Fresh on the scene, Nottingham born Kalli Ashton’s roots in American soil explain her burning passion for country music; little did she know growing up that she’d soon be one of the UK’s ‘one’s to watch’. In the shortest period of time imaginable, Kalli has already achieved more than some musicians hope for in a decade. Following the release of her single ‘Worth Your While’ and ahead of her debut EP ‘Wings’, we at The Mic managed to grab 10 or so minutes out of her hectic schedule to find out the back story and her hopes for the future.
Welcome Kalli. Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?
Kalli Ashton: So I’m a pop-country artist from Nottingham, I’m a singer-songwriter and I’ve just brought out my first ever, debut single that I’ve written myself.
Very nice, where about in Nottingham are you from?
Kalli: I live in Beechdale at the minute, so not too far from Nottingham city centre really.
What’s it like growing up as a musician in Nottingham, do you find it easier to get opportunities what with the number of venues, it’s a fairly musical city when you think about it?
Kalli: Yeah, well in all honesty I’ve only just started taking it really seriously this past year. I’ve always sang, from as long as I can really remember, but I’ve only really started doing gigs and getting myself out there music-wise just over a year now. So yeah, it’s fun.
Were you singing with your Dad before or something, he’s a country artist as well isn’t he?
Kalli: Yeah, my Dad’s a country artist as well. My grandpa’s from West Virginia, he was in a big country band and so my Dad’s followed suit and then I’ve kind of carried on from my Dad really.
That is one amazing music family then, very well travelled!
Kalli: Haha, yeah!
So, in this last year then, can you tell us a bit about your musical journey? So from starting out – I know you were on Open Mic UK as well, tell us a bit about how that came about?
Kalli: Yeah! Open Mic UK is what started it all off really. So I auditioned in October last year, and I got all the way through the area finals. So that was a really good stepping stone and from then, I worked with bands, did a few gigs that way and then I just fell into writing music after then. Obviously, before then I was singing loads of covers and things like that but I knew I wanted my own music out there too, so I’ve gone into song-writing and then released my first ever single.
So your first single ‘Worth Your While’ has been out a few months. You’ve already received great feedback and praise, it featured on BBC Introducing and was played all across the nation wasn’t it? Did you expect that?
Kalli: It was quite a shock to be honest. I can’t remember really, it must’ve been about April time, I’d literally submitted it to BBC Introducing and a week later they were playing it on the show, so it was so fast – they just sent me a text message and said “Oh, by the way, we’re playing your song on BBC Introducing at a certain time”. It was such a surreal feeling, especially listening to my voice for the first time ever on radio. But then, after BBC Introducing, the Mark Forrest show on BBC Local Radio got hold of it so it’s been played a couple times on the Mark Forrest show nationally.
That’s incredible, especially for starting out just a year ago! That’s really great.
Kalli: Yeah, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest, how quick everything’s gone but it’s really exciting.
I was going to ask this question a bit later but as it ties in nicely, would you like to tell us a bit about your Rocket Fuel campaign? I’m guessing that’s what’s going to springboard you even further now from your debut year?
Kalli: Yeah, Rocket Fuel’s been quite good actually, I’ve already started to get a bit of a fan base going with that so, my aim really is to raise a certain amount of money to be able to release my EP ‘Wings’ later on this year; the aim is to get it released by the end of September. ‘Wings’ has got my debut single on it, as well as five brand new tracks as well, so I’ve been working on my studio with that – Rocket Fuel’s just been helping me raise that money, building a family and just to help me get my EP out to everybody but also to promote it to industry professionals.
It’s a really nice idea, I took a look at it today and it’s great that you’re giving stuff back as well and not just letting people donate and them not knowing where it’s going.
Kalli: That’s what I like about it, there are so many different options of how people can support me. Yeah, some people have just left a one off donation and that’s been great, other people have actually bought things from the store or they’ve subscribed to me; it’s just a really nice way to connect to my fans. iTunes is really good, I mean my debut single and ‘Wings’ will be out on iTunes later this year, but Rocket Fuel’s just really nice because it gets me connected more with the fans. I know exactly who’s supporting me; it’s just a really nice connection that it makes.
For those reading who aren’t aware, if you head on over to Kalli’s Rocket Fuel campaign, you can buy exclusive items such as handwritten song lyrics and a signed EP once it’s released, all the way up to a day writing and producing a song with Kalli herself.
Especially in this first year, it’s nice to get the personal touch as well I presume, before you grow and grow even more!
Kalli: Yeah definitely! I think especially, all the items in the store are all so personalised, so that’s what I think makes it a nicer experience really.
Coming back to your EP ‘Wings’ then, have you got any track names yet? Is it all recorded and ready to go or are you still very much open to ideas?
Kalli: The tracks are more or less done now, I’ve been writing tracks since the start of the year so it’s a case of getting all the instruments down and then me laying down the vocals. The tracks were all put down; my vocals are all down so they’re all pretty much in mastering at the minute. I’ve got one more track to do next week and then, hopefully it’s all pretty much ready to go once it comes out of mastering. It’s just being able to produce it and get the physical copies out as well as MP3 versions; like what I said, promoting it to the right people in the music industry as well.
That’s great! After the EP’s released, will you be doing some shows around Nottingham or will you go further out and do shows across the whole of England?
