Dan Ashley - 10 Questions Music Interview
Hailing from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Dan Ashley has worked as a leading American television journalist for more than three decades and the last decade as a singer and songwriter. Dan Ashley's passion for music started early. He has been around music his entire life, starting as a child with his first guitar and piano lessons, and then singing in the junior choir at his church in North Carolina. Summer’s at the family farm always included music as his grandmother was an accomplished pianist.
An accomplished singer, Dan regularly performs with his band comprised of veteran sidemen for major artists. Over the years, Ashley has opened for major acts including Eddie Money, REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, Melissa Etheridge, and Patti LaBelle. He is also regularly asked to sing the National Anthem at a variety of events including NBA, MLB, and NCAA games.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
While I cannot point to any one event or catalyst that compelled me to begin writing music, I can say that I was motivated to express myself in song because of a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad, as a journalist. Over the years, I have seen so much and have been an observer and a documenter of people and the events that shape their lives and our common humanity.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Probably the craziest thing that ever happened to me in my music career was very nearly fainting dead-away on stage during a live performance in 105-degree heat. We were in the baking hot sun and it got a bit overwhelming at one point and I felt myself beginning to collapse. I’m glad to say, I didn’t!
What has been the high point of your music path?
There have been a number of very nice milestones and meaningful moments but probably the one that stands out the most is meeting a woman after a show who told us that our music had lifted her spirits during a very difficult time in her life. A couple of weeks later I saw her again at a performance and this time she had brought her elderly mother with her. Her mom had the sweetest smile on her face as we played. Music has always meant so much to me, so it was very gratifying to know that our music meant so much to someone else.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I try to approach my songwriting from a place of honesty and authenticity. I try to write about subjects that mean something to me or that I am honestly feeling or observing. The best songs seem to come naturally and freely and are not forced or manufactured. The times I have been most happy with a lyric or a melody have been the times when I just allowed it to happen and didn’t try to make it happen because I was under pressure or facing a deadline.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I think the biggest challenge for independent artists in the music industry today is also our biggest advantage. It can be very challenging to cut through the noise and to stand out and to make a mark without the machine the major labels used to put behind artists. On the other hand, you don’t need the machine to be successful anymore because there are so many other ways to reach and to find an audience. It’s really a very exciting time in many ways.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
I have been honored to open for some terrific acts over the years, Eddie Money, Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon. There are so many remarkable artists that I have admired and enjoyed over the years, so it is hard to narrow it down. For the power of their authenticity and expression, I have always been moved and motivated by James Taylor, John Mellencamp, R.E.M., among many others. For sheer excitement and energy, I would have to say that it would be a thrill to be on stage with the Stones.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Our rehearsals are focused but light-hearted. We work hard on our material when we rehearse, but I always insist on a sense of fun and camaraderie. Music is meant to be joyful and that applies to the players as much as the patrons.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
As I mentioned, the best songs seem to come more naturally. But that’s not always the case. The single I released recently, “What Really Matters” is a very personal song and, while I can’t say I struggled with it, there were a number of challenges lyrically and musically to make it come together in the way I envisioned it. We got there, but it took some twists and turns. My wonderful producer, Bill Bentley, is incredibly talented and really pulled it together.
What's coming up in the future?
I’m excited about the future and have a lot coming in the new year. I’ll have an album of original material out in the late spring and my amazing band and I are looking forward to a busy season of live performances with these new songs and some old favorites.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
I’d be thrilled to have your readers check out some of my work and keep up with my projects. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at: DanAshleymusic and the website is: DanAshleymusic.com
Dan Ashley's holiday song, "My Favorite Time of Year," will be airing on National Indie Radio (WNIR) commencing December 1st through December 31st as part of BWH Music Group’s Holiday Radio Special. WNIR features the best independent artists in the world and is part of the highly selective and nationally renowned BWH Music Group platform. The Holiday Radio Special will feature original holiday songs as well as covers by exceptional independent artists. Station information can be found at National Indie Radio’s website.