Ashley Henry is bringing a wave of Jazz to new generations with his effortless compositions and sophisticated playing as if the piano is an extension of his very soul.
Following the fiery success of 26-year-old Ashley Henry’s ‘Easter’ EP, the genre-fusing emotive pianist returns in full force with his debut studio album “Beautiful Vinyl Hunter”, set for release on September 6th on Sony Music.
Rightfully dubbed as one of the greatest young creatives within the UK right now, Ashley Henry’s ability to write music and play the piano is transcendent of those who have come before him, whilst also leading the way into the future. Hailing from South East London, Ashley Henry has taken the lesser-known path. After a stint at the Brit School and on to the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, Ashley hasn’t done things the easy way. “Having to prove yourself as one of the only few black people each time was cool” Ashley quietly stands tall with confidence.
With the gift of music running throughout Ashley’s family, he can trace his pianist roots back to his grandfather who played the piano by ear and jammed with The Jolly Boys, a mento band back in 1945 Jamaica. If that wasn’t enough, Henry’s uncle was a professional session musician across the 70s and 80s in the UK and his father, who also played the piano, pushed Ashley at a very early age to learn the piano but to “use your brains with it”. This much is evidently clear in Henry’s beautifully emotive and soulful pieces that have been born from Henry’s history but also easily waver between genres into something entirely new.
Ashley’s sound is shaped by jazz pioneers and creatives alike, from Maya Angelou; Common; Akala; MC Lyte and Leslie Thompson, to Steve McQueen; Abbey Lincoln and Herbie Hancock. With a wealth of knowledge that oozes throughout each key being played – Henry is carefully crafting music that tingles throughout your body and sets you on a journey told not with words, but with dripping and glorious sounds. When asked about his music, Henry reveals “My music is a straight-up reflection of who I am; London in all its mixed-up glory. The immigrant in me has musical roots that are traced back to the 1600s, so it’s important my music today reflects that jazz alpha narrative across different genres and generations”.
With an inspiring story to tell, talent dripping from his finger-tips and a mind passed down through generations, we can’t wait to dive into the wells of Ashley Henry with his “Beautiful Vinyl Hunter” album out on the 6th of September along with a European tour and a headline show at the iconic EartH in Hackney on the 19th of November.
Ashley Henry wears the New Balance All Coast Black 574, £65.00, available exclusively at schuh.
How did you begin your journey in music?
I was going to talk about when I first started playing the piano, but that would be incorrect! My journey in music actually started back when my parents used to host a lot of house parties at the family home, and my godparents lived a few doors down and owned a sound system so they would use that when they weren’t playing out! So from a young age I’d be soaking up so much music that played such a huge part of my musical development… From roots reggae to hip hop!
What is your creative process like when it comes to making music?
I’ve been travelling quite a lot recently with not much access to my instrument so I would always record myself playing or singing little ides during soundcheck… Then when I’d finally get home, I would get in the studio for a few days and develop all of those ideas that are in my voice notes. It’s quite rewarding bringing them to life.
What is one album that defines you as an artist?
I would have to go with Boy In Da Corner by Dizzee Racal – I say that because you can hear everything that’s come before to influence the music, but at the same time it’s unapologetically British, fresh, punchy and reflective of the society we’re living in today!
What is the best advice you’ve been given as an artist?
Never try and be too hip… because 2 hips make an ass!
What is one key message you want to get across in your music?
There’s a lot of messages in the album but one of the main messages for me is love… For me, the true spirit of jazz is the ability to resonate with people no matter what age, race gender and bring everyone together… And without the immigrants, this album wouldn’t be possible.
What else in life inspires your music?
Growing up as a young Afro-Carribean in South East London, one of the most multicultural cities in the world has given me so much inspiration! Besides that, being able to travel the world and being in different environments with new people has definitely inspired me recently, made me realise how similar we all are. I also read a lot when I’m travelling which definitely keeps me centred, a lot of stuff by James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Eddie Chambers etc. My new album reflects all of this.
What’s next for you?
My Debut album “Beautiful Vinyl Hunter” is coming out on Sony on the 6th September, I also have a European tour in the autumn and a headline show in London on 19th November at Earth in Hackney
If we were to have this conversation again in one year- what would you like to have achieved?
I would hope to just be even better at what I’m doing – I want to keep pushing and challenging myself to write, perform and produce better material… And also do something I’ve never done before!
What’s one fact people may not know about you yet?
I actually had to make a decision when I was 16 to pursue basketball or music. I definitely made the right choice!
What’s the best thing about living in London right now?
I’d say just the rich mixture of people of different backgrounds, that definitely has an effect on the variety of restaurants, music, art etc. It’s a good time!
What is something you wish you could say to your younger self?
Nothing really, I feel like everything I’ve learned and experienced when I was younger has definitely got me where I am now… I’d probably say “Have fun!”