Introducing Johnny Ashby

At the moment I have to say my favourite type of music is anything with an old school americana/folk feel from around the 60’s/70’s era. I have mentioned this on previous posts, and my friends would also agree with this. There is something natural and honest about this sound that ticks all the right boxes for me.

To continue this trend I want to introduce you all to Johnny Ashby who has captured this winning formula in his music. I was first introduced to Johnny via Twitter, where he was working on his debut EP at the time. The way he talked about his music had me intrigued, and I couldn’t wait to hear it. He then released the song ‘Back in 1993’ which sounded so good that I was excited to hear his EP when it was finished. Johnny has now finished his debut release called ‘Cannonball Days EP’ but before I give you my review I want to give you some more information about the man himself. I had the opportunity to chat to Johnny about his music and this is what he had to say.

What was your inspiration for getting into music and which musicians have influenced your sound?

My Grandad was a pianist, I spent a lot of time with my Grandparents growing up. There was this big room in their house full of sheet music, records and instruments. I used to sit next to him and watch him play, mainly classical stuff but he played jazz too. There were a few blues records in his vinyl collection and I guess that kind of kick started me in the right direction. It was a while before I discovered the guitar though…I did what every kid does first… I started learning instruments during the first term in the school year and gave them up a few months later. My Grandad’s piano now sits in my studio in London, it doesn’t hold it’s tuning very well but it feels good to write on.

What were your goals when you began working on Cannonball Days EP and how did it feel when you heard the final version in full?

It was quite a weird process. I’ve been searching for a sound that feels comfortable for a few years now and somewhere during the last few months I seem to have stumbled over it. I had a bunch of songs, all with the same vibe. I was listening to loads of Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams and Fleetwood Mac. I had a summer with no employment and spent everyday sifting through YouTube videos watching players like Lyndsey Buckingham and Dave Van Ronk. I started to become obsessed with fingerpicking the guitar. When my technique changed my writing did too. I tested the material live first and then sat down in the studio and started recording my favourite. There’s an album there already but I feel there’s something special and more relevant to the tracks on Cannonball Days… a lot has changed in the last year and those tracks seem to sum it all up the best.

Talking about your EP, which is your favourite song from it and why?

I get a certain sense of nostalgia when I play Back In 1993. It feels like I’ve invented a time machine that actually works but there’s a fault in the system because it can only send me back to the summer of ’93. I like it because for me it’s a happy song. I normally write as a way of self medication. It’s like going to see a shrink, but without the hourly bill, all my worry’s are gone by the time the lyrics are finished. There was nothing that was bothering or upsetting me when I wrote Back In 1993. It was a weird song to write because I wrote all the lyrics and melody on the tube (London Underground) without a guitar in my lap. I rushed to the studio the next day and found the chords to match.

Do you have any musical related goals that you want to accomplish?

Obviously there’s venues and festivals I want to play and there’s other songwriters I would love to collaborate with but in the long run I guess it would be fun to release a mid-life crisis album. You know, after I’ve done 9 albums I’ll look at number 10 and perhaps I’ll go a bit crazy and do a swing album with a big band. I saw Mark Knopfler play recently, he’s stopped all that cool Dire Straits stuff and decided to go down the celtic route instead (with wooden flutes and pan pipes!)…it wasn’t really for me but I guess he’s probably fed up of playing Sultan’s Of Swing by now.

Now your EP is launched, what do you have planned next?

I’ve spent a lot of time over in LA this last year and it’s really influenced my writing. I’ve been writing more on the piano too, so they’ve got a slightly different vibe. I’d like to aim for a David Bowie, Hunky Dory kinda thing, the production and arrangements on that album are incredible. There’s a second EP to follow soon and at some point in the next year I’d like to get back out on the road and play some shows again but I’m in writing mode at the moment and I’m enjoying it.

Cannonball Days EP is in my opinion is something special as it captures that old school americana/folk sound but still has a modern feel about it. Johnny must be a true fan of this style of this music as he has definitely learnt a lot from his influences and other musicians to add this old soul sound to his music. You also have to give him credit for his song writing ability which not only includes a great musical arrangement but also an impressive story telling ability with an honest depth.

The EP begins with ‘Two Hearts on the Run’ which has a very catchy hook to it. This song shows how Johnny has been influenced musically,  as this song demonstrates his impressive story telling ability. The music is subtle which lets the voice and lyrics take centre stage. Also, his harmonica solo is a great addition which is a highlight of mine on this song. Next up is ‘Old and Grey’ which continues his story telling ability and impressive lyrical skills. I like the use of the piano on this song which gives the song a different dimension to its predecessor.

The title track ‘Cannonball Days’ delivers a song which seems to have a more personal touch to it compared to the others which is shared by an outstanding vocal performance by Johnny. This is my favourite song as it has a wonderful classic feel about it that I can not see myself getting tired of hearing. Such a great song! Last up is ‘Back in 1993’ which has a must hear finger picking style that reminds me of Dave Van Ronk which is big praise from me as I am a huge fan of him. I love how this song provokes memories of when you are young which is thanks to the way Johnny has written the song.

Overall, this EP is an honest no nonsense release which focuses on music in its natural form. This is reflected in the way Johnny has moulded his lyrics which is delivered by his impressive gritty tone. If you like americana/folk with an old soul then you need Cannonball Days EP in your collection today! This is a highly impressive debut which will catch a lot of people’s attention. If you grab your hands on the CD version of ‘Cannonball Days’ you will get the bonus track called ‘Song For A Troubadour’ which is another great song.

As much as I am enjoying this release by Johnny, I am now looking forward to his next EP as I feel that it will offer a natural progression to his sound and deliver his strongest music to date (no pressure Johnny is you are reading this). I am curious to hear if his music will include the use of piano which he mentioned during the interview. Exciting times are ahead for him.

If you want to find out more about Johnny Ashby including future shows then head over to his website at JohnnyAshby.com. You can also check him out on his social media sites at Facebook and Twitter, go and say hello as he is a cool guy to chat to.

If you are listening to the music from Johnny Ashby and you like what you hear then don’t forget to show your support. Go tell the world all about him and his music, it is your duty as a fan! The more support he gets the more music he can release which is a win/win for everyone!