The artist speaks with Wonderland about her latest track “Summer 16” and her artistic journey.
Top by GUCCI
Top by GUCCI
Unapologetically honest and unshakeably self-assured, singer-songwriter Stalk Ashley possesses a determination and confidence that – frankly – we could all use a bit more of. Turning heads with her sensual lyrics and dancehall-inflected R&B melodies, you’d be forgiven for thinking the musician was older than her years. Why? Because at just 23-years-old, Ashley already boasts co-signs with the likes of Stormzy and Jorja Smith, over a million streams for hit single “Young”, and a solid fan base including Stefflon Don and Mahalia. But there’s so much more to this sultry artist than a cohort of impressive, career-affirming fans.
With her sensual, sex positive lyrics, Ashley confidentially champions female desire in all its forms. “Femininity is everything to me,” she explains. “Being a woman is everything to me.” When I ask what modern femininity means to her, Ashley admits that “we’re still breaking barriers” but she feels “we’re the most liberated we’ve ever been.” She continues: “I can be confident. I can be independent and not need a relationship to validate who I am or determine who I will be. It’s time to be open, [and] to be intune with yourself.” A sentiment she constantly echoes in her addictively defiant lyrics, just like the following rhythmic concoction in “Young”: Squeeze mi neck, squeeze mi breast you do it best / You relieve mi stress come pantyless a easy access yeah sex without / Ties a the best. But Ashley hasn’t always been this open about sex.
(LEFT) Jacket, coat and corset by CHRISTIANA HADJIPAPA
Jacket, coat and corset by CHRISTIANA HADJIPAPA
Growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, at 19-years-old, Ashley was part of a strict Christian household that put limitations on how she could express herself as a woman. But she tells me she was ready to embrace her creativity and sexuality the moment she moved out of her parents’ house. “As soon as I moved, I was doing my own thing. It didn’t matter anymore. I was in the world to get my own experiences and make my own understanding. I had to be confident because if I wasn’t, no one would be that for me.”
As has frequently been the case over the past few years, plans to tour the world have repeatedly been put on hold due to Covid-19. But while the pandemic meant many of us have been guilty of taking a much more leisurely approach to life, the same can’t be said for Ashley. “So much creativity has been sparked during this time, some people would argue that it’s been the best time of their lives. We’ve got to spend so much time with ourselves, go deep within, and know ourselves completely. It 100% helped me.” Putting that time to good use, Ashley wrote and recorded her latest track “Summer 16”, mixing soul, reggae and dancehall – the foundations of Ashley’s signature sound. “Summer 16 is a mood,” Ashley says of her latest release, a track that “goes in” on her ex with lyrics like Don’t give a f**k if you love me / Don’t bring your energy round mi no. It’s her honesty that sets Ashley apart from the rest.
(LEFT) Top by GUCCI
(RIGHT) Jacket, shorts and corset by CHRISTIANA HADJIPAPA
Top by GUCCI
Jacket, shorts and corset by CHRISTIANA HADJIPAPA
Ashley has a refreshing take on the pitfalls of social media and stardom. “I think it has been great for communicating, I mean I have a fanline where I talk to my fans and I whoop their asses in iMessage games – I don’t think Madonna could do that,” she explains. “But it has distorted people’s perception, reality is now what you see on screens and people listen with their eyes. People are obsessed with the way things look these days rather than actually how it sounds. I hope people see beneath the smoke, mirrors and lights to what really matters, and what’s really important: the music.”
As unapologetic with her fashion as she is with her lyrics, Stalk Ashley can be characterised by bubblegum pink wigs and spidery acrylic nails. Despite sporting neither today, she describes her fashion sense as “fluid”, alluding to the emotional intention behind dressing-up and embracing fashion as an extension of creative expression originating in her music. “I will sit down and paint my nails everyday for hours to express how I’m feeling that day, the same with my makeup, the same with my hair or my clothes. If I’m feeling sexy today you’re going to know. Some days I don’t give a fuck and I’m wearing sweats and thats just what it is,” she laughs.
On a wet and windy morning like this, today might be one of those ‘sweats’ days. But there’s nothing laidback about today’s date, which marks three years since Ashley performed her hypnotic cover of Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl” with Stormzy at BBC Radio’s live lounge that helped catapult her to fame. But Ashley’s not looking back, she’s looking towards the future. And for that, she has big plans. “I want to perform, I want to continue making great meaningful music,” she shares. “I want to do it all.”