Johnny Ashby – Never Let You Go (Spotify)

Johnny Ashby is a British singer/songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. Ashby found a love for music through his Dad’s mixtapes. As a teen he played guitar in various bands and after leaving college, stepped into the session world. Deciding to move to California with nothing but a suitcase full of clothes, a guitar he built himself and dreams of playing the legendary Troubadour, the songwriter dove in head first and has not looked back since.

Inspired by the likes of David Bowie, Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Damon Albarn, Ashby aims to create music following a similar path of thinking outside the box. His sound blends the best of his childhood favourites, with the intention of being performance worthy. Ashby explains, “When I write I imagine what the songs would be like live, that’s what’s most important to me. That’s what I’m aiming for.”

Ashby’s upcoming five-track EP entitled In Bloom is co-written and produced with friends Fredrik Eriksson, Sebastian Fritze and Bill Delia from the band Grizfolk. Grizfolk are hugely successful on the folk-rock circuit opening for artists like Bastille, Haim and X-Ambassadors. The EP highlights Ashby’s infectious Americana tinged sound, featuring radio-ready anthems with lyrics that speak of finding connection, new beginnings and coming together. The ethos behind the EP was to provide uplifting, positive and hopeful messages during a time of uncertainty. Ashby confides, “I think all the songs lyrically really address where we are in this very moment. They’re very true of the time in which they were written. They all have this “heat of the moment” feel for me because we managed to capture the emotion and feeling on each track right there and then. They’re so raw and honest and I feel like I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve here with all of these songs.”

The EP begins with “Never Let You Go” - reminiscent of Kings of Leon, the track features dreamy, layered vocals allowing listeners to uncover something new with each and every listen. Then there is “In Bloom” which glistens with shimmering guitar melodies, warm vocals and thought-provoking lyrics. Ashby shares, “I love the piano melody in the bridge and I love the big U2 guitars on the outro. There’s so many sections and parts on this song, all these hooks intertwine together. I get really excited when that happens on a song. It’s what songwriting is all about for me.”

“SOS” speaks about this idea of being lost and wanting to be found. Featuring honky-tonk piano and free-flowing vocals, the song delivers a care-free attitude. With lyrics referencing camping trips with friends, Ashby uses textured, unison vocals to emit a "we're all in this together" vibe, creating a heartwarming track about friendship and solidarity. Leading single “Born Again”, features ethereal harmonies and vast soundscapes delivering a utopian, spine-tingling atmosphere which gradually builds into an unforgettable anthemic chorus. The singer’s soulful, raspy vocals narrate failing, getting a second chance and wanting to live forever.

The EP is brought to conclusion with “Found You”. Gang vocals result in a big stadium feel, ending the EP with a bang. The songwriter explains, “It’s about being a kid and having an imaginary friend. I really like writing songs from that perspective. It’s so freeing and it’s kinda refreshing I get to revisit that and put myself back in the shoes of a younger me.”

Ashby hopes his music encourages others to take a leap and rediscover yourself. Admitting how during these unprecedented times he managed to find time without limitations and value what is truly important, he shares, “Without this lockdown I don’t think these songs would have happened. I needed this time to stop, sit down and figure it all out. It’s been a valuable lesson and I hope that if there’s anyone that feels at a loss, like I did before pre lockdown, I hope my music speaks to them and inspires a leap of faith.”

Ashby’s first EP Cannonball Days peaked at #9 in the iTunes songwriters chart which led to Huffington Post naming him a “Top 5 Emerging Icon". Since then, he has released two well acclaimed EPs and his music has been heard on radio both in the UK and the US, gaining huge support from BBC Introducing and Absolute Radio in London. He's played the prestigious Troubadour in Los Angeles multiple times and his songs have been featured on primetime television for shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, Elementary, Rise, Baywatch, Teen Mom and Midnight In Texas.

Reviewed by Nagamag on August 30, 2020