Q&A with Johnny Ashby: From London to L.A. via Americana

“At the age of 6 Johnny made his first guitar from an empty tissue box and a couple of rubber bands and he has been playing music ever since.”

Johnny is a singer-songwriter from a small suburb of London, and future frontman of Meat Loaf*. His style reflects the heartfelt candidness and simplicity found in the music of greats like Ryan Adams and Neil Young. Conversely, Johnny is inspired by early blues music and brit-pop phenoms of the early 2000s — think, “so here’s Wonderwall…”

It’s this unique blend of influence that helps Johnny make his way to the surface of the sea of singer-songwriters. His music is comfortable and relaxing. It absorbs you with anecdotal melody and stress-free instrumentation.

Follow Johnny on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the upcoming album, tour dates, etc. His current single Flowers in July can be found on Spotify and iTunes, along with a Special Edition of EP The Cannonball Days.

Below is one of my favorites of his, “A Life Ahead.” Each time you listen, we’re going to donate to Direct Relief, ’cause that’s just what we do. Cheers, ya’ll!

Thanks for listening!
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MC: What is your main project right now?

JA: The album I guess. I’ve had most of the album ready for sometime now, 7-8 songs or so. I suffered from writers block over the last few months which is a bitch, but now the creative juices are flowing, which is good. The foundations are there.

MC: Why go solo vs. joining a band?

JA: I love playing with a band. A band is like having another family. My closest friends are the guys I used to play in bands with. I started playing solo a few years ago, I’d just finished a tour with the band and when I came home we took a break. I missed playing the shows every night and wanted to get out back out there only I realised that the band songs couldn’t really be translated acoustically. So I wrote The Cannonball Days EP and gigged that instead.

MC: Are you more comfortable on stage alone with a guitar, or backed by a band? 
JA: They’re both very different. When you play with a band it’s easier to get the attention of the room because naturally you sound louder and bigger. Playing alone with a guitar is more intimate and stripped back, there’s no room for mistakes. You have to be completely on the ball. I can get lazy when I play in a band because some of the pressure is taken off. When I play alone I’m definitely more nervous. I have to get myself into a totally different mind set before I go on stage. I’m a mess before I go on and I usually drink my way through it. But there’s something about having a guitar on my lap that makes me feel comfortable. I wouldn’t know what the hell to do if I just had a microphone in front of me. Kudos to Freddie Mercury.
MC: How has your process changed since you started writing music?
JA: When I first started writing I used to write down or record every idea that came in to my head. It took a while but eventually I realised that all my scribblings and mumblings were absolute shit. So now I go along the lines of “if it’s not memorable enough, it’s probably best forgotten”. About two years ago I set up a small studio so that I could “commute” to work, every day, and force myself to write. It was the best thing I could’ve done, I learnt a lot from that. Now I just keep a guitar lying around at home and I give it a strum as and when I feel like it.
Songwriting takes away the need for a shrink. It’s like a form of self therapy. Overall my process hasn’t really changed very much. I prefer writing in a note pad or on a typewriter. Computers are too distracting.
MC: What are your hobbies outside of music? 
JA: I love rock climbing and surfing. My family goes on holiday to Wales UK every year and I first started climbing and surfing there. Now I live in California and there’s mountains and surf right on my doorstep but I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been going as much as I should! Recently I’ve been cooking, I enjoy it. Many would argue with me but I think I’ve always been good at it.
MC: You get a call tomorrow to share a stage with ________. Fill in the blank. 
JA: Meat Loaf. That would be a laugh.*
MC: What’s next on the to-do list?
JA: I’m about to play my first couple of shows over in New York next week! I’m really excited. Then I’m back off to Los Angeles to finish the EP. Everything is recorded, we’re in the mixing and mastering stage. It sounds great though and I can’t wait for you to hear it.