Q&A: Ashlinn Gray on making it big in the USA

Q&A: Ashlinn Gray on making it big in the USA

Ashlinn Gray's new song will make you say 'STFU' to the haters! 

Singer Ashlinn Gray
Singer Ashlinn Gray

South African singer and songwriter Ashlinn Gray just released her first single in over a year.

Her new sound is a lot edgier than anything she has released before and we are falling in love with her music all over again.

The 21-year-old is taking a stand against negativity in her latest offering, ‘STFU’, which is produced by Abe Dertner.

It’s the perfect song for a generation obsessed with creating the perfect image on social media, only to be constantly criticised by keyboard bullies.

Ashlinn began writing her own songs at 16 and went on to release a self-titled debut EP.

The EP’s first single, ‘Battleships’, featured on the top 40 iTunes chart in South Africa.

She teamed up with Durban producer Sketchy Bongo - who has worked with stars like Shekhinah, AKA, Kelly Khumalo, Danny K, and Nasty C – on season two of Coke Studio South Africa.

Sketchy produced Ashlinn’s collaboration with Dr. Bone, ‘Need Your Love’, on the show in 2016.

With hits ‘Nineteen’ and ‘Finding Home’, Ashlinn has proven that she is a force to be reckoned with on the local music scene... and possibly abroad.

We caught up with Ashlinn to talk about her new music, moving to the USA, and her plans for 2019.

ALSO READ: Watch: Feel the "Summer Love" with Kyle Deutsch's new music video

Tell us about your new song, 'STFU', and how it came about?

Well, STFU definitely stands for what you think it stands for. It’s all about not paying mind to the naysayers and haters, and really owning your life story. I’ve had to go through a lot to get to where I am today and no one can take that away from me. So often we listen to all the negativity and it’s time we stop and keep doing what makes us happy. I wanted to write a song that really took a stand against negativity and emphasised the power self-belief has.

You spent some time in America to work on your music, what was that experience like?

I’ve loved it. It’s been full of so many new experiences. The energy is a bit different here in LA and it took some time to get used to but, overall, I have learnt so much about the industry and have grown into myself more. I’ve met a lot of great people and my team here in LA is the best!

How is the music scene in America different from the one in South Africa? 

It’s a whole lot bigger with more diversity. There’s a bunch of shows on every day of the week and the huge stars that are always on our playlists are performing all the time a few miles down the road from you. You realise how concentrated their market is with artists from so many genres. It’s basically SA’s music scene on a much larger scale, which is to be expected.

A lot of musicians dream about making it big in America, what tips would you give them about pursuing a career abroad?  

I think the key to making it anywhere in the world is to have a clear vision of who you are as an artist, being authentic to who that is, and working hard. Those three things will give you preparation for your big opportunity. I also believe that taking risks is part of being an artist. If you want to move overseas to pursue music you have to really believe in yourself because it can get lonely and it’s definitely trying at times, but the self-belief is what gets you through it.

Your new sound is different from what your fans are used to, why the change?

I’m naturally an aggressive person. I’ve always tried to shy away from that but it’s a part of who I am and 'STFU' was a song that really needed that fire behind it. We all have that side of ourselves and I’ve decided to put it out there on full display. I’ve also been working on changing up my sound over the past year because I’ve grown up a bit since 'Battleships'. 'STFU' shows a sound that is edgy by combining elements of pop, rock, and hip-hop. I call it alternative pop but at the end of the day it’s just the sounds I like combined into one song.

What did you miss about South Africa while you were in America? 

Everything. The people, the food, just the simple things. I think when you’re born in Africa you don't feel like you’re home until you’re on African soil.

What were some of your weirdest experiences?

Definitely being hit by a car while coming back from the grocery store! I don’t walk around too much on the roads in Joburg and I had never had any experience like it before. 

What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

Being able to finally produce a single in the States is a huge highlight for me. I’ve been wanting this for seven years and I finally achieved that goal. It’s interesting because I was never ready to make the move (even though I thought differently) until now and all those doors that closed previously made sense because I am now in a space to make music that is authentically me.

What are your music plans for 2019? 

To release more new music as well as do a South African tour and a few festivals. It’s going to be a crazy year!

Getting to know Ashlinn:

1. What is the weirdest pizza topping you have ever tried?

I had one with boerewors on it and it had some potjie flavours. I loved it!

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up every morning?

Make coffee and look out the window. I love the idea of seeing the sky for the first time every day.

3. What song do you never get tired of listening to?

Bohemian Rhapsody

4. What is your favourite holiday spot in KZN?

I love staying right near the beach in Ballito. I have so many great memories there.

5. What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?

The fear of failure. Every day you have to overcome it but it’s almost like the key to success.

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