Wonderland caught up with Maxine Ashley to talk Pharrell Williams, multilingualism and singing on soundtracks
This time last year Wonderland shot an exclusive session with native New Yorker Maxine Ashley where she gave us a rendition of the infamous Portishead track ‘Glory box’. The track, which can be found on her Mood Swings EP nestled amongst songs featuring her boss Pharrell, showcases both her talent and her versatility. Chatting from her home in the Bronx we caught up with her to see what she’s been up to…..
One of the first things I ask her is if she has plans to record any more covers, seeing as her rendition of ‘Glory Box’ has gone down so well amongst her fans; “I’ve done a song with this guy Liam Howe, he was in the Sneaker Pimps, back in the 90s, and it’s a track called ‘Six Underground’. So it’s a cover but it’s also like a new production, its differently sung and everything. I’m not sure when it’s out but I know it’s coming out in the UK first!’ – not a surprising move given she’s already reached number one here in the UK, after featuring on the Alex Gaudino summer dance anthem ‘I’m In Love (I Wanna Do It)’ back in 2010.
When I ask her what’s she’s been up to for the past year, her schedule sounds hectic: “[I have been] Crazy busy! In the studio everyday, doing photo-shoots every other day”. It’s a far cry from her high school days, where she admits, “I was just really bad. I went to school in the Bronx then high school in Harlem. It wasn’t really like school it was more like a zoo!” That soon changed at seventeen when Pharrell Williams signed her to his record label i am OTHER after hearing videos she had uploaded to YouTube (which you can still listen to). Maxine was unfazed though: “I didn’t really know who he was! It was really normal, I was like, ok so you gonna make my music work?? “
She is currently flitting between London and New York, recording her debut album, which she plans to drop in April: “It’s gonna be epic! I don’t really like to say much… I like people to make their own opinions of it. Because you know everyone has their own perception of things. The way I did it, the way I listen to it, it’s kind of like a movie – a soundtrack!”
Speaking of soundtracks, aside from releasing her EP Mood Swings, she’s also just released ‘Guerrilla’ the lead track for the new Stephen Daldry film Trash, which sees her show off her languages. Already fluent in English and Spanish, Maxine learnt her Portuguese in a matter of hours: “I didn’t even understand what Portuguese was! I had like a translator and we did it in three hours.” She then got to put it into practice when she flew out to Rio for the first time, for a hectic two days to film the music video: ” That was my first time [in Brazil] it was amazing! It was mostly, land do the video, and then downtime at night, where I stayed up enjoying the views. It was just such a beautiful humbling experience.”
Whilst she describes London as her second home, she’s hoping her music will take her to Japan in the not so distant future, as it seems she has a certain affinity to the city of Tokyo. When asked where else she hopes to travel to following her trip to Rio, “Oh that’s hard! Brazil was amazing because I’d never seen anything like that before, you know?…. Tokyo! I’ve been wanting to go there for so long, I’ve been teaching myself Japanese! [It’s the] electronics, it’s the culture, the styles, there’re so…. versatile and I don’t really feel like you get judged over there. If you walk down the street here, in the Bronx, in a Lolita outfit, you KNOW you’re gonna hear about it.” But given her talent and her ever-changing hair colour, you know that you are going to be hearing a lot more from her in the future!
Words: Siobhan Frew