In a previous conversation, singer/songwriter Ashley Kutcher manifested having her debut album out by the end of 2022. That goal did not come to fruition, and she would need to pivot to other smaller projects to hold fans over until the full project was ready. ‘House on the Water,’ the long-awaited result, is a refined, intentional group of ten songs from an artist who, while she may experiment and test the limits of her abilities, could maintain an audience with just her voice and guitar.
Stream: ‘House On The Water’ – Ashley Kutcher
“While I’m in LA, I’ve been leaning my music to be a lot more organic,” says singer/songwriter Ashley Kutcher, who, over the past few years, has moved from Baltimore to Brooklyn to LA, where she currently resides.
“I’ve been so inspired by country music and some of the stuff I grew up listening to. The other day, I made a playlist of all of these songs that remind me of growing up on the water… my childhood back in Maryland. All this reggae, some country, a lot of Tim McGraw. I realized that I tend to write really country-leaning music, and I pushed that away for a while.”
Kutcher burst onto the scene with “Love You From A Distance” in 2019… a clear-as-day acoustic-driven country ballad that highlights her picturesque lyricism and vocal tone fitting the mold of Maddie and Tae, Priscilla Block, and Ashley Monroe. Over the next few years, she slowly began to build a repertoire of pop-leaning tunes, including a number of tracks off her debut album House on the Water, out now via Darkroom Records. The record is a colorful spread of sounds, sonic ideas, and new ground as a vocalist for Kutcher.
“Picking genres is so hard for me and it always has been,” she says. “When I sit down with a guitar and naturally write something, it has this kind of twang to it. When it came to producing the songs, I was ignoring that and doing pop stuff. The songs on this album are kind of the perfect bridge. This leeway between the pop and organic.”
Kutcher admits that most of the songs come from a storyteller’s perspective. “I write very conceptually,” she says. “I’ll read something in a book and think, ‘Wow, it would be really cool to elaborate on this.’ I wanted to pick a concept… almost like a thesis of an essay. I pick the thesis, and I elaborate on it. I use real-life experiences when writing the song, but when it comes to thinking of what I’m writing about, it’s usually based off a concept.”
She was happy to dive into her thought process for almost every song on the project, which she views as a collection of her most cohesive bunch yet.
The record opens with “Boy From Carolina,” a spacey, entrancing track that harks back to a sound of early 2000’s adult contemporary tunes like “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton, “Only Hope” by Mandy Moore, and “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia with slight touches of modern-pop production.
I think I might know you the best after midnight
Tipsy on red wine
Black dress, skin tight…
hands fit so well on my waistline
“I had this idea when I walked into the studio… of knowing someone physically, but not mentally,” she says. “I wanted the song to describe physical attributes. Your brain can really trick you… to feel like you know someone. How they smell. How they talk. How they look. But, you just don’t know what’s going on in their head.”
She states that her collaborator Remy Gautreau blurted out the line, “I could pick him right of a lineup,” to which she immediately responded with, “Southern lookin’ boy from Carolina,” and a hook was formed.
“Girl In The Mirror” is an overall highlight, particularly in melodic and lyrical delivery. The rawness of said delivery is palpable, which likely comes down to being one of the sole tracks that she felt, in a way, came directly from her without a thesis, though she later revised that statement.
She hates… every single song I write
Mistakes… she’s tallying them up
No shame… in saying I do nothing right
No way I could ever be enough.”
“I was super stressed about having to create something perfect… to be this level of successful,” she says. “I realized that the only person ruining things for me, was me. My attitude, my negative outlook on things, my constant questioning and comparison. I guess if there was a concept in this song… it’s wanting to break up with someone, wanting to leave a relationship, but I wanted to write about not being able to separate from yourself and your own head.”
How did we get here?
Oh my, now I fear we’ll never mend this
My keys on the counter, one foot out the door
I tell her every time, ‘I can’t take this anymore.’
Oh, I swear I’d leave her
But she’s the girl in the mirror
“Silent” and “Half Gone,” similar in structure but vastly different in origin of creation, are striking additions, as are “Matchbox” and “Favorite Color,” both released as singles ahead of the full record. The latter features one of the most paramount choruses of Kutcher’s catalog thus far.
I can’t… can’t learn somebody else all over again
Don’t want another, ‘Hey, you should meet my friend.’
Cause there’s no more I’m sure to discover
I can’t take another ‘What’s your favorite color?’
The final two tracks, “Die In Your Arms” and “House On The Water,” were inspired by The Notebook. Of wanting to grow old with someone, and never wanting to be without that person. Capturing the essence and spark of a once-in-a-generation love story such as that is no easy feat, but Kutcher’s ability to viscerally find her own passageways into that frame of mind is one of the more impressive aspects of her artistry.
I could just die in your arms
We’ll never be apart
Cross my heart
And hope to die in your arms
Swear I’d leave it all
If Heaven had to call
Music isn’t math… it’s just how you feel.
However these songs are interpreted… whether they are pop, country, folk, something in the middle, or none of the above, Kutcher understands that this kind of art is never truly linear.
“Music isn’t math,” she says. “It’s just, ‘How does this song make you feel?’ I’ve always struggled with that… not having a clear answer on things. The album does tell a story… it goes from me looking for love in people that I probably shouldn’t have. The last few songs are about finding that relationship… not being able to accept it, but finding that kind of love.”
While she veers back into a pure country sound for her next batch of material, she is also expanding her reach. A lucky string of events resulted in a recent onstage collaboration with rapper Lil Tjay, with Kutcher singing the hook on “2 Grown,“ a Tjay track featuring The Kid LAROI, at The Palladium in LA.
“I want to put my music in as many places as it will go,” she says, citing herself as a longtime fan of hip-hop and expressing her desire to continue offering her voice to the genre. “As long as it fits something that I like and am proud of, I think it’s so cool.”
— — — —
© Brittany Harper
:: Stream Ashley Kutcher ::