A one of a kind songwriter who’s played and toured some incredible places around the world, Tommy Ashby is an artist you should pay attention to. His latest single ‘Passing Through’ is a product of folk and indie-pop brilliance.
Upon finishing a PhD, Ashby went straight out on the road supporting RHODES on his tour of the UK and Europe. Further tours supporting Nina Nesbitt and Tom Speight followed, along with a sold out first London show at The Islington. His debut EP, recorded with esteemed producer Chris Bond (Ben Howard), was released in late November 2016 and entered at No.5 in the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. Now kicking the later half of 2017 with festival performances and the release of ‘Passing Through’, things are looking bright for the singer songwriter.
What are the lyrics on Passing Through all about?
It’s about a relationship that has gone way past the honeymoon period. In the song the guy is asking whether their stalling relationship is worth trying to save or whether they should just go their own ways. It’s a kinda sad and familiar situation, where staying together might just end up wth everyone hating each other. But on the flip side everyone is terrified of being lonely. There’s something hopeful and loving in there too I think. I’ve always liked the expression ‘Passing Through’ and think it is a good way to describe the transient nature of some relationships.
If you could sum up all of your musical influences, what artists would you
Oh gosh, that’s a toughy. I started playing guitar with my dad when I was really young and my family background is in folk and roots music so that house was filled with Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Alison Krauss, James Taylor, and The Dixie Chicks! So quite diverse. This week I’ve been listening to Jason Isbell, The Mystery Jets and Chance the Rapper so I’m kinda all over the shop musically.
You’ve dotted around playing shows supporting and playing for artists, including Nina Nesbit, Jamie Lawson and Tom Speight – has this helped shape your sound at all? With the people around it and memories at all?
All of those guys have taught me a lot. When I started out playing for Nina I was totally clueless and I am forever grateful that she took a chance having me in her band. Also she was one of the first people to help me out with Passing Through. I went around to her house and we recorded bits n bobs in her home studio. She did some amazing backing vocals which I wish we coulda used on the final version.
All of them are songwriters who really work at their craft, which is inspirational. If there is a spare second then they are writing a song, or finishing a song, or thinking about a new song. They are grafters, as well as being very talented. I’m not sure people realise how much time songwriters put in staring at a blank sheet of paper and willing a song to come out!
Favourite show you’ve played to date?
My own London headline show just before Christmas was pretty cool. Fans, friends and family; a great mix and everyone was on top form. It was only a wee gig but it was such a warm loving vibe so it was an absolute treat to play.
Also the first gig of the Europe tour supporting Rhodes in Utrecht was amazing. The crowd was awesome and I was terrified, so it was a brilliant mix of adrenaline and excitement. And it was the beginning of a great run of shows on that tour.
Can you tell more about the recording process?
The drums and bass were tracked in Abbey Road Studio 2, recorded by Toby Hulbert and played by Michael Blackwell and Toby Couling. We squeezed a couple of runs of this track into a session where we were recording something totally different. I thought it sounded great and we decided it would be the first track I put out of this new collection of songs. I recorded the vocals in my bedroom and then went in with Sam Okell and got down to building the track.
What was the experience like to have your work recorded and produced at Abbey Road Studios? And having Grammy award winning producer Sam Okell (Hozier, Ellie Goulding) produce and mix the record?
Sam has a great vibe in the studio, so chilled and friendly. We just got straight down to it and everything seemed to come out right. No umming and ahhing, he got perfect sounds straight off the bat so it was a really easy process. Also his mixing is brilliant, he seems to get it right first time. I only send feedback because I worry that I’m supposed to!
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Is there an album or new EP in the works at the moment?
There certainly is, but the next thing in the pipeline is another track which is already finished and should come out in a couple of months. I’m really excited for that one too.
You’ve recently played a set at Boardmasters, how did it go? Was it your first time playing or attending?
I’ve played Boardmasters the last four years in a row, first was with Nina, then Rhodes and last year with Tom. It was great to finally play it with some of my own stuff. I played ‘The View’ stage, which is a spectacular location sitting right on top of cliffs overlooking Watergate Bay. The weather was beautiful and everyone was very chilled. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the festival with my friends, happy days 🙂
How would you describe your sound in three words?
Scottish dreamy indie-pop (not sure if that last one is allowed 🙂
Anything else you’d like to pass on to the readers?