Singer/songwriter Mason Ashley is well on her way to becoming an unstoppable force in the music industry. Writing well beyond her years, she masterfully crafts lyrics that tell timeless stories, melodies that capture raw emotion, and sings with an enchanting voice that lulls the listener to another time and place. At just eighteen years old, she is at the start of a blossoming career with a maturity of sound and sentiment that shines through in her songs.
Music has been Mason’s blood since birth. She could hear a song on the radio, march her seven-year-old self into the house, sit down at the upright piano inherited from her great, great grandparents, and begin to play the song she had just heard. She had an ear for music and could play nearly anything she picked up. After piano came the guitar. Her grandfather was throwing away an old Conn and when she saw it in the trash, she was mortified at the injustice of throwing away a piece of art. After rescuing it, she began to play, but something more happened. That old, throw-away guitar thrust her into a mystical world of songwriting at the tender age of just nine.
Mason began to pour her heart and her pre-teen hurts, desires, wishes, angers into journals. She filled journal after journal with lyrics and melodies. She, her guitar, her pencil, and her journals could be found strewn across her bedroom floor most hours of the day. The pencil, paper, guitar, and her own voice gave her a venue to express herself and then move on. She has experienced much of the United States from the backseat of a car as her family travels as often as they can. Mason’s travels have given her a glimpse of people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, and she also draws inspiration from these people and places.
Her full EP titled “Strangers” is truly a diary of the past two years of her life. Listening to the body of music, it is a tale of how Mason dealt with various situations while going through a transitional time. While trying to figure out exactly who she is, Mason wrote most of the songs in under an hour, late at night, during times of confusion and mixed emotions. The EP was a way for her to sort her feelings out on paper. Her goal as a musician is to never stop learning and to always push herself creatively.
Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Mason Ashley to discuss her journey as a young musician, the challenges she has faced along the way and what the future might hold for this star on the rise!
What are you first memories of music?
I grew up being a huge fan of music. I remember watching the VH1 Top 20 Countdown every Saturday morning growing up. I started playing guitar when I was 9 and the writing came along with that.
How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?
I loved writing from the age of nine on, and got involved in theatre when I was about twelve, so it was really all music, all the time for me. I took dance classes, creative writing classes, and taught myself as many instruments as I could.
What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice as a young artist?
I definitely had some of those “copycat” songs when I was starting out. I knew to draw from different songs I liked but I didn’t know how to make songs my own yet, that came with time. As I got older, I tried to listen to all kinds of different music and try to find inspiration from various places. Eventually I learned how to realize what it was that drew me to a certain song or artist and learned how to incorporate that into my own music. I discovered Bob Dylan when I was about thirteen and that discovery really opened up a whole new world of writing for me. He’s still one of my favorite songwriters.
At what point did you realize music was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
The first night I ever performed was the night I realized that this was the career I wanted. Seeing the lights come up and feeling the excitement rush through my body is something I’ll never forget. I fell in love with it that night and haven’t fallen out yet.
Dedicating yourself fully to your art is a big step. Did you ever have any reservations about taking the plunge?
A music career is definitely not an easy one to pursue and there are definitely times when it feels overwhelming but I knew it was my passion when I started so it’s all worth it to me.
You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?
It really is my passion for music and writing that keeps me going. There will be times where I feel like I’m in a rut or not going anywhere, and then I’ll think of a lyric or write a melody in my head that sparks the motivation in me again.
You recently released a video for your single “Strangers.” What can you tell us about the song and what it means to you?
“Strangers” was one of those songs that just came to me. I was going through a really confusing and frustrating situation at the time and that song was really just a way of getting my emotions out. I honestly never intended to record or release it. It is probably the most personal and honest song I’ve ever written and it is my favorite song I’ve written so far. My parents convinced me to play it for my producer and I ended up loving how it turned out so much that I thought it would be perfect for the album title.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music?
My songwriting process isn’t really a process. I’ve tried to make myself sit down and write specific songs about specific things but it almost never works for me. I get inspiration at the most random and unexpected times and I scribble my ideas on the closest paper I can find or type them in my phone.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
The first song I ever wrote was on a small notepad in a hotel room when I was seven years old. I was homeschooled at the time and traveling a lot with my family for my dad’s job. I wrote a song about being late for school and missing the bus. Truth be told, I never rode a school bus once in my life.
What were your aspirations or goals for this EP? What was the overall vision so to speak?
I really wanted the whole EP to just be something completely honest. I want people to listen to my album and connect to it in a personal way. That is my goal for my album, “Strangers.”
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced in bringing the EP to life?
The biggest challenge in creating ‘Strangers’ I think was knowing when it was finished and ready for the world. I, and everyone else that worked on the project, wanted it to be perfect so the final editing went on for a pretty long time. It was hard for me to stop nitpicking and just know that it was ready. It turned out exactly how I hoped it would.
Your songs can be intense and very personal. Was it a difficult process to get to a point where you were able to bare your soul?
I really used to hide my emotions when I wrote because it’s scary to put it all out there. As I got older, I realized that it’s so much easier and more relatable to just be completely and totally honest. I use songwriting as a diary, so being brutally honest is also kind of therapeutic for me.
They say you learn something from each album you put out? Does that hold true with this project?
Oh absolutely. I recorded my first album when I was fifteen and it taught me SO MUCH about music and who I am as an artist. Recording “Strangers”, my second album, was just as much of a learning process for me. I got to be pretty involved with the production side of things too, which taught me a lot.
What do you consider your biggest milestones along the way?
I think my biggest milestone so far was hearing myself on the radio for the first time. It was number one on my career goals at the time. It was a moment I’d always dreamed of, but never thought I’d scratch it off the bucket list so soon.
As an artist, so many things can be said about the current state of music. What excites you about the music industry today?
I’m pretty young but I still remember asking my dad to burn me CDs that I could listen to in my portable CD player on road trips. We have everything right at our fingertips now. I think that being able to say, “Look me up on Spotify, Apple Music, etc.,” really helps a starting artist build more listeners faster. The music industry is all very social now and I think that’s a great thing.
What are you currently listening to for inspiration and what songs are your guilty pleasures?
Lately, I’ve been listening to such a mix of music to get inspired. I recently discovered a band called COIN that I really like. I also love the new Lorde album. As for guilty pleasures? Honestly, I jam out to rap songs for fun!
Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future — with short and long term goals?
I’m really not a planner and I like to see where life takes me but my goal right now is to get to 50,000 listens on Spotify. I am SO close but not there yet and it’s a goal I set for myself. Down the road I would LOVE to hear one of my songs in a movie or tv show. I think music is so important to set the emotion of films and I think it would be so cool to be a part of that.
What is the best way for fans to help support you at this stage in your career?
The best support I can get right now is to listen to my music. That’s what I created it for and knowing that people out there are hearing my songs is the most encouraging thing for me. And if they like the music, sharing is also important!
We would love to help spread the word on any causes or organizes you support. What is closest to your heart at this point in time that we can help shine a light on?
I grew up watching my great grandmother suffer with Alzheimer’s disease and even wrote a song about it when I was younger. The Alzheimer’s Association is a cause that I definitely take an interest in because of knowing how the disease effects my family.
You can serve as a great inspiration for so many aspiring artists and young people. What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey so far?
Just go for it. I started off writing because I needed to write and I had no idea what all of it would turn into. If you have a passion, pursue it because life is way too short to miss out on following a dream. There’s always a million reasons not to do something but if your heart is pulling you towards something, I think you should listen.
Where are the best places for us to following you continuing adventures online?
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.