Crosley and the B-Sides: Meet Johnny Ashby
There's such a thing as an Anglophile- someone fascinated and in love with British customs, and a Francophile, someone who adores French culture, so... what's someone who loves America? A Yankophile?
Right on the heels of the 4th of July, the biggest breakup in American history, we met up with Johnny Ashby, a talented gent from the southern suburb of London, Ealing. Johnny's Been Goode. He's been running around all over the US and the UK, and is finally settled in sunny Los Angeles, which is about as far from London as you can get.
We caught up with Johnny the day before his new single, "Flowers in July" dropped to chat about his methods and his music.
CROSLEY: Congrats on your new single, Flowers in July! Any chance we'll see that on vinyl soon?
Johnny Ashby: Thank you! Sadly not, but I'm definitely hoping to get the new EP out on vinyl.
C: How is your approach to pressing vinyl different than getting a CD produced, or digital production?
JA: A vinyl is a work of art. From the recording right down to the sleeve. I used to raid my parents vinyl collection as a kid. I'd sit there for hours listening to album after album. I love the feeling when you're holding a record in your hands. There's an excitement that comes over me when I pull the vinyl out the sleeve. It's like unwrapping a present. I allow myself to be complete immersed in it... from the music, right down to the lyrics, the credits and the small print. It's always been like that, for as long as I can remember!
C: You started out as a "hired gun" playing alongside other bands. What prompted you to branch out on your own?
JA: A whole bunch of reasons. I loved playing in other bands and playing for other artists. Many of them I've admired and they've all had an influence and an impact on me as an songwriter. But I think, secretly and deep down, I've always wanted to be up at the front. It took a while for me to work out exactly what I wanted to achieve musically but now I feel like I've got it figured out and it's great.
C: What was the first full song you could get all the way through on guitar?
JA: Scar Tissue by Red Hot Chili Peppers. I had it down... the whole thing, solos etc. I then tried to conquer Dire Straits, Sultans Of Swing but failed terribly. I'm still working on it.
C: Most of your music has a distinctly Americana sound considering you're from the UK. How do you think that mix came about? Influence or naturally cultivated?
JA: I've always had a love for America as a country and it's a love that's grown from the music. I've always been a huge fan of the blues. When I watched Back To The Future for the first time I got chills during the Enchantment Under The Sea dance when McFly plays "Johnny Be Goode". I went into a frenzy and found myself on a journey of musical discovery. I started listening to everything from Chuck Berry to Buddy Guy to BB King etc. The blues led me towards stuff like Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan and eventually Ryan Adams. The blues influence is in everything if you look for it, Americana included, and it sounds crazy but it all started with McFly.
C: What’s your favorite piece to play live?
A Life Ahead. I put out a live recording of it as the B side for the new single "Flowers In July". When I play it live its just me and guitar. I close my eyes and get lost in the moment. It's rare to play a song that so stripped back because production and other elements usually end up changing the song before it's heard by the public. But A Life Ahead is exactly the same as it was when I first wrote it. Give Me Your Love is fun too, that's killer with the band!
C: What was your first album? (CD or Vinyl!)
JA: On CD it was Nimrod by Green Day and Take It Home by BB King on vinyl, it was a really good find in Oxfam! I get all my "good finds" from there.
C: If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
Without a doubt it would have to be Johnny Cash. Need I say more?
C: Who is your favorite artist outside of your genre? Or, who is your guilty pleasure artist?
JA: Meat Loaf. I'm in the fan club. I have a Meat Loaf T-shirt to prove it. Although at the moment I've been listening to Huey Lewis And The News but I'm still waiting for the T-shirt.
C: When it comes to soundtracks- which one catches your ear?
I love the soundtrack for Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges. That's an awesome film. The songs are all great too. I'm a fan of the Guardians Of The Galaxy soundtrack as well. That's my go to for road trips at the moment. I have a version of it on cassette too, like in the movie!
C: Is there some lucky charm to your compositions? Some kind of necessary tick that you need to write?
I don't really have a set format when it comes to writing. I keep a guitar out at home so it's easy to pick up if I want to strum it. There's a guitar in the bedroom and another in the living room. I usually stumble across the chords first and then mumble to myself until a lyric of melody pops up. I used to write lyrics down and record memos on my phone but I stopped doing that recently. I figure if it's not memorable enough then it's probably best forgotten.
Wanna hear more of Johnny's vibe?
He's on Youtube...
Fingers crossed on that EP, Johnny, don't leave us hanging.