Premiere: Tommy Ashby Sings from the Sidelines on Soft & Subtle “Poolside” ft. Lydia Clowes

Tommy Ashby & Lydia Clowes © Fraser Taylor
Tommy Ashby & Lydia Clowes © Fraser Taylor
A soft heart-on-sleeve serenade, “Poolside” featuring Lydia Clowes rises and falls in waves of heavy emotion as Scotland’s Tommy Ashby sings a folk anthem for introverts everywhere.
Stream: “Poolside” – Tommy Ashby




I guess this song is just me accepting and being aware of my own inertia; maybe being aware of it means being more proactive in making choices in the future.

This one goes out to all the wallflowers: A singer/songwriter with a proven track record for weaving intimacy and vulnerability into the very fabric of his art, Tommy Ashby captures the sidelines’ perspective in his latest single. A soft heart-on-sleeve serenade, “Poolside” featuring Lydia Clowes rises and falls in waves of heavy emotion as Ashby sings a folk anthem for introverts everywhere.

Poolside - Tommy Ashby ft. Lydia Clowes
Poolside – Tommy Ashby ft. Lydia Clowes
Think I got a new philosophy,
I wanna dive right in,
I hear the water calling out to me,
But I don’t think I know how to swim.
And when I’m standing on the precipice
I can’t seem to take a step,
Some days I wonder why I’m doing this,
So much easier to love regret,

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Tommy Ashby’s new song “Poolside” (ft. Lydia Clowes), his second release of 2021 and the second single off his upcoming Lay Low EP, set for release on May 14th, 2021. A longtime Atwood Magazine artist to watch, Tommy Ashby has spent the past few years establishing himself through breathtaking, heartfelt, and catchy music. His single “Blood Wolf Moon” has reached nearly 3.5 million streams since its June 2020 release, and was hailed by Atwood as “a beautiful addition to the indie folk catalog” in our track premiere. Its parent EP Everywhere Is Home was also featured on Atwood, where we described it as “the tender indie folk indulgence we’ve been waiting for – a gilded record whose sentimental spirit and vulnerability make for an entrancing journey we can’t wait to take again and again. A truly beautiful listen, Ashby’s new three-track EP epitomizes his stunning artistry, capturing so much emotion and talent with effortless ease and natural grace.”

Tommy Ashby & Lydia Clowes © Fraser Taylor
Tommy Ashby & Lydia Clowes © Fraser Taylor

Needless to say, something about Tommy Ashby’s art strikes the good kind of nerve – and his latest offering is no different.

A duet with London’s Lydia Clowes, “Poolside” ebbs and flows like a majestic lullaby. Ashby soars through a soundscape of fragile, atmospheric indie folk sounds akin to contemporaries Novo Amor and Dustin Tebbutt; acoustics remain up front and center, but he builds a world of wonder through subtle keyboard work and a wash of vocal oohs and ahhs that fills the air with gentle light. Written with Jessica Sharman (Ward Thomas, Hannah Grace, Dan Croll, Sarah Darling), “Poolside” is as vulnerable as it is immersive and emotional. Ashby pours himself out in an intimate chorus:

I’ve been stuck on the poolside
Trying just to get by
Been waiting a long time
Just to know
What it would feel like
Letting go of the sidelines
To be where the sun lights up the road
But the poolside’s all I know

“‘Poolside’ is about someone who has spent their life on the sidelines,” Ashby tells Atwood Magazine. “They desperately want to get involved and keep promising themselves that today is the day, but can’t quite do it; it’s not really who they are. I guess the idea is that things feel better if there is someone is standing in the corner with you. Suddenly the gap between where you are and where you want to be seems smaller; they might give you enough confidence to get involved:

‘when I’m standing on the precipice,
I can’t seem to take a step,
some days I wonder why I’m doing this,
so much easier to love regret’

“The song spends a lot of time balanced on the point at which you have to decide to do something; and the absolute fear you feel making the decision. I think inaction often makes the decision for us, but it’s not always the right one. I guess this song is just me accepting and being aware of my own inertia; maybe being aware of it means being more proactive in making choices in the future. When I wrote this song I had a sore throat and my voice was a gravelly mess; but the demo sounded really cool, it had something slightly Johnny Cash about it. I spent months trying to recreate that sound with a healthier voice (this reminded me of the Friends episode where everyone loves Phoebe’s singing voice when she is ill and so she doesn’t want to get better…) My solution was that I ended up singing all of the lead vocals for the EP first thing in the morning, the complete opposite of what most people will normally tell you to do.”

Ashby adds, “‘Poolside’ started off as a slow solo acoustic track but when Sam Okell, my producer, heard it he immediately wanted to give it more drive and life. So I played the repetitive guitar riff and out came a quietly powerful atmosphere. The instruments float along but with a really direct vocal that I wanted to pull you in; I was sure that I wanted the voice and story to be prominent and not veiled by anything.”

Tommy Ashby © Fraser Taylor
Tommy Ashby © Fraser Taylor
I want you to know the best of me
But the masquerade is wearing thin
I think of all the things I wanna be
But they’re all false starts cause I can’t begin.
I’ve been stuck on the poolside
Trying just to get by
Been waiting a long time
Just to know
What it would feel like
Letting go of the sidelines
To be where the sun lights up the road
But the poolside’s all I know

Ashby captures a familiar world of introspective thought, insecurity, and longing in his performance. We feel the self-confidence slowly draining out of him as the song progresses; he yearns for this experience that’s just out of reach – one that requires an extra effort that simply isn’t present in the moment. Others have written songs about reaching that finish line, and mustering up the courage to make the moment happen; this is a song for all the times we let the moments pass us by.

Longtime readers of Atwood Magazine may recognize Ashby’s collaborator Lydia Clowes from her past work with fellow UK singer/songwriter Tom Speight (she features on his hit single “Strangers Now” and other songs off his debut album Collide); a talented vocalist and writer in her own right, Clowes performances as one-half of female electro duo Bad Honey. She also shares credits on Ashby’s first release of 2021, the joyous revelry “Happy Just to Know” – and features on all five of the Lay Low EP’s songs.

Ashby’s forthcoming Lay Low EP is out May 14th, 2021 via  Wow & Flutter Records. Stream “Poolside” exclusively on Atwood Magazine!

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Stream: “Poolside” – Tommy Ashby



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Poolside - Tommy Ashby ft. Lydia Clowes

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📸 © Fraser Taylor
art © Fraser Taylor

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