She’s pals with Justin Timberlake, she’s worked with Badly Drawn Boy, Kelly Clarkson, Radney Foster and heaps of other great artists, and she’s released an excellent record.
If you’ve never heard of Ashley Arrison, you are going to love her. Here is what she had to say.
Hey, Ashley. Why don’t we start with you briefly introducing yourself?
In 5th grade, we had to do some art project where we filled in the blanks to this sentence: I am a ______ girl who likes to ________.
I said, “I am a talkative girl who likes to daydream.” I think that still rings true.
So let’s start at the beginning then; you grew up very involved in music, right? You even used to perform with Justin Timberlake. Tell us about those times?
This is where you’ll see the ‘talkative’ part still stands.
Justin and I met through a voice teacher, Bob Westbrook, in Memphis where we grew up. Bob introduced us when we were wee tots because, of all of his students, he thought we were the most serious and we both loved to sing and dance (at the same time, that is.) Justin’s Mom was a great choreographer, so she taught us our sweet moves on the weekends in his living room. My Mom was a seamstress, so she made all of our sweet duds, like the totally hip neon pink and green hammer pants.
We auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club together in Nashville and were the only two from the Nashville auditions chosen to go to Florida for the final audition we called ‘Casting Camp.’ It was hard for me when he was chosen and I wasn’t (damn you, Britney Spears) because we were good buddies, but I was at least happy I could go visit him during the summers and watch the show tape because I really was a huge fan of the show.
Did Justin ever have a little crush on you?
You little minx. You’d have to ask him, my friend.
So that’s an impressive childhood then, but you’ve carried on working with fantastic artists – touring and performing with country music star Radney Foster for example – how was that?
When I first heard Radney’s album, See What You Want To See, I was 17 and still living with my parents. I sat them down on the couch and made them listen to the whole album, start to finish, and I said, “I want to be the female HIM!”
I ran into him at a studio and he offered me a job writing about music for an alt country webzine he and his wife had started because I had been studying journalism in college.
Soon after, he was heading out for a recording session and his scheduled background vocalist, the amazing Kim Richey, called in sick. He asked if I wanted to fill in – and here we are 12 years later. I am the biggest Radney fan and his contributions to what I know about music and performing are too countless to name, but the impact he and his family have had on me personally are even greater.
We are playing September 10 in Texas and September 11 at World Arena in Colorado Springs.
If you don’t know who Radney is, you probably know a few of the songs he’s written, check him out. Real deal, people!
Do you listen to a lot of country music, then?
I am definitely very knowledgeable about country music – past and present. I like to think I keep my finger on the pulse of most genres.
I am all about lyrics and the emotionality of songwriting and that’s why I can get into a lot of country songs. I just want to feel, even if that means feeling gutted (I used the word ‘gutted’ for you, UK man…) So what I’m saying is, I’ll probably change the station if ‘Watermelon Crawl‘ or ‘Boot Scootin’ Boogie‘ comes on.
You recorded some vocals for Badly Drawn Boy before and I guess the question everyone will want to know about that is; Does he even wear that stupid bloody hat when he’s in the studio?
Short answer: Yes.
You’ve collaborated with a lot of great artists in fact – which one are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of the collaboration with Kelly Clarkson on the song ‘Trying To Help You Out’ on my album, Hearts On Parade. Kelly, Aben Eubanks, and I co-wrote it and she lent background vocals, as well. Is it lamesauce to choose your own collab?
Let’s talk about Hearts On Parade. The record sounds to me like a little bit of country mixed in with pop/rock. Did you consciously make a record that crossed genres or did it just happen?
I can’t say I was consciously genre specific in the writing or recording of Hearts On Parade. I just wrote and recorded songs that I had lived and we recorded instruments that served the feeling of the song.
We let any and every influence be used if it felt right. The producers of the album, Aben Eubanks and Chad Copelin, are the perfect fit for me because we all had no agenda except making an authentic album that served the inspiration of the songs.
Have things been different for you since you released that record? What’s been the biggest change?
Well, all I buy are Christian Louboutin’s now. TOTALLY just kiddding. Really, the biggest changes have come from within. I am really proud of the album. My confidence is stronger, which makes live shows and writing that much better and fun. And, y’know, there are more people at shows which is always nice to see.
I am a big fan of people liking me…. all 50 of them!
When you play those songs live, which is the one that the fans go nuts for?
‘Little Miss Plastic’. It’s like my ‘Freebird’. Every girl dreams of kicking another girls ass.
Speaking of playing live, that’s something you have done all your life – does it still get you hyped after all this time?
Absolutely. I still have to down a drink, say a prayer, and hope for the best.
Is there another record in the pipeline?
Working on it right now. There’s no better feeling than being inspired and getting your life experiences out in song form.
You spell your name correctly. Why do you think Ashlee Simpson spells her’s wrong?
Two words: Joe Simpson.
If you and her were to have a wrestling match to decide on the correct spelling of ‘Ashley’ – do you think you could take her?
She’s small and I’m tall, but she does a mean jig. I have a feeling she’s a scrapper. Honestly, it might not go well for me.
Now then, this is the part where we let you say whatever you like. Anything at all. Go for it!
In a commercial voice: For a limited time, you can download my entire album Hearts On Parade for FREE! Just click here and it’s all yours… It will totally change your life! I twit, I FB and also, I can’t stop listening to the Avett Brothers.
That’s all – Bye!