Ashley Leone is a contemporary R&B artist from the outskirts of Philly, currently lending her vocals to Nashville, TN. When it comes to Ashley’s sound, there’s one thing that remains consistent: her vibe. From her love of 808s to her unwavering lyrical honesty, Leone doesn’t miss a beat. Having been raised in a home that embraced a wide variety of genres at an early start, Ashley became drawn to R&B/Hip-Hop by way of her older brother and middle school friends. Since then, her passion for the music has continued to grow, alongside her ability to account for life’s raw, yet beautiful experiences. (via. www.ashleyleone.com)
We reached out to Ashley after hearing ‘Bliss’ and seeing her visuals for Night Ride and Drown In You, and she was instantly up for the interview. We spoke via Facetime about her songwriting, her influences, and bringing her sound to Nashville. A 20 minute conversation took us a little further into her world of music and creativity. Check it out:
D: How did Bliss come about? What was the inspiration behind creating that record?
A: It was kind of random, actually. My friend knew OTR and was like, “yo, they’re looking for a top line, do you want to write on it?” I wrote the first half of the song in LA in a airbnb and for some reason, the beginning reminded me of Stay by Rihanna with this reminiscing but falling in love type of vibe. I sent that and they really liked it and they asked me to finish it. After I sent them the voice memo, they reconfigured the track to fit to that better so it was cool. It’s funny because I still haven’t met him in person.
D: So you do write your own music?
A: Yes. I started writing music when I was fifteen.
D: What I love most about your videos is the fact that they don’t look local. Do you play a hand in the creative components of your videos?
A: Yes. So I’m from outside of Philly and Nashville is cool but I try not to lend itself to a Nashville vibe when I’m doing my own stuff just because of how I feel about things. With Night Ride, I had this whole other idea with this projector and I’m just chillin’ with all these things popping up around my head but the budget was too expensive. So they gave me a rundown of just a simple performance video with a room and a car. I definitely had creative input with that style-wise because they wanted me to wear a nightgown and a dress and I was like…no. That’s not how I roll. And then with Drown In You, my boyfriend had the idea of putting a projector on the floor because we just wanted a simple thing. That was definitely a collaborative effort. I like to be apart of it but when I’m working with someone where that’s their thing, I just let them tell me what they’re thinking.
D: What made you move to Nashville?
A: Honestly, college. I got into college here, in Philly, and Upstate New York. I really wanted to go to New York or LA originally but once I got into Belmont, I just decided to go there. I only went for a year and a half and then I dropped out [laughs].
D: What has that been like doing your style of music in the “Country Capital” of the world?
A: It’s been interesting. I’ve always loved R&B, Hip-Hop, and Soul music since middle school, maybe a little bit before then. When I came here, I was still figuring out who I am as a artist. Now, I think it’s difficult sometimes finding people to collaborate with that understand what I want to do. Sometimes, I go into a session and they ask me who I’m listening to and I say Smino, H.E.R., SZA, Musiq Soulchild, and Lauryn Hill. Then they have to go look up these people and then we’ll get into it. I would like to work with people who already know that world. It is mainly country here although, there’s some underground stuff happening because a lot of my friends don’t do country music but I feel like it can be overrun by what the essence of the city is. So I find it frustrating sometimes but on the other hand, I think it’s cool to be able to start carving something here.
D: Where else have you been able to perform?
A: When I lived in Philly, I performed there a lot. I’ve performed in New York for maybe three shows. I’ve performed around Nashville. I did a music festival in Florida once and Delaware. The last show I performed in Nashville was in April and I just decided to take a step back and reconfigure my set list because I’m writing a lot right now. I really do want to play in other cities, it’s just orchestrating that and making it happen.
D: What’s your process like when you write?
A: It varies. I play guitar and sometimes I’ll just want to write something and it will just flow. I’ll have something that I want to say and I’ll just find the chords and run with it. Now I’m with a publishing company here so lately it’s been a lot of co-writes with different people. Basically, I’ll just get an address and go to the room and it might be me and a producer or me and a writer, and it just happens from there. I like to be really honest with my lyrics. The other day something happened and I was just like ugh and the next day, I went into the writing room like listen, I wanna write about this [laughs]. And then sometimes, it’s just a cool concept and we relate it to something we’ve been through. I don’t really like writing something that I’ve never experienced. So usually it comes from a situation or a feeling.
D: Who are you some of your influences?
A: Lauryn Hill is definitely Queen to me. Beyonce and Rihanna, I love. I really love Kendrick, SZA, H.E.R., Smino, Drake, Kehlani, and Frank Ocean. I really like Billie Eilish, I think she’s super cool. I used to listen to a lot of Amy Winehouse, I don’t listen to her as much lately. Growing up, Alicia Keys and John Legend were very big influences for me. I really just feed off what I’ve been listening to lately. I also really like Saba right now.
D: What can we expect from you next?
A: You can expect new music. I’m writing a lot. I want to make a mixtape and I might do that on soundcloud. I’ll probably put some stuff up on soundcloud. I’ve thought about doing mini videos of some of the stuff that I won’t release or be able to release and put a visual with it. I’m trying to see how I want to move with stuff right now. I have been writing a lot of stuff that I want people to hear. So in some form, it will come out. I’m just not quite sure yet.