At the top of the year, it was reported that Kelly Rowland’s desired to find music’s next world-renowned girl group on her BET show Chasing Destiny, a show that looks to bring back an era when female groups were a staple of music including greats such Destiny Child, En Vogue and TLC. While the show premiered on April 5th, Kelly and award-winning choreographer/creative director Frank Gatson have been hard at work for quite some time. They’ve travel to some of music’s most talented cities (Los Angles, New York & Atlanta) in their search and have discovered a wealth of talent.
Upon watching the show, there are individuals who stuck out from the bunch, whether it’s for their demeanor, vocal ability, or both. One such individual is Ash, an artist who grabbed our attention during her audition due to her ability to “vibe with the music,” as stated by Frank. Ash is an established vocalist, who has worked with singer Janelle Monae for the last five years. Though she’s been a solo artist majority of her career (even putting out a pop project, The Perfect EP), Ash isn’t one to pass on an opportunity to learn and grow from such respected and knowledge individuals.
We spoke with Ash in an exclusive feature to find out why she decided to audition for a girl group having established a career as a solo artist, things that have surprised her about the show, and much more.
Hey Ash, thank you for joining us and for reaching out. We’re happy to find out more about you. I am just getting into finding out a little bit more about you, but recently individuals have gotten to know you as part of BET’s Chasing Destiny. Before BET’s Chasing Destiny and Kelly Rowland, who was Ash? What should people know about you as far as music and as a person?
Well, I went to Spelman College and like some of us who go to college, you may have a dream or a passion, but it’s like, “I don’t know if music will be what pays the bills or if it’s something I can do although I am passionate about it.” Like many people, I graduated from Spelman and wanted to work for the government. I decided to make a decision after I began training in D.C. to pursue music. I didn’t know how I was going to do it or what it was going to turn into. I’ve always been a songwriter. I’ve always written since I was eight years old and long story short; I was hired by Janelle Monáe as her background vocalist and dancer. Over the past five years, any television shows or performances around the world, I have traveled with her. So that’s my background, I’ve always written music, and if I ever have the opportunity to perform, I take it. Of course, I have released my own music at one time. Music is just in my veins. I am going to do it by any means necessary. So that’s what I have been doing prior to Chasing Destiny.
As you mentioned, over the last five years you’ve worked with Janelle Monáe and put out your own music. Why take the chance in auditioning for a girl group or at least a show centered on putting together a girl group having done so much to establish yourself as a solo artist?
I mean, my thing is, “Why not?” I was already singing with Janelle Monáe, so it pretty much prepared me for that girl group type of thing. My goal is to succeed in music, and if I am a part of a collative of women or people who are dope, who want to make a change, make amazing music and perform all over the world, I am good with that. I am not going to wait for a handout. I am still going to write music, and I am going to be in the music business. This is in my heart and soul, so I never looked at it as “I want to be a solo star, I want to be whatever.” I look at it as I want to be a musician, and that’s what I am passionate about. I am very grateful for opportunities that come along where I can continue to grow and learn, especially from someone like Kelly Rowland and Frank Gatson. These people have been in the business and know more than me. (Slightly laughs) So I think it’s wise to take the chance and opportunity to, at least, get in front of some experts and people who know more than me, no matter what the outcome is. I never pass up on an opportunity to continue to grow and see things built. It is a journey.
Ash’s “Lost” video from her 2015 project, The Perfect EP
In working with Kelly Rowland and Frank Gatson, what has the experience been like working with individuals with such experience and knowledge?
I think music is such an amazing aspect of it, but one thing that you get to learn from Kelly and Frank is that it’s so much more than just music. It’s your demeanor and perspective. That is what makes you stick, I believe, as a consumer of good music. I want to know that the artist I am listening to is a good person. I want to know what they’re like outside of the music. That is something Kelly is seen saying in that, “[She] doesn’t want reality stars. She wants real singers and artist.” So just having that opportunity to be at the feet of them, sowing that kind of wisdom is an honor. It aids in being prepared, working out, and showing that when you’re tired, you’re still going to deal with people. Making the music is the fun part. Getting on stage is the fun part, but you have to get to a point where people want to really invest in you as an artist because they see the work around, just the glitz and glamor. So that is what I appreciate from them and what they sow into all the girls. They said, “Hey, everyone wants to be the star, but these are all of the puzzle pieces that we want to make sure you have before you try to jump out here and grab the mic.”
