Have you ever had the feeling that a musician may have traveled through space and time during a recording project? Music critics and fans are hailing Ashley Sofia as a 21st century reincarnation of the Laurel Canyon folk-rock sound on the early 1970s. Ashley’s songwriting and captivating voice make for a great combination; she’s definitely worth a listen!
Ashley Sofia is one of 24 Emerging Artists chosen for this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. The Emerging Artist showcase is always one of the highlights of the festival. The musicians are chosen by a three-member jury and are given the opportunity to perform two songs (not to exceed ten minutes). The audience votes for their favorites and three or four acts are asked to return to the main stage the following year.
You can find out more about Ashley on her website.
Check out this video of Ashley singing “Let Go.”
You’ve said that your songs are “poems set to music.” What inspires you to write? What’s your creative process like?
I find inspiration everywhere, but mostly from personal experiences. I am moved many times by my own thoughts and feelings to sit down and write. Usually I’ll pick up my guitar and strum until it sounds the way that I feel. After that, the lyrics come very quickly. Some songs come together in 15 minutes. Others will be written and rewritten until they feel right for years.
Do you remember your first attempts at combining your words and your music?
The first time I wrote a song it happened so organically that it shocked me. I wasn’t trying to write. I was just feeling sad and I had a guitar in my hand and this haunting melody fell from my lips. I played it for a friend and she said it was stunning. I wasn’t sure that it was, but I knew I had to keep doing it.
You cite the lyrics of a songwriter like James Taylor as having a profound influence on you. Are there other musicians who you feel as passionately about?
Sure. Tons and tons of musicians inspire me. Mostly the folk rockers from the 60’s and 70’s. Joni Mitchell can make me sob. Crosby Stills & Nash, Neil Young, Dylan, John Denver, Johnny Cash… they all have been a call to rise. That being said lately I’ve been influenced by hip hop too, strangely enough. I like the rhythm and flow of the lyrics. I like to play around with that.
I understand that you started playing the guitar at a pretty young age. Had you had any experience learning any other instruments before that time?
I took piano lessons from an early age, but I wasn’t excited about it. I jumped from the flute to the sax to the clarinet to the alto clarinet too. I was restless and sort of careless with those instruments. They were beautiful but they required a commitment to theory that I wasn’t born with. I didn’t want to play anyone else’s songs. Maybe because I was wired to create instead. Band music is void of lyrics, and I’ve always fallen for the poetry in songs before anything else.
Tell us about Love and Fury. Is it your first CD? What was the recording experience like for you?
I’m so proud of that record. I sank every ounce of everything that I had into it. I was very sick when I started writing it. I was 21, fresh out of college, and had to move back home. I lost my boyfriend, my health, my job, my independence… music and my family was all that was left. I wrote I think 40 songs and narrowed it down to those 11. I met with a few labels, walked away from a few contracts, and did the record independently with my own budget. I did it the hard way, but I did it the right way. I wrote every word, every melody, and co-produced the entire album while, and for most of the process I was very sick. It didn’t matter though. The pain made me stronger. The sadness is tangible, but there’s this beautiful simultaneous personal growth that you can hear in that album. While it was written during a difficult time, never once does it feel bleak. It’s the story of a young woman who’s learning about herself, and eventually finds out that the darkness is a crucial part of understanding the light.
At the time I was writing and recording I had a made a number of contacts in the music industry. I realized over time that I wanted to create something critically exciting, but commercially accessible. I rap on the album. I threw in dub step. Still, I’m a child of folk, and you can feel that even in the songs that were made to play next to top 40 records. I experimented a lot with the sound, but I stayed incredibly committed to the lyrics and poetry I was raised on.
You’ve played a lot in New York. Do you have plans to play gigs elsewhere?
Sure! I’m playing in Nashville in a few days. I’ve also been talking to one of my favorite rockers of all time and we’ve been talking about touring together in the fall. It’s still in the works thought so I can’t disclose much else, but if it pans out it could be very exciting.
What are your long range goals in the music business I’d like to make music that eases peoples’ pain and makes them more sure of themselves. I’d like to see the world with my guitar and a band.