ashley henryFol­low­ing the wide­spread suc­cess of 26-year-old Ash­ley Henry’s East­er EP, the genre-blur­ring UK pian­ist returns in full force with his debut stu­dio album Beau­ti­ful Vinyl Hunterset for release in later this year on Sony Music. Offer­ing a jour­ney into the vis­ion­ary mind of one of the UK’s most cre­at­ive young tal­ents, the highly anti­cip­ated 15-track album draws on a heady brew of influ­ences from jazz, beats, hip-hop, punk and grime and fea­tures col­lab­or­a­tions with an impress­ive col­lect­ive of innov­at­ors includ­ing Makaya McCraven, Key­on Har­rold, Ben Marc, Luke Flowers, MC Sparkz, Jai­mie Branch, Binker Gold­ing and Joshua Ide­hen.    

With his start­ing point in the revived Lon­don jazz scene, Ash­ley has also just returned from a year-long world arena tour with Christine and The Queens as her keys play­er, opened for Loyle Carner’s UK tour in April and plays in his band reg­u­larly (you can watch him in Loyle Carner’s ses­sion for Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC Radio 6Music!).

Today he releases the second single off the album “Between The Lines” ft Key­on Har­rold on trum­pet and Manchester-based MC Sparkz in a few weeks. 

We catch up with him to find out more! 

Hi Ash­ley, thanks for tak­ing time out for this inter­view.

No prob­lem. Thanks for hav­ing me!

 So you’ve been busy, tour­ing with Loyle Carner, I just saw him per­form main stage at Love­box Fest­iv­al on Fri­day. As always great show! What has tour­ing with the rap­per been like?

It’s been great! Because we’ve spent so much time togeth­er we’ve become a fam­ily. Ben (Loyle) is also very par­tic­u­lar about what he wants music­ally, and he knew that my style of play­ing would work for his music so the whole pro­cess has felt very nat­ur­al…

 You have been on a num­ber of tours this year, a year-long world tour with Christine and The Queens recently ended, how does tour­ing effect your cre­ativ­ity and your cre­at­ive out­put?

Tour­ing with Christine and the Queens def­in­itely changed my approach to play­ing music for the bet­ter! My role in the band was almost like being a pro­du­cer in the stu­dio every night, so it gave me a broad­er sense of clar­ity. And because her music is so min­im­al, you really need to have the dis­cip­line to refrain from over­play­ing and stick to the groove which a lot of play­ers find hard to do sur­pris­ingly! So yeah I feel like when I star­ted tour­ing my music in between tour­ing with Christine, I felt like I was play­ing it with a whole new set of ears. It’s crazy but really excit­ing! Opened new doors for me

How did you come to be a pian­ist, was it les­sons through school, forced by your par­ents, in the fam­ily blood. What was your jour­ney to becom­ing the known pian­ist you are today?

Music def­in­itely runs in my fam­ily! I’ve been going to gigs watch­ing my uncle play keys for Chaka Khan, Incog­nito etc. But my dad also plays piano as well as my grand­fath­er! So I remem­ber com­ing home from school one day and there was a piano in the house, and I remem­ber watch­ing my dad sit down and play really great clas­sic­al piano. I was really young and tried to copy what he was doing with 2 fin­gers! So from then my dad decided to get me clas­sic­al piano les­sons because he saw that I was enthu­si­ast­ic… but I didn’t get into jazz until my late teens so I’ve had a sol­id clas­sic­al back­ground through­out whilst try­ing to fig­ure out loads of records by ear… so when I came to study­ing jazz, I felt like a part of me already under­stood it so I man­aged to pick it up really quickly

So you’re set to release your debut album Beau­ti­ful Vinyl Hunter in Septem­ber, tell me about the cre­at­ive pro­cess for a piece of work I sense has been some time in the mak­ing.

It was very intense! I basic­ally booked a stu­dio out for about a week and had all the musi­cians and spe­cial guests passing through the stu­dio all through­out! Was a huge learn­ing curve for me, espe­cially self pro­du­cing it at the same time… I didn’t rehearse much of the mater­i­al either, I wanted it to feel organ­ic and I’ve always trus­ted my instinct to pick the right musi­cians to bring my music to life. Can’t wait for every­one to hear it!

The album is touted as being a vari­ety of genres from Con­tem­por­ary Jazz to Hip Hop to Grime, what were the inspir­a­tions both music­ally and them­at­ic­ally for the album?

Music­ally, I wanted to be a lot more brave than I did in the 5ive EP and the East­er EP by lean­ing a lot more towards my music­al influ­ences but whilst still keep­ing the spir­it of jazz through­out. As an Afro Carib­bean grow­ing up in south Lon­don, music­ally I’m very heav­ily influ­enced by music that has stemmed from sound sys­tem cul­ture (grime, hip hop, gar­age, broken beat etc.) and I also wanted to cel­eb­rate how embed­ded Carib­bean cul­ture is now in Brit­ish soci­ety. Espe­cially in Lon­don! So my music is only going to be a reflec­tion of that and tell that story

 The first single Between The Lines, fea­tur­ing Key­on Har­rold on trum­pet and Manchester-based MC Sparkz, is a great jam, its soul­ful, ener­get­ic and also toes the line between Jazz and Hip Hop, which has been a real trend of cross genre of late. Explain how you came up with the concept of the song and the pro­cess of mak­ing it.

Dur­ing the record­ing ses­sion for the album, we recor­ded about 10 live beats and when we listened back to all of them, I knew exactly what beat to choose and which MC was going to work for it son­ic­ally. Myself and Sparkz have been mak­ing music for almost a dec­ade now so we really under­stand each oth­er music­ally and as people- I told Sparkz that I wanted to make a track about say­ing some­thing without actu­ally say­ing it and let­ting people read between the lines which is quite a com­mon thing amongst Brit­ish people… I sent the beat to Sparkz as he was away dur­ing the ses­sion and he sent everything back with­in a few days!

Was also a bless­ing to have Key­on on the track as we developed such a great chem­istry music­ally and became really good friends in the pro­cess, and he’s also worked with some of my favour­ite rap­pers of all time! (Com­mon, Nas, Jay‑Z)

What is it like work­ing and col­lab­or­at­ing with people of dif­fer­ent walks of life and tal­ents?

For me it was a very hum­bling exper­i­ence. In order for the music to work, every­one needs to get along and share that com­mon ground with each oth­er… some people on the ses­sion have nev­er played togeth­er before but I just knew that it would work and the chem­istry would be right. I also learnt a lot in terms of pro­du­cing a record and feel that I’ve developed my ways of work­ing in the stu­dio even more to a new level

You have a show at EartH On Novem­ber 19 along with some spe­cial guests to cel­eb­rate your album release, what can fans expect from your show?

Every­one can expect to hear the album played in full with some very spe­cial guests! It’s going to be epic!

 All the best for the album release and launch party show. Thank you for your time.

Thank you

Listen below to Ash­ley Henry’s brand new single ‘Between The Lines’ Out today.

Click here to grab your tick­ets to see him live at EartH on 19th Novem­ber  

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Kylie de vos

Kylie de vos

Self-pro­claimed Hip Hop nerd, Kylie dis­covered the genre through her older cous­ins in the mid-90s. Since then her interest in the genre has been on the psyche of artists: the how and why artists make the music that con­nects with so many people on so many dif­fer­ent levels.

About Kylie de vos

Kylie de vos
Self-proclaimed Hip Hop nerd, Kylie discovered the genre through her older cousins in the mid-90s. Since then her interest in the genre has been on the psyche of artists: the how and why artists make the music that connects with so many people on so many different levels.