In working with Kelly and Frank and being on the show, what is something unique that people would be surprised to find out without giving away anything about future episodes?
What you see on television is not necessarily what goes on behind the scenes or is happening as the show develops. Of course, you only get to see bits and pieces of a lot of things going on. We really do rehearse from 10pm to 5am and that’s intense. You’re talking about people at their most vulnerable, weakest and tiring points. Everyone has made mistakes, fallen, and had their voice crack like anyone else trying to learn things. It’s authentic. I will say that, you can only see a snippet of things and of course things have to be edited, but it wasn’t a game. It was definitely hands on as they’re [Kelly and Frank] hands on. They’re really sweet and want to mold us. They are very aware of the fact that it’s late. As hard as they are in making sure that we’re tight, they are just as nurturing. That is something that I would hope that people know, in that Frank and Kelly are very much loving and caring as much as they are stern (Says with a chuckle).
Is there anything that surprised you about the show as far as what you thought it would be vs. what it actually is?
Surprised, hmmm? No! It’s like a boot camp. I figured it would be like that. You know, It’s hard, hard work. Fortunately, having toured for the past five years, my schedule and life can be gruesome. It was a blessing to at last have a little experience dealing with that. You have to be on as it might be 1 am and we have a show, Janelle is depending on me as it’s not two of me. It is me and another girl singing background, we have to dance. Because of that experience, I was glad I walked in with at least that much. I was glad I wasn’t caught completely off guard by that crazy schedule.
In taking part in Chasing Destiny, what have you been able to take away that will help you down the line in all aspects of your life?
Work ethic! This may sound small, but even as you work hard, just be sweet. There is nothing wrong with being sweet and working your butt off. Those two things are essential in my opinion, as an artist, group member, and musician. In anything or any field, you want to make sure that your work ethic is, as Kelly said on the show, “You practice so much that you don’t mess up.” You really get up, and your 9 to 5 is making sure that you can really perform well. It’s making sure that your vocal endurance is top notch. It’s making sure you understand the way you move, your sweetness, and how you interact with others. As selfish as a career as music can be because you have to be self-consumed to create a product, you also have to be self-led because people are consumers of it and people don’t really have to buy your music. So you have to really put yourself in it. Like I said, working with Janelle Monáe and learning from Kelly and Frank has been a blessing. You can’t teach progress, you have to work for it and have to understand who is paying for your music as well. Make sure you always have that understanding, so I took that away big time.
Watching the first episode, Frank gave you the nickname “Vibe” during your audition, not sure if that was a one-time thing, but has anyone called you that as the show progressed? That kind of stuck out.
Yeah, it did stick out! It’s always been that kind of a term with me and just my feel for music. I think that’s just something I have in my bones and from my grandmother. You know how you hear something, and it’s like they sing so well and so strong, but you may not connect for some reason?
My thing has always been and as they said about me, “It’s really living in the moment.” I think they saw that in me as I don’t try to be anybody else. I’m there to learn and grow. When it comes to the music and delivering, I just want to make sure whoever I am singing to is there with me and that I am lost in the music while not being caught up in myself. Those are things they have shared throughout the show. I don’t know how often they’ll show that on television, but that was something they definitely mentioned about me. That was an honor to hear that from them.
Well, Ash, we would like to thank you for speaking with us. It was pleasure finding out about you and getting behind the scenes knowledge of Chasing Destiny.
Thank you for having me. Be sure to tune in to Chasing Destiny airing Tuesdays @ 10 PM on BET to see my progress!