Kalli: Yeah, I’m happy to do gigs wherever. Obviously I’d love to still do gigs around Nottingham with it being my hometown; it’s really nice to have that local support there. I know Nottingham Post are doing a write up about me soon as well so that’s really helped having that local support. I’ve done gigs in Leicester and it’s nice to branch out and get a bigger fan-base that way but yeah, Nottingham’s always a great place to perform anyway!
Have you been to most of the venues before and seen bands you like play? Do you aspire to be on each stage every time you visit?
Kalli: Yeah, I mean because it’s not been long since I’ve started out, I’ve not really had chance to perform in Nottingham in many places so I’m looking forward to getting out there and be the one to perform at the venues, I’ve seen so many artists at these places and it’s so nice to see all the local support that we have and now I want that to be me.
So going back to your roots, who inspired you to become a singer and who did you listen to growing up?
Kalli: Well, singing’s always been in me anyway, I’ve always sung. Wherever I am I just sing, and that’s just part of who I am. Obviously, the musical side of my family has been a huge influence on me, but I have got artists that I really look up to. Country-wise, Carrie Underwood’s my biggest idol, I think she’s brilliant and she inspired me a lot with songwriting as I relate a lot to her lyrics. I think from watching her on American Idol, I watched her all the way through that and saw her grow into this huge country artist and I really admire her. She’s a big inspiration.
Especially with everyone’s musical tastes broadening out so vast, I reckon any musical genre can easily get the exposure it deserves. If you look 5 years ago, unless you sang pop or rap music, you’d find it really hard to get the promotion. It’s good now in this day and age, a country artist can do as well as you’re doing.
Kalli: That’s it really, like what you’ve just said. The genres of music have branched out so much now, it was set in it’s ways before and if you didn’t like that sort of music, that was it, you didn’t fit in. With country music now, it’s so much more well known in the UK, you’ve got Nashville TV Show that’s going all across the UK – I think I was talking to the Mark Forrest show yesterday and he was saying how much more current country music has gotten, which is great for me, that works well for my music! I’m not a really traditional country singer but I’ve just got that twang in my voice and I think that’s what makes it easier, especially for the UK to kind of branch out that little bit more as it’s still got that pop element in my songs.
I completely agree, you do have that modern edge that can get anyone hooked. So what’s it like, I presume you’ve played a fair few gigs live now, performing your songs? Do you still get the ‘goose-bumps moment’ and has it sunk in that your first single’s out and people can sing your lyrics back to you?
Kalli: Yeah, it’s still surreal. I think even still listening to my song on the radio, I just think ‘ooh, is that actually me?’ and I’m sat there with my mum and she’s sat there saying ‘it’s really funny how everyone’s talking about you and saying all these things, you’re just a normal girl from Nottingham’. It’s such an amazing experience and this is what I’ve dreamed of all through growing up for my whole life really. To see it falling into place – I know it’s really early days still and I’ve not done half as many gigs as what I’d love to. I can’t wait for ‘Wings’ to come out, so there’s so many more steps I’d like to take but it’s just great how fast-paced everything has got this past year.
I’m amazed how you manage to keep up with how fast it’s going.
Kalli: Earlier on this year, I was actually in more of an indie band and it didn’t quite work out. A lot of my gigging experience was with them to be honest. Because I’ve been working so much on my song-writing, I’ve not had as much chance as a solo artist to promote my own stuff. It’s nice to do things on my own now and really stick to my style of music, which isn’t really what I’ve had chance to do when I was in a band. It’s nice to be able to do that.
That’s good that we can hear you and you only. So, looking forward to the future, what’s the dream? In 5 years time, you’ll look back and what will you have hopefully achieved?
Kalli: I’m really hoping that I’ll have got to perform in Nashville; I think that’s my huge dream. I’ve always dreamed of Nashville through growing up and I’ve not actually had the chance to get there yet. I’m hoping that in 5 years time, America will have caught on to my music as well, I’m loving how great it’s going in the UK at the minute and I’d love that same response in America as well and just get out to Nashville. That’s the big aim.
So you said you have roots from over there, do you still have family that live there?
Kalli: My grandpa still lives in West Virginia now, he’s lived there all his life. He came over to the UK when he was younger, but he still lives there now. I’ve got a big American family from West Virginia, that’s about it really.
It does seem like the fairy-tale dream then, as you say to go back, see your family and give the performance of a lifetime.
Kalli: Yeah, that’s definitely my calling. I’m really hoping to get out there so!
One more question then, we ask this to everyone but we love the quirky responses. If you were to headline a gig right now, who would your three support acts be? They can be anyone, past or present, dead or alive?
Kalli: Oh gosh! Erm, well one would definitely be Carrie Underwood. Gosh, this is such a hard question. You know, funnily enough, I wouldn’t mind Dolly Parton. I think because I’m so country, it’s so hard to think. You know what, I would actually quite like Little Mix.
Those are 3 great choices! Definitely a gig to watch!
Kalli: Yeah haha, quite a mix! The pop and the country kind of blend together a bit.
That’s great, that definitely sums you up in a bubble of pop, country and the fact anyone can listen to and appreciate your music. I presume that gig would have to be in Nashville then?
Kalli: Oh I’d love to, that’d be great!
Thank you for your time and it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Best of luck for the future and hopefully we’ll see you soon around Nottingham!
Kalli: Brilliant, thank you!