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Shirin Nahvi

A to Z : Ashley Zarah

Ashley Zarah is an Iranian singer/songwriter and Dark-Pop performer hailing from Los Angeles, CA. Merging millennial pain and pop culture, she is convincing pop listeners to feel something real again, the way she felt during the emo wave in the early 2000s. As a young kid who struggled finding a group and culture to identify with, Zarah decided to invent a space of her own where all the beautifully complex were welcome; hence, the home of Dark-Pop.

While on scholarship at the highly prestigious art institution, Berklee College of Music, Zarah revealed herself to be both a prolific writer and expressive vocalist; though mostly sought after for her relatability and insightful lyric writing. She has since been featured on NPR’s “Buried Treasures,” BuzzMusic LA, GirlTalkHQ, Authority Magazine, JeJune Magazine, EDM Nations, and twice debuted on the world-renowned music editorial, The Hype MagazineHer 2019 Middle-Eastern influenced 2-track single, Awake, will be featured in the upcoming LA indie filmBack In the No.

An advocate for mental health, suicide prevention, and gender equality; Zarah is on a mission to teach and heal her generation to speak their truths and enjoy their lives rather than simply surviving them; proving to audiences that no pain is worth the disposal of a life. Zarah’s highly anticipated project, the Better Mess – LP, is currently in post-production for release in the Fall of 2020, leading with fan-favorite singles “My Boyfriend,” and “Everybody Knows.”

A song which made you want to make music

“Speed of Sound” – Coldplay

Best album ever written

Back to Basics – Christina Aguilera (both discs).

Craziest moment you’ve experienced as an artist

“Crazy” can mean a few different things but… when the drummer didn’t show up for the gig. That was pretty crazy. That ended up being one of my best gigs too.

Deepest lyrics one of your songs features – and quote them

“I don’t really wanna sell my smile, but no one markets truth.” That’s from an older song of mine called “Banshee.”

Easiest song you wrote

“My Boyfriend”

Favourite show you’ve ever played

My Homecoming Show in LA last year. I came back home after 4 years and it was the perfect first gig back. Everything about it was magical – the location, the acts, the audience… the stars aligned that night.

Guest you’d most like to feature on one of your records

Blackbear

Happiest moment you’ve experienced as an artist

There’s something about when a song has been finished, and I can’t stop playing it alone for myself before anyone else hears it. It’s just me and the song with no pressure of an audience – just this pure bliss of practicing it repeatedly, making realizations about myself, and falling in love with the latest expression of one my stories. That’s definitely my happy place.

Interesting fact about you, or a band member

I’m real nerdy. I love video games, anime, and analyzing literary masterpieces. 

Jokes you have in the band

My band has turned me into a meme with my song “Like I Do.” I do this thing where I list a billion reasons as to why I’m overwhelmed and stressed and then follow it up by saying, “it’s fine.” And they all look at each other and whine/scream my own lyrics in my face. For some reason, I never see it coming either. 

Kicking off your set is best with which song

“Shanehayat” by Hayedeh – it centers me while freaking everyone else out, I love it.

Longest distance you’ve travelled to play a show

LA to Nashville

Musical instrument you, or your band, could not live without?

That’s a hard one… probably the cello

New band or artist you’d recommend

Naïka

Opening for this band or artist would be ideal – name one and more importantly why

I’d love to open for BANKS. She is such a role model for me as a vocalist, writer, and performer. The range in her productions is incredible – she jumps from hip-hop dancer, to unbreakable femme fatale, to fragile and vulnerable and that’s a testament to her limitless creativity, brutal honesty and humanness. These are all qualities I value and work tirelessly on, so it would be an honor to share a stage with a woman as inspiring as her. Also doesn’t hurt that our genres blend pretty well together.

Place you’d most like to tour

I would love to tour the UK. So many of my favorite artists and bands come from there, and audiences have been really responsive to my work there.

Quote that you’d like to pass on to our readers

“It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind.” – The Smiths.

Reason for the title of your recent/forthcoming release

“Everybody Knows” is a really suggestive title – it alludes to an intriguing story that clearly has travelled from many mouths into many ears. The song is written in two perspectives which makes it particularly relatable in my opinion; everybody knows both sides of the story, but the truth is what keeps getting passed along.

See us live at

My bedroom! I’m hosting a fun, livestreamed, LP release show after the Better Mess – LP comes out this Fall. So keep your eyes peeled!

The old days of music were better than those current, do you agree?

Yes and no. I love how experimental we’ve become and how much our genres have expanded and crossed – but I do think with that technology came a loss of dedication and discipline in performance which is really important to me. In addition, though most of my favorite songwriters are writing now, hit records nowadays don’t seem to value songwriting as much as hits of the past.

Use a single word to describe the music industry

Perplexing

Variations you’d like to do on any of your songs

I’ve always wanted to do a swung, percussive, upright bass-vocal arrangement of “CONTROL.” I know it would be fire.

What bands have you seen live and regretted?

It pains me to answer this cause I love these artists wholeheartedly. The 1975 at the Palladium in 2014 – they were amazing! Their fans were insane and very violent though. I left before the show ended crying hahaha – PVRIS was also a show I did not expect.

XFactor, The Voice etc – good or bad for the music industry? Discuss

Like anything, of course it has its pros, but overall, I think it’s bad. One, I’ve known many incredible musicians who’ve been rejected because the producers wanted to let someone funny get air-time. The contracts are extremely unfair to the contestants as well. Ultimately, these shows are about money and entertainment, it’s not about the artist at all. It projects many misconceptions about singers, separating them from musicians in the industry. It makes singing look mass-produced and easy, like some God-given talent whereas other musicians are viewed as disciplined and academic. It also puts a lot of pressure on vocalists around the world that you need to sing the highest note the loudest for the longest time in order to be a great singer. I hated my voice for years because of watching those shows and comparing myself to who I saw on there, but that’s what it is – a competition. Vocalists being judged by people who aren’t usually qualified to do so. I liked The Voice in the beginning, but now it’s become as commercial as the rest.

You could have written any song in history, which would you pick?

Oh my goodness – there are so many and each for their own reason. I guess I’ll say.. “Last Hope” by Paramore. It’s a song that is always relevant in my life and makes me feel lighter every time I sing it.

Zoo animal that best describes the personality of you or the band?

I’d say a tiger, but not for the reason that many may think. Sure they’re fierce and majestic, but they also love to lounge around and annoyingly splash other people in the water. They’re a great contradiction of the animal kingdom. That sounds pretty Dark-Pop to me. 

You can find more information about Ashley Zarah at...

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