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NewTracks New Artist: Ashley Alexander

NewTracks New Artist: Ashley Alexander

In summer 2013/14, NZM featured a young Kapiti Coaster named Ash Graham as Fresh Talent, alongside Glass Vaults, Mice On Stilts and Megan Sidwell. It took some clever sleuthing to connect him with the Ashley Alexander who features on NZ On Air‘s NewTracks compilation this June. Turns out that Ash/Ashley has changed around his stage name a few times over the years – for the foreseeable future he’s settled on using his first two given names. 

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My full name is Ashley Alexander Graham. I was originally going to be named Alexander, so let’s just say I’m kind’a being the person I was always meant to be!

I’m from small-town Paraparaumu, but I currently reside in the suburban oasis we call Remuera, Auckland. My Maton acoustic guitar is my main baby, though I play anything I can get my hands on. Ultimately, I think that shows in my records.

Was any high school or other music training important to you?

I’m super grateful to my parents for forking out their hard earned money to go towards my musical education. Knowledge is a precursor to opportunity and I think it’s important to be passionate about learning. I studied under the London College Of Music with my work centred around guitar/music theory. I later studied at Massey doing a music industry major. It was the first time I had seen so many great leaders come together to form a forward-thinking course that produced outcomes for those interested in careers. I really valued my time studying under the likes of Cushla Aston, Nicky Harrop and Warren Maxwell. Results matter and I think the work done there is incredible.

What other projects might we know you from?

To many… it has been a journey. I grew up playing in bands in Wellington and opening for many acts, from Shihad / I am Giant / The Checks to name a few.

I later pushed my solo music under many monikers with my most recent being Ash Grey. I had been playing at festivals all over NZ and overseas before taking a much-needed hiatus from music.

Why the latest stage name change?

I don’t consider it a rebranding. I think of this as an entirely new thing. I’m not ripping off old wallpaper and applying a new lick of paint. I’m just building something completely new.

How has your music evolved from your songwriting beginnings to what it is right now?

I now take far more risks creatively than when I started. I can be anything I want to be in a song, it’s liberating to know music technology is starting to catch up to the speed of people’s imagination. I’m also writing with far more people locally and internationally. Music can be a lonely road, and though I’m not good at doing this, I think it’s important to collaborate as much as possible.

What makes Nicotine stand out for you as a single?

Personally, it felt relatable. It celebrates vulnerability in a manner that allows you to loosen up and move your feet.

What is the story behind Nicotine?

Nicotine is somewhat bittersweet. Me and my beautiful partner both lost people close to us growing up, somehow those tragedies we shared brought us together like nothing else. Nicotine is where I raise my glass to my fiercely loyal, unsung hero. It’s my way of celebrating her and the way she makes me feel.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

The line, “You taste lemon in the limelight, you’re sour on the sidelines,” is a very special moment for me. I leave you to find a translation, haha!

Who else did you work on the single with and where? 

After moving to Auckland I spent the summer season studio-bound. I spent many moonlit mornings making music in a poolside studio backing on to One Tree Hill. Nicotine was the third song I wrote in that space.

I sat on the tune for a while before spending an afternoon with Andrew Spraggon, aka Sola Rosa, picking the tune apart. By the end of that week the demo had got in the hands of Howard Lawrence from Disclosure, and I knew we had to push for its release.

Describe in one sentence what you want listeners to take away from this song.

Life is pretty unfair but love levels the playing field.

In general, how do you work out what song would make a good single?

If I get a chance to speak what am I going to say first? That’s how I think in terms of releasing music. I just put my best foot forward.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

The debut EP drops later this year with a tour to follow, so our minds are set on preparing for a very big summer. Fingers crossed! This is only the beginning for releases, so best to tune in now!

Can you please tell us three other local tunes that should be on a playlist alongside your song.

Damn that’s hard.

Road Trips from Raiza Biza. It’s so damn catchy, the production is incredible. Low key. Wish I made that track.

Alone Together by Leisure It only took one line to have me hook line and sinker. “We are all living on a chance we take, we are all waiting for our lives to change.”

New Wave by Seth Haapu is an absolute game changer. The musicality and ability showcased is breath of fresh air, totally unmatched. It’s timeless.

Have any of your previous NZOA applications not been funded or  included on NewTracks? Got any advice for people out there?

This track was also my first application for New Music Single funding, and I received it! Make great music cos that will do the walking for you.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the NewTracks application? Which one?

Not really, coming into it as a new artist was great. I think it’s important to focus on what you’re doing right here and now.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I don’t spend much time surfing the internet but man, NPR tiny desk concerts are the thing!

How can we find you on social media?

Facebook: facebook.com/iamashleyalexander/

Instagram: instagram.com/i_am_ashley_alexander/

Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/iamashleyalexander

Any last words?

It’s only a matter of time…