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Ashley Gold: Seven questions for a Minnesota songwriter

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Ashley Gold and her band
Ashley Gold and her band. From left, Ben Abrahamson, Zach Schmidt, Gold and Andrew Foreman.
Courtesy Ashley Gold

The singer Ashley Gold couldn't be busier this week. She's collaborating with other musicians and rehearsing, all while preparing for a show tonight for the opening installment of a month-long Tuesday night residency at the 331 Club in Minneapolis.

Each week this month, the club will feature a new opening act - from a fusion of spoken word and jazz to electronic and African sounds.

It's the latest project for Gold, a 29-year-old musician and songwriter who made a splash last year with her debut recording, "Late Bloomer." Backed by an intriguing trio that includes Ben Abrahamson on classical guitar, Andrew Foreman on bass and Zach Schmidt on drums, the singer with the alluring voice aims to amaze her audience. A midnight owl, she doesn't mind answering seven questions, and hit the send button early this morning. Here's our exchange:

David Cazares: How would you describe yourself your approach to music and life?

Ashley Gold: I approach music in a similar way I approach life. I like for everything to come from an organic place. Whether it's writing a melody, meeting new people or falling in love. It has to feel right. Allowing ideas and emotions to roam freely. Spontaneous joy is essential. Improvisation is fundamental. 

Going with the flow, if you will, and not becoming attached or committed to a particular sound, style or person. I'm learning to enjoy the highs and embrace the lows with a Mona Lisa smile. Laughing with the people I love and having the time of my life in the process.

Cazares: When did you first know you wanted making singing your life's work?

Gold: Singing is my drug of choice and I work very hard to support my habit. Two sometimes three jobs. Someday I know it will support itself, but for now I'm on the grind. Like anything in life (aside from sexual preference) it's a choice. I choose to do what I love. This is the legacy I am creating for myself. 

This is how I will be remembered. Not by my driving skills (which are pretty stellar by the way), not how many times I clocked in late to work, not by heartbreak, or how much is in my bank account but by my sound, my voice, my choice of words, the people I chose to create music with and the way I made people feel. Art is forever."

Cazares: Do you think consider yourself a pop artist or is that too broad or dismissive a term?

Gold: I feel present "pop artists" are a flash in the pan, if you will. Under the current music industry standard I don't fit the mold (I mean cage) of a pop artist. The music I make, I do so with an amazing family of players. Their skill set and knowledge pulls from different genres such as soul, r&b, Latin, pop and jazz. Pop music to me is popular music. It's a style of music you play for someone who's never heard the song before and it gets them up dancing or they start humming the melody as they are walking out of work because it's been stuck in their head all damn day. I make music that a six-year-old or 86-year-old would dance to. If that makes me a "pop artist," well...bring it.

Cazares: You're a songwriter and poet. What moves you?

Gold: Watching two people embrace one another at the airport moves me. A phone call from my grandmother moves me. Talking politics on Sunday night dinners with my family moves me. Wooden instruments move me. Katie Ka Vang's courage moves me. Looking up to the clouds moves me and reminds me I am a mere speck in this vast universe. I see the poetry in all things. I consider myself an artist. A dancer taught me poetry and never spoke or wrote a single word to me.

Cazares: Who do you listen to for inspiration and fun?

Gold: It's always changing but right now this is my current mix: Stevie Wonder, Fiest, Santigold, D'Angelo, Emlie Sande, James Blake, Nina Simone, John Legend, Corrine Bailey Rae, Aby Wolf, Mayda, Oso, Chastity Brown, Doomtree, Ashley Dubose, Gabrielle Grier, Heiruspecs, Max Corcoran, Little Dragon, Eletric Guest, Etta James, The Kills, The Roots, Amy Winehouse, Ray LaMontange, Amel Larruix, The XX, St. Vincent, SBTRKT, Esparanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato and I can't believe I will admit this but... Nicki Minaj. Don't judge me.

Cazares: How important is instrumentation and musicianship in your work?

Gold: Instrumentation is imperative and musicianship is essential. Although, I am learning that, like with any successful relationship, respect, trust, and communication  are crucial. You can have the right instrumentation and killer musicians but if there is no foundation, forget about it. 

I feel unbelievably lucky to make music with Ben Abrahamson, Andrew Foreman and Zach Schmidt. Not only are they all extraordinarily gifted and instinctive musicians but they are some of the best people I know. They all have a background rooted in jazz. Andrew and Ben studied together in Spain so they are able to tap into a more Latin vibe when it's needed. Andrew just recorded with a local hip-hop group, Tribe and Big Cats. Zach double majored in both piano and drums. He also sings backup vocals occasionally. He can do it all. 

My guys have definitely made me a better singer. Inspiring me with a tasty guitar lick, a fatty bass line or a crisp cross stick over a funky beat. And pushing me to experiment with phrasing and tone. I look forward to creating a legacy with them.

Cazares: What can people expect to hear tonight?

Gold: This week we have an amazing spoken word artist Lisa Brimmer who has assembled a collection of amazing musicians forming a new project called High Society. Ben and I will be sitting in on a tune with them! Throughout the month we'll have some tremendous opening acts that include looping sweetheart Molly Dean, Hannah von der Hoff (of SEXCAT), and Bolo. The music starts at 10pm every Tuesday and it's free! We play after the openers at 11 p.m. The 331 has an intimate and open vibe. I look forward to spending my Tuesday nights there for the weeks to come.