Next Wave #1046: Johnny Ashby

Johnny Ashby Photograph
In Association With Vero True Social

British singer-songwriter Johnny Ashby made waves last year with his breakout single ‘SOS’, which showed the world his unique brand of folk pop. It’s a style that’s centred around the artists deeply emotive vocal pallet and his ability to write introspective lyrics that transcends feelings of tragedy, euphoria and fun. The artist’s latest endeavour sees him release his long-awaited debut album ‘Time Of Our Lives’ – a collection of 12 meticulously produced tracks that are soaked in sincerity and authenticity. Written during the pandemic, the album highlights the importance of unity, with an overwhelming focus on the importance of living life to the fullest.

For Ashby, his love for music developed during his youth, where he found himself absorbed by the sounds of his Dad’s mixtapes. However, it wasn’t until the artist made the courageous move to California with only a suitcase of clothes and a guitar, that he found a space in which to make music true to himself, pursuing a lifelong dream. “I can’t think of many places in the world that has everything. The sea, the mountains, the desert and the city.” Ashby explains, “It’s an inspiring place to be because it’s so easy to change your surroundings and pace of life. I think it’s probably affected my lyrics in some way. They’re a bit more personal, self-reflective and meditative now.”

Since making that plunge into the unknown, Ashby’s never looked back. His releases have only grown in strength, whether it be in the form of debut EP ‘The Cannonball Days’, or last year’s five track offering ‘In Bloom’, the vocalist has consistently showcased incredible promise through intricate and personal lyricism. It’s fundamental to who Ashby is as an artist, but also one that comes from the heart, as he explains, “Songwriting and music is a form of therapy for me. It’s healing. And it has the power to do that for the listener too. But it has to be honest in its creation. I just wanna write music that moves me. If it doesn’t move me and I can’t feel it, then I can’t possibly see how it could move the listener to feel something too.”

The artist’s debut album ‘Time Of Our Lives’ pushes his sound further, with a focus on acoustic production that’s flooded with haunting yet warm strings. It’s a true journey both sonically and emotionally. From the harrowing opener ‘Born Again’ to the infectious ‘SOS’, Ashby continuously sets the mood, from excitement to a level of nervousness. The album follows the artist through the pandemic and its aftermath and is fuelled by what he felt during that time. “It comes from a feeling of being alone and longing for some form of human connection.” Ashby states, “Not being able to play gigs was more of a problem mentally for me than I thought it was and this album kind of filled that void. There was a lot of time for that self-reflection, so I wrote about that.”

Ashby’s path to releasing ‘Time Of Our Lives’ had been marred by numerous challenges, which made the thought of releasing an album a distant dream. But adversity is a key topic within his music and he’s only used previous obstacles to fuel his songwriting and push his artistry in new directions. Now it feels like Ashby has hit a monumental moment in his career, where his folk pop sound is ready to go global. “I’ve been through so many ups and downs in music that there’s been times when I honestly just didn’t think it was gonna happen.” The artist proclaims, “It’s difficult to write an album because it’s so rare to write more than 3 songs that thread together. And then, even if the songs are there the production can be hard to figure out! And, being a creative, then there’s the indecisiveness and crippling self-doubt that sets in.”

‘Time Of Our Lives’ is certainly Ashby’s most complete work to date, and reaffirms why so many have held him in such high regard. There’s a gentle and touching nature to his music that holds a suitably poignant role in this volatile world we find ourselves in right now. Thanks to his unique ability to transcend emotions so naturally, you can’t help but feel there’s plenty more to come from the artist, and the next few years will certainly make for an intriguing watch. Until then, Ashby wants one message to be remembered on ‘Time Of Our Lives’, which is, “Togetherness. We all need each other. I think somewhere along the way we forgot that.”

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‘Time Of Our Lives’ is out now.

Words: Jake Wright

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