’? What is your next big achievement?
AG: I have a long long list of goals I still need to check off. I am only nineteen years old. I feel like I am just beginning my career. Even though I have been doing this for years and years, since I was a little girl, and I feel like a veteran, I also feel like there are so many different paths I need to take. I have totally reinvented myself since I have grown up, gone away to college and moved away from home. Living in Nashville has really changed my perspective on how I want my music to be. There is a lot I need to figure out for myself. I am not sure when that turning point will be when I can say “Okay, I’ve made it”, but I am really excited to see what the future has in store for me. In the meantime, I just want people to enjoy the music, want to go out and buy it and request it on the radio. That is heart warming to me.
Bev: I know you are co-writing with some people. Is there any one in particular you want to someday sit down with that you admire?
AG: There are so many amazing song writers in Nashville. I feel so honored to be able to call it my job to go and sit down with these talented people and hear their stories and two or three hours later come up with a song. It is an amazing process. I am having fun! There are so many great writers I am in awe of, finding out that they wrote a well known song. I feel like I cannot believe I am sitting with them. Laurie McKenna is someone that I have always looked up to. She is actually a Massachusetts girl like me and I have been honored to write with her many times. She used to ask me to come up to her house when I was in high school. I remember I used to cut class early in order to drive up to her house to write with her. I would tell my music teacher and he would write me a note as an excuse and let me leave class early. Another amazing writer, Tom Douglas who wrote “The House That Built Me” for Miranda Lambert, is another writer I have written with. My songwriter dreams are coming true, one by one. I am at Curb Publishing and everyone there is a huge family. Everyone is so talented. It is just very inspiring. It makes me want to stay on top of my game.
Bev: Which do you prefer, song writing or performing?
AG: It is totally different in my heart. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum in my mind because I grew up performing, putting on shows for people since I was very little. I absolutely loved it and it is what made me want to pursue music as a career. I loved the response, the smiles, the happiness that my music brought to people. I did not discover song writing until I was probably fifteen or sixteen, after I had been working in Nashville for awhile. It was such an eye opener for me. I had no idea about the publishing world in Nashville and all the people behind the music. You always see the artist, singing the song, and I always assumed that the artist wrote it! To come and see this Nashville community of songwriters was really cool. It is emotionally draining to write a song. You feel like you are laying it all on the table. It is totally relaxing and peaceful for me. Whereas when I am performing I have high energy, I am ready to go and to make everybody happy with my music. I give it everything I have for that sixty minutes to put on a good show. I love them both.
Bev: How do you feel about performing live versus recording in the studio?
AG: The studio is really cool because I have a great producer which makes it easy. Byron Gallimore is an amazing person. He makes it fun for me. Recording in the studio is like being able to perform over and over again. You get to experiment and do all these different things. You learn things about your voice and so on. That is really cool for me. Performing live, I really make it about the fans. Whereas in the studio I close my eyes and become the song. But actually, I have always loved performing. I think it will be my top favorite because I get to be with the fans. I am bringing the music to them and having a party on stage.
Bev: Is the album done with the new single on it or are you still working on it?
AG: We have cut a lot of songs in the studio. There are so many songs that we have accumulated over the years, but I am also writing a ton recently as well. We are not sure if we want to record new songs or dig back into the wonderful old songs from the past, so we are working on it to try to give the best album we can. I am going to release the single and give the fans some new music. I plan to do a lot of performances and then when we think it is the right time, we will release the album. There will be a mixture of songs that I have written and some I recorded from other writers. I want it to be something that is relatable for everyone. Some thing that is fresh and new and also something that people of every age will be able to enjoy.
Bev: So there is no target date as of right now?
AG: Not right now. This is the first time in awhile that I have gone out to visit radio. I am getting into the groove of that again. There is a lot of behind the scenes work. I am being extra careful to make sure it is the best that it can be. I want to give everybody the best of me.
Bev: Are you looking for a theme? Something that is personally related to you? Is it a fun song? Do you have any criteria that you are aiming for?
AG: I want every song on the album to trigger a memory or trigger an emotion. I want them to say, “Wow, that is a great song for a rainy afternoon or when I just want to relax.” or “that is the song about when I broke up with my boyfriend.” Or “it is a song that I want to put it in the cd player and feel good.” I want it to be a song that people need to have in their car radio or their car cd player. I am still learning a lot about myself, so I am trying to write songs that are true to me but are also true to a lot of people that I know are listening to them. It is tricky sometimes but I really enjoy it.
Bev: When you get in your car to listen to a song, do you prefer to listen to one of your own songs that you are working on or do you prefer to listen to another artist in order to get away from it for awhile?
AG: I think all of my best listening to my own music is always in the car. On a long road trip I put in a cd like a demo that we have done or just guitar vocals that I did in the room with the song writers. I think “Okay, we could do this with that” or “We could record that. People would totally dig that.” That is only sometimes. Sometimes I want to turn the radio off and enjoy the solitude. But a lot of times I am listening to the radio or flipping around on my I-pod trying to find something that I think is really catchy. I am always listening to see what different angles of music there is. I am such a big fan of all different kinds of music. And it is always changing.
Bev: I assume that the new single is online for downloading.
AG: It is. It is on Amazon and I-Tunes etc. I am really excited.
Bev: Your website is also new, what was important to you on creating this?
AG: Yes, we just reconstructed my website. It is brand new website and it is very important for me. I wanted a place where fans could go and learn about what we were releasing, where I was going to be appearing, and just get to know me personally. We have personal photos up there, we are adding videos and blogs. I am constantly on Face Book and Twitter and My Space. I am really thankful for the social media these days because it is connecting me to the people that are really loving my music. I want to make sure that I can directly thank them. I am having fun and I am loving this. I am thankful that “What You Think About Us” is out on the radio now. I wrote it so it was really special for me to hear it on the radio for the first time. It is something I am taking day by day. I just hope everyone enjoys it.
Bev: Where were you when you heard it for the first time?
AG: I think we were on the radio tour and we had just gone to the station. We were driving out of the radio station and they were talking about “this girl just came into the station. Let’s play her new song”. I said “What??” It was awesome. I think I videotaped my reaction. I wrote a thank you note and all that stuff. It was really exciting!
Bev: Ashley, always fun to see you and spend time with you. I know you have a great future ahead of you. Thanks so much for taking time today to visit.
AG: Bev, it was my pleasure and thank you for the support!
For more information on Ashley Gearing visit http://www.ashleygearing.com/
Interview by Bev Moser
Transcribed by Darlene McPherson