Watch out- there’s a new leading lady in town – and we have the distinct pleasure of picking her brain! Today we are chatting with the stunning vocal powerhouse Ashleigh, fresh off the release of her first album XOXO. Let’s face it, we have all spent some time singing into the hairbrush in our shower, but Ashleigh is making it happen in the real world. She is showcasing her serious smarts, passion, and pipes on her first album – and we suspect many more in the works. We suggest you pop over to her website, start with “So Emotional” and read about chasing your passions and finding your voice.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you get to where you are today?
Well, for starters, I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where my dad, Hardy Nickerson, played football for the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a young girl, my family moved a lot due to my dad’s 16-year NFL career. It wasn’t until he retired, and we settled down quite a bit that I started to focus on soul searching and figuring out what my passion is, and what I wanted to pursue. It was hard for me to move around every football season and off-season; but, because of that, I quickly learned how to adapt and make the best of every situation that I’m faced with.
I have been singing all my life—originally in school choirs, gospel choirs, a-capella groups—you name it. I knew that I wanted to pursue music in high school, but I simply didn’t know how to go about it. After high school, I moved on to continue studying at UC Berkeley. Oddly enough, I was a pre-med Biology major and a member of UC Berkeley’s track and field team my freshman year, but I just couldn’t shake my love of music. I joined choirs, and sang the national anthem at Pac-12 Basketball games, high school football games, even open-mics. Any chance I found to perform—I took it! I realized how much I loved music at that point, and stopped running track, which allowed me even more time to focus on my passion—music. I started writing songs, and performing solo’s in our school’s gospel choir. After many people’s encouragement, I decided to actually pursue a career in this field. I worked very hard, and it was hard to fully pursue music while in upper division biology courses. Once I graduated, things started moving much quicker. I finally had time to fully throw myself into my music, and that is what I did. I poured my heart and soul into every one of my songs on my album “XOXO,” now that it is finally finished, I am just so happy and excited to see where this path will take me.
When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
I knew that I wanted to be a musician when I was very young. I have been singing since I was in elementary school, and I have always admired mainstream musicians and wanted to be a mainstream musician. I definitely knew I wanted to be a singer in high school, because I literally could not get through the day without at least one choir class to keep me sane.
Tell us about the inspiration for this album and your creative process.
I draw inspiration for my songs from all aspects of my life. Writing songs is a form of self expression for me, and I write very organically. I don’t force it—If a melody comes into my head, I build upon that, and after some time, I have written a whole song. This particular album is themed around the highs and lows of relationships and the highs and lows of life in general. There is a song on this album for lots of different moods, and I feel that people will be able to relate to my music because of that.
What is the message that you want listeners to take away from your album?
I want people who listen to my album to feel empowered, and to be unafraid to fall down, and even more unafraid to rebound. The progression of the music in my album follows the trajectory of a real relationship that starts off really great and ends up not so great. But, I didn’t want to end on a song about heartbreak. I wanted to have a song about rebounding and self-love, and that is “Keep it Movin.” It’s a song about realizing your worth, and being unafraid to shed any weight that is detrimental to your life and your path. It’s an empowering song, and I want people who listen to the entirety of the album and realize that in reality, heartbreak is not the end. Even when you reach rock bottom, the only way left to go is up. I want people to be inspired by the conclusions that are reached by the end of the album.
What song should we listen to first?
My favorite song is “So Emotional” because it is a fun, up-beat, feel-good song it’s also track number 1.
If you could tell twenty-somethings everywhere one thing, what would it be and why?
I would tell them to take advantage of this time! We will not be this young forever. We will not be on this earth forever. It is up to us to make the most of our time on this earth, and to try to leave a positive impact on it. This is the time when we choose our destiny.
What word defines being a twenty something?
I would say… freedom.
Because during childhood, we desire to have less rules, and be in control of what we are doing. Yet, after a certain age, there are so many responsibilities, and so many things to keep track of. That’s what makes being a twenty something so special. It means that we are old enough to be in control of our own lives and how we choose to live them, but it also means that we are at an age where we have not been bogged down by the same woes and responsibilities that our parents have to deal with. This is such a fun, exciting time; and, to me, freedom is the word that best defines it.
If you lost your voice tomorrow, what other profession would you do?
I graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Integrative Biology, so if anything were to happen to my voice, I would definitely be prepared to get job or to continue on to medical school or graduate school. However, I don’t think I could ever completely live without being involved in music, so in that event I might even take on an instrument to play in place of singing.
Who is one person that has influenced you most in your self discovery and achievement of your dreams?
My grandma played a huge role in my self-discovery and the realization of my dreams. She has since passed away, but I will never forget singing to her while she was in the hospital bed, and seeing how happy it made her during that extremely tough time as she was suffering from liver failure. That was when I really realized how much of an impact music can potentially have on a person. It has the potential to inspire people to do the impossible. Even though she passed away, I was so happy that I had a chance to share that moment with her and make her smile. My goal since then has been to use my talents to leave a positive impact on the world, and that is what I’m striving to do now.
What words of wisdom do you have for twenty somethings chasing their dreams?
DON’T GIVE UP ON THEM!! You were given your talents and put on your path for a reason. Don’t ever feel that you are less than worthy of achieving your dreams. Sometimes good things take a while to fall into place, so keep working, keep dreaming, and believe in yourself because you can do it!
For more onAshleigh visit her website http://www.ashleighnickerson.com .