“In that broken place, the universe gave me songs”: Ashton York Premieres His Raw, Vulnerable, & Beautiful New Song, “Awful Time”

Ashton York © Zachary Sun
Ashton York © Zachary Sun
An intimate outpouring of regret, shame, and inner pain, singer/songwriter Ashton York’s moving new single “Awful Time” is a heartfelt and stirring expression of melancholy.
Stream: “Awful Time” – Ashton York
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/1270925710?secret_token=s-JRB03XkMTuq” params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=true&visual=true&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”300″ iframe=”true” /]

I was in the middle of a storm and songwriting was all I had.

True to its name, Ashton York’s latest single came from one of the lowest points in his life – and out of his own darkness, the singer/songwriter created a thing of beauty. An intimate outpouring of regret, shame, and inner pain, York’s moving “Awful Time” is a heartfelt and stirring expression of melancholy, with warm harmonies and tender melodies capturing the visceral, raw depths of the artist’s emotion.

Awful Time - Ashton York
Awful Time – Ashton York
I’m scared and insecure
I tried to write a song
But the words came out all wrong
I’m betting you were having an awful time
When I let you down

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Awful Time,” the second single taken off Ashton York’s forthcoming sophomore album, Nightmare In Your Arms… (set for release later this fall). Hailing from the Bay Area, York has been actively making touching indie folk and alt-folk songs for the past four years now, captivating with a sound that has been likened to artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Adrienne Lenker, Sparklehorse, and Noah Gundersen and Night Beds. He released his debut album You Are My Sanity in 2018, followed by the Ellwood EP later that year, and a set of 4-track demos nine ninety in 2021.

He most recently announced his new album through June’s lead single “Dissolve,” and quickly followed that up with the surprise eight-track EP lakewood blvd. Immersive and soothing, lakewood blvd is an old song collection consisting of “songs i wrote and recorded during quarantine in 2020,” York explains. Fans of unfiltered, heart-on-sleeve songwriting and gentle melodies are sure to fall fast for these special tracks, which showcase everything there is to love about York’s all-in musical mentality.

Ashton York © Zachary Sun
Ashton York © Zachary Sun

Truly, however, there is no better example of this artistry at work than “Dissolve” and now “Awful Time.” York’s newest songs are aglow with the sounds of radiant, earnest instruments sweetly intertwined with one another, his own deeply emotive voice, and an unrelenting spirit of contemplation and yearning.

“Awful Time” is one of York’s most introspective works to date, catching him dwelling in the darkest spaces in his mind and one of the worst moments in his own life. As he himself explains, the song came during a time of alcohol and drug addiction brought on by the sudden death of his father. “[It] was written at one of the lowest points in my adult life,” York shares. “in which the self pity and self loathing I was living in took away from my ability to be there for others.”

I’m sick
Just like you said
Lonely with my thoughts
Everything I know
I’m betting you were having an awful time
When I let you go

“I wrote “Awful Time” unexpectedly in fifteen minutes. I was sick with COVID and I remember just strumming some chords in my apartment,” York says, diving deeper into his latest track. “Looking back, I was definitely sorting through a lot of emotions that I didn’t know I was experiencing. I remember listening to a Phoebe Bridgers interview once, and she said that she writes a lot of her songs once she has a chance to look back at her experiences and make sense of them. This record wasn’t like that for me. When I wrote ‘Awful Time’, I was in the thick of heavy alcohol and cocaine use, dealing with a break up, grieving the loss of my father, and feeling like an absolute failure. I was in the middle of a storm and songwriting was all I had.”

“I go through long bouts of depression in which songwriting is my only anchor. For that reason, I’m really looking forward to finishing this record and being done with it. I hope to enter into a new phase of life. One that’s happier and healthier. I think I’m figuring some of that out now, with ten months of sobriety under my belt. Anyways, ‘Awful Time’ is the product of absolute chaos and self-loathing. Everything from toxic relationships to substance abuse brought me to such a broken place. In that broken place, the universe gave me songs. I really hope folks can connect to the sentiments of this tune. I know I’m not the only one who endured a miserable quarantine causing me to evaluate what I’d done with my life up to that point.”

Ashton York © Zachary Sun
Ashton York © Zachary Sun

York continues, “I demo’d “Awful Time” in my room with a mic, a guitar, and a cheap Casio keyboard. I used drum sounds from the keyboard sound bank. I remember finishing the demo and realizing the song was really special. I worked up the courage to reach out to Abby G (Noah Gundersen, William Fitzsimmons) and she graciously agreed to play strings on it. When I got her parts back, I was picking my mother up from SFO. When she got in the car, I told her I needed to play her something special. We were on the freeway and I looked over and mom was in tears. She’d never reacted like that to my songs before. I know it sounds stupid, but in that moment I realized I was headed in the right direction. This record started with ‘Awful Time.'”

I’m late
And full of regret
I could’ve gone so far
But I never did work hard enough
I’m betting you were having an awful time
When I lost my faith
Ashton York © Zachary Sun
Ashton York © Zachary Sun

“Awful Time” is Ashton York’s confessional and his reckoning.

I’m late and full of regret,” he laments in the song’s third and final stanza. “I could’ve gone so far, but I never did work hard enough.” Contrast with rich, soaring strings and his own dazzling, harmonized vocals, these words evoke an air of acceptance and acknowledgement; and at the end of each stanza, thinking outwardly about his loved ones, he reflects, “I’m betting you were having an awful time when I lost my faith.” York isn’t apologizing outright, nor is he necessarily committing to do better or get it right the first time, but by simply recognizing his faults, fractures, and failures – especially as concerns those closest to him in his life – he’s laying the groundwork for what we can all imagine to be his fresh start.

York got sober with the help of close friends and family in September 2021. He’s been sober for ten months now. His sophomore album is a blend of songs written during his lowest moments, and songs written during the subsequent time of healing and reconnection – to himself, and to his surroundings. “Awful Time” acts as a poignant, moving reminder of how we can lose ourselves in an abyss, and how we can find our way out. Stream Ashton York’s stunningly beautiful and profoundly vulnerable new single exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and stay tuned for his sophomore album Nightmare in Your Arms…, set for release this fall!

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Stream: “Awful Time” – Ashton York
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/1270925710?secret_token=s-JRB03XkMTuq” params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&visual=true&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”300″ iframe=”true” /]

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Awful Time - Ashton York

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? © Zachary Sun

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