31 Mar. 2009

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Saul Ashby



The first time I saw this man’s album cover I knew that it was something I wanted to listen to. Ignore the stereotypical answer that you cannot judge a book by its cover. When I opened this album and began to listen to the pure genius it held I was very impressed. Matching a distinct voice with honest lyrics and a dash of piano and guitar overtones, you have a complete package. He provides an image to fit his music perfectly. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Saul Ashby.

What is your first memory of the guitar?

My dad’s old Levin acoustic. He got it when he was a kid from one of his friends’ sisters in the 60s. He gave it to me when I was 13. It’s worn to pieces, cracked and falling apart, but it’s probably the only thing I treasure.

How long have you been playing?

I used to sing along to records when I was little. I started playing drums when I was around 9, which I loved, but a few years later I really wanted to write songs. That’s when my dad gave me that guitar.

When did you know that you wanted to take a run at this thing they call music?

I’m not sure. I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else.

Where are you originally from?

I was Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, but I grew up in London. My parents were flat broke, and I think my dad owed some guys a lot of money. We came to London with two suitcases. As kids, he’d tell my brother and I the story of how he went back to pay off his debts with a bag full of cash, a pistol in his pocket and one in his sock. I imagined him being like Clint Eastwood. I loved that story.

Is Saul Ashby your real name?

It’s what most people call me.

Do you write all your own lyrics?

I’ve recently started to co-write a little, but up until a couple of months ago I hadn’t written with anybody else. Writing lyrics for me is a very special thing. It’s when I feel at peace with myself, like I’m listening to what I have to say.

Where do you get inspiration for a new song?

I carry around a little notebook that I’m always writing in. Observations, bits of conversations…anything really, though it’s usually something that’s happened or the way I’m feeling that walks me over to wherever my guitar is lying around.

You seem to be a storyteller in those lyrics. Tell me a story.

There’s a spider that lives in a hole next to the bathtub in my flat. The spider is huge and has only been sighted a couple of times. I imagine him to be a sweet talking Frenchman, who plays guitar like Django, tempting passersby into his lair with his silky voice and seductive gypsy jazz.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would you go?

I’m quite happy in London for now. I recently moved back from New York. I loved it there, but I always felt like I was an outsider, just visiting. I’d like to spend some more time in France, but I’d drive myself mad there.

What are you drinking on stage?

Scotch.

How did you get hooked up with Disc Makers?

Hooked up implies that they gave me something. I appreciate the free publicity, but I’m not in the pocket with them.

If you could tour with anyone in the market today whom would it be?

Someone I really respect like Paul McCartney, Elton John, Cat Stevens, Tracy Chapman; anyone who could teach me a few good life lessons.

What is the largest crowd that you have ever played for?

A couple hundred people. I haven’t played any enormous shows yet.

The smallest?

I’m happy to play to 3 people if they’re listening. I’d rather do that than play to a packed room who aren’t.

What is your favorite venue to play?

At the moment, it’s the Bedford in Balham, South London. There’s always a great crowd who love music and come just to hear new acts. The same goes for the Living Room in NYC.

Who designed your album cover?

It was designed by my very talented friends Alex Merto, and Chad Cheverier, who shot the picture.

Where can I get a copy of that album?

You can’t, I’m afraid. I sold them all, and it’s not getting re-printed. It’s still available for download all over the net though, including iTunes, Rhapsody, etc.

Staying single while out there on the road?

There’s someone I love, but I think I’m too late and I’ve messed up too bad.

I love your MySpace design. Who is responsible for that?

A company called Parallel designed it.

Any thoughts on a tour this year?

It would be great, but not just yet. I need to work on my new some some more first.

Do you have a job outside of music?

I worked in a second-hand record store, but I got fired.

If you could be any cartoon character whom would you choose?

Probably Bender from Futurama.

Let’s say that you are offered a record contract but it is someone else’s lyrics and it is a rap album. Do you do it?

I’ve always wanted to be a hype man on a hip-hop track, just shouting: “Yeeeahhh.  What!! What!!” or something like that. But me as a rapper? Don’t think I could pull off the swagger.

PC or Mac?

I just got an iPhone, and it’s really impressive. I’m not very good with technology though.

What are your thoughts on MySpace?

MySpace is great, but I can’t really be bothered with all that. I use Twitter a lot, (@saulashby). It better suits my attention span.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If you’d asked me this question five years ago, my response would look nothing like where I am now. So let’s just wait and see.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

Making honest music, and hopefully making a few people feel better. Or at least not alone.

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