Recently at The Mic, we’ve been keeping a keen eye on one Nottingham singer in particular. Delicate, humble, gracious; three words that wouldn’t immediately spring to mind when thinking of the characteristics one might need to make a name for themselves in this brutal music industry. Yet, here I stand in The Lacehouse, witnessing a naturally gifted musician serenade an entire crowd with the first of hopefully many EP releases.
Kalli Ashton, a fresh-faced vocal powerhouse from Beechdale, has just made her loud and proud mark on the thriving music scene with the release of her debut EP ‘Wings’. To celebrate it’s release, Ashton headlined an evening of acoustic music at the popular quirky cocktail bar and venue, The Lacehouse. Both close friends and those who’ve helped Ashton catapult into the spotlight were in attendance, including the writer behind ‘Long Days and Lonely Nights’, one of six tracks taken from ‘Wings’.
Throughout the evening, three warm-up acts treated the eager crowd to three exceptional performances. Lewis Hall kicked the evening’s celebrations off with a Ben Howard-esque set of blissful acoustic tunes which whetted the audience’s appetite for what was to come. Next up was Joseph Knight, a name that if you haven’t heard of yet, you sure will have soon; this young lad’s performance seemed effortless – if he wasn’t delivered into the world plucking an E-string, I’ll eat my hat. Knight’s set included some covers and some originals, however the creme de la creme came when he gave Ed Sheeran a run for his money with a perfect mash up of ‘No Diggity’ & ‘Thrift Shop’. The penultimate act came in the form of Kate Auburn, a woman who captivated the room and ensured every ear was fixed on her voice from the first to last note. Auburn treated us to ‘Golden Stars’, a country-fuelled story that would be the perfect compliment to Ashton’s forthcoming set.
Cue the moment we’ve all been waiting for; the moment that Ashton has been working tirelessly towards since realising her dream. From the humble beginnings of Open Mic UK to interviews across the UK to today – the launch of her debut EP ‘Wings’. Onto the stage stepped a slightly nervous girl, trying to take the moment in and barely knowing where to look; I could only imagine the medley of emotions swirling through her head.
Then the music kicked in.
Kalli Ashton couldn’t have been more in her element if she was in a cowgirl hat curating a hoedown in Tennessee. From the finger-clicking to the hand-waving and occasional swagger, she owned the stage from the first bar of ‘Joleen’ to the last breath of ‘Journey of Life’. Although a fairly short set, the quality in her voice and the sudden realisation of her musical potential swept both me and the entire crowd of our feet. Ashton treated us to some songs from the EP and every single one was a sure-fire hit. My personal favourite came in the form of ‘Battered and Bruised’, a commanding, foot-stomping track with escalating verses and an emphatic chorus that petite Ashton bellowed out to the point of nearly bursting – I was mesmerised. Ashton’s not one to shy away from the odd cover every once in a while, and this set was no red herring. A faultless rendition of ‘Ho Hey’ by The Lumineers featured alongside Charli XCX’s ‘Boom Clap’, two artists which if you imagine combined, are Ashton in a nutshell; take the best in current pop, fuse it with a Cajón and an acoustic guitar and in the words of Simon Cowell, you’re not going to like it … you’ll love it.
In just three short months, I’ve gone from barely knowing this artist to her number one fan. I feel the reason why Ashton’s music is so easy to appreciate and enjoy is down to her determination and instant likability. Yeah, it’s all fine and dandy to tune into Radio 1 and somehow instantly claim this week’s number 1 is your favourite track ever, but it takes something extra special to appreciate a song or EP that’s been crafted from the bottom up. ‘Wings’ encapsulates everything funky about the country scene, blends it with current pop melodies and is bound together by Ashton’s loveable twang.
By Luke Matthews, photos courtesy of Paul Stuart Hollingsworth