UK singer/songwriter Tommy Ashby discusses his sound, songs and the inspirations behind his new Golden Arrow EP
Tommy’s debut single release “Further” served as a phenomenal showcase for both his incredible, intoxicating lyricism and his ardently moving voice. His subsequent releases furthered evidenced his astonishing talent, with his music being both intimately moving and easily accessible. His ability to craft songs which effortlessly intertwine fresh, innovative production with classic folk and blues influences is simply unparalleled. In a world increasingly dominated by mediocrity and repetition, Tommy Ashby offers something that’s delightfully distinct.
His recently released third EP Golden Arrow shows that Tommy’s appetite for innovation definitely isn’t slowing down. Standout single “Apollo (New Love)” combines wistfully contemplative lyricism with bewitchingly engaging production to enthrall in a magnificent fashion. The accompanying video is stunningly simple, chronicling a relationship in a minimalistic yet vivid fashion. The atmospheric nostalgia-tinged aura that director Fraser Taylor managed to capture exquisitely embodies the sentiment of the awe-inspiring song.
Accompanying “Apollo (New Love)” on the EP are three other remarkable tracks, which collectively serve to undoubtedly signal Tommy Ashby as an artist to watch. Atwood Magazine had the opportunity to chat to Tommy about the EP, his creative process & more!
Listen: Golden Arrow EP – Tommy Ashby
:: A Conversation with Tommy Ashby ::
Atwood Magazine: You released your debut EP Further in 2016 and you’ve just released your third EP Golden Arrow. What are the biggest changes you’ve experienced in the time between their respective releases?
Tommy Ashby: During the Further EP I hadn’t been in London long; I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to my music to sound like and I was still building myself up as a session guitar player. Since then I’ve really worked out what I want to do with my own music. I feel a lot more confident about being a solo artist and I really know what the sound I’m going for. It’s a good position to be in where you feel confident about what you are trying to do, from there music just kinda falls out. It is when you are grappling, trying to work out who you are, that things are more difficult.
Where did the inspiration for the title Golden Arrow come from?
Tommy Ashby: It is a quote from the Middle 8 of Apollo, the opening track on the EP. This is the bit where the track really opens out and describes the sun rising. I had been reading a bit of Greek mythology and the god Apollo kept coming up, shooting his golden arrows and bringing up the sun every morning. I just thought it fitted well and a golden arrow aptly describes the colorful vibrance of the EP.
I absolutely adore the EP’s first track “Apollo (New Love)”, what’s the story behind that track?
Tommy Ashby: The night before writing this track I had been at a gig in Brixton Academy. The first verse is quite a literal description of leaving the gig and heading home. The song tries to capture the feeling of driving through London but feeling like you’re in a bit of a bubble. It’s really a simple love song but with those details that make it personal and hopefully relatable.
The line “I don’t have any answers, but I know what I think about us” in that song is extremely emotionally impactful. At what point of the songwriting process, did that particular line enter your headspace?
Tommy Ashby: That line is trying to say, ‘I’m a bit all over the shop in general but there are a few things I am sure of!’ The whole song came out in a day, it was only the end that needed a bit of thinking about!
The video for Apollo (New Love) is incredible and beautifully atmospheric, what sentiment did you want the video to embody?
Tommy Ashby: I really wanted it to capture the vibe of the track; nighttime in the city and the excitement of being in love, not in a corny way just a simple joyful way. It’s also a song that goes on a bit of a journey and I think that is represented beautifully in the video.
Who directed the video and what drew you towards working with them?
Tommy Ashby: Fraser Taylor directed the video, we first worked together when he came up to Scotland to film me when I was supporting a band called Skinny Living. We trekked about the hills and filmed various bits and bobs, and I was just blown away by everything he came up with. We talked about Apollo, I had a few ideas and he said he had always envisioned a video where nothing much happened but that allowed you to study the relationship between the two people.
Watch: “Apollo (New Love)” – Fraser Taylor
Especially in the first half of the video, the colour palette evokes a sense of sullen gloominess, which is a distinct contrast to some other parts of the video. What did you want that contrast to represent?
Tommy Ashby: I love that the video is a journey; the narrative of the video parallels the storyline of the song. The song starts in the city at night, you get the sunrise in the explosion of the middle 8 and the fuzzy happy tiredness of the early morning.
The production you employ is beguilingly beautiful and immensely intriguing, while entrancingly elevating your vocals. How does your production typically come together?
Tommy Ashby: I do quite a few things at home, vocals, some guitars and other bits n bobs, then take it all in to my producer, Sam Okell. We had a couple of days just fleshing out each song, him telling me where things sounded good and where we could try another direction.
Working as a session musician you’ve performed with the likes of Jamie Lawson and Nina Nesbitt. With Jamie, you recently played four nights at Wembley Stadium. What’s going through your mind when you’re playing to such a vast venue?
Tommy Ashby: In some ways it isn’t actually as terrifying as you might imagine as it can feel quite detached and a little unreal. You’re in a bubble with the rest of the band and a few crew and then suddenly you are wander out onto a stage with tens of thousands of people. Also, every gig on that tour was enormous so Wembley actually didn’t feel out of the ordinary. I just kept forcing myself to concentrate as my mind wanted to wander. On the last night of the four at Wembley, I just looked around and soaked it up, trying to burn it all into my brain. Although size wise I wasn’t bigger than other shows, this was Wembley and even the name has a huge significance.
You’ve got a headline gig coming up in London on the 12th of June, what can people expect from it?
Tommy Ashby: It’s in St Pancras Old Church which is a beautiful old venue. I will be playing solo but I’ve been building the solo show up to be a lot more than just an acoustic guitar and a vocal.
Your music has been featured on some huge TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. How does it feel hearing your music sound-tracking moments on such well-loved shows?
Tommy Ashby: It feels pretty cool! Grey’s Anatomy has a history of giving a chance new and interesting singer-songwriters and I’m really honored to be on the list. It always feels a bit odd to hear your song on TV, like you’ve crept into a party where everyone is cool and you’re probably not supposed to be, but you just try and act like everything is normal (laughs)
The EP ends with “Someone New”, what was the thought process behind having that song close the EP?
Tommy Ashby: I like to think it’s a palette cleanser at the end of quite a lot of different sounding tunes. I like the way the song finishes open ended, with a restatement of an earlier verse. Hopefully, that means someone can just go full circle and press play again on the start of the EP!
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📸© Fraser Taylor