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Meet a Musician: Ashley Virginia says she's an indie folk/indie pop songwriter at heart

Meet a Musician: Ashley Virginia says she's an indie folk/indie pop songwriter at heart

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Ashley Virginia

Ashley Virginia, 24, plays tenor guitar and keyboard. She also majored in classical voice at UNCG. "Music has always been something I’ve turned to as an outlet," Virginia said.

Ashley Virginia doesn’t actually mention the phrase “Not Your Damsel,” in her recent single of that name. But she makes clear that she’s not in distress, that she doesn’t need “a handsome knight.”

The funk-inflected song is, as she described it, something of a battle cry.

“It’s kind of about that back and forth in a relationship where you’re fighting instead of talking about the things that matter,” she said. “It was written out of some frustration, and I wanted to say, 'No, I’m not helpless.' If we just  communicated better it would be OK. I’m really proud of it, and it’s really fun to play live as well.”

In an interview, Virginia, 24, spoke about her latest works, getting into the right mindset for creating, and how a Leo Sayer tune caused her to have a car accident.

What got you into music?

I’m originally from New Bern, and I’ve been a singer/songwriter since I was a child. I play tenor guitar and play keyboard. I majored in classical voice at UNCG. Music has always been something I’ve turned to as an outlet. I write a lot about my own vulnerabilities, and write as a way to process my own life, and that’s something I just kind of started doing on my own.

Who are some of your inspirations?

I listen to a lot of Paul McCartney. He and The Beatles are a big influence. I listen to a lot of ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, 1970s pop rock, as well as a lot of different indie rock. I listen to folk songwriters like Lucy Dacus, Maggie Rogers, Phoebe Bridgers. It’s hard to put the influences into one pocket. Really, you can pull influence from anything you’re listening to. I’m also really fond of Big Thief, and songwriter Adrianne Lenker is a big influence on me.

How would you describe your music?

Maybe indie folk or indie pop, depending on the song. I’m a songwriter at heart, that’s really where I strive. But, then depending on who I collaborate with and how we decide to produce, it can create a whole bunch of different genres and vibes.

What is your creative process like?

There’s no one formula for anything. But, to create something, you have to be in a certain mindset. I don’t sit down and say I’m going to write a song today. I sit down with a guitar, I sit down at my piano, because I want to create, to allow myself to be creative. You have to be prepared to make something that’s going to suck. You have to be prepared for there to be no end result.

When you allow yourself to create just for the sake of creating something, that’s when the good stuff comes out. When I’m sad, I just pick up a guitar, and I start to make music. The words come, the music flows, and if it’s something that I like, then I keep it. And even if it’s not, it still helped me in that moment.

If you could open a show for any artist, who would it be and why?

Probably Big Thief. The songwriting is spectacular. The whole band is stunning. I’ve seen them live a couple of times. And it would be an honor. They’re one of those bands that you listen to and you're dancing and having a good time and feeling the groove of the music, and then you sit down and listen to it a second time and really listen to the words and you go, “Wow.”

Do you sing karaoke or sing in the shower, and if so, what do you sing?

Before quarantine, I was a regular at karaoke night at Westerwood Tavern. I just love to sing, love to perform. I’m walking around singing to myself. When I’m in a stairwell that’s acoustic, I’m singing.

But the last song I did before karaoke night shut down was “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton. I just love singing the ones that get the crowd up and hyped.

What’s your favorite song to perform?

“You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer is a fun one. I actually have a funny story about that. I was sitting in my driveway, and I had that song on the radio in my car, and I was grooving to it so hard, that I put the car in reverse and forgot to look. And then I got into a car accident, because I was dancing to that song in my car. I always tell that story before doing that song live.

What’s the funniest or weirdest thing that has happened at one of your shows?

I don’t know that it’s funny or weird, but we did a show one time at a brewery and it was pouring down rain, and there was basically nobody there but one fan who just stood right in front of me the whole time. And we just performed for him. And he danced the whole time. And it was great.

What’s next for you?

Right now, with quarantine, I’m just really focusing on writing. I’ve written five songs in the past couple of months that I’m really proud of. I’m currently sitting on some recordings that I’ve made. I plan to release an EP sometime in the near future. I’m hoping to apply for some grant assistance to promote it well and have physical copies for sale. Right now all the recording is stuff I do in my home in collaboration with my friends. It would be really nice to have some funding to be able to compensate them.

— As told to Robert C. Lopez,

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