Ashley Roberts walked away from one of the biggest pop groups in history, The Pussycat Dolls; without anything more than a dream to make music, on her terms, with her words, and her voice.
That dream could have been just that, a dream, but fuelled by an early self-made single and video, and a stay in the ‘I’m A Celebrity’ jungle, Ashley determinedly upped sticks from her roots in the US and followed her heart to London where she knew she’d find her musical muse. Within the walls of London’s Metropolis Studios, Ashley tirelessly worked with some of pop’s top producers and writers for 12 months, taking time to settle on a sound that would make her songs stand out.
“I didn’t want to end up in a shiny dance-pop box,” she insists. “I like a broad spectrum of music. My dad was a drummer [in the Mamas & Papas], so I grew up with rock, folk, all sorts of sounds. I love hip hop, funk, anything I can groove to. I wanted different songs on the album to reflect different parts of my personality.”
The British public fell for Ashley from the moment she entered the celebrity jungle. Her down-to-earth demeanor, determination and unguarded honesty were the antithesis of expectations of a former member of a multi platinum-selling girl group. What the public didn’t see, however, was to what extent the jungle experience changed Ashley’s life. “In the jungle, I was able to be myself,” she explains. “I came from a group that was all about image – lashes and hair and looking perfect. And there I was, surrounded by cameras, wearing no makeup, my hair a mess. It was so liberating – like saying this is me, take it or leave it. And thankfully, it turned out people actually liked me for who I really was.
“Being in the jungle gave me a new perspective on life. I discovered out there’s so much to gain if you can get past what you’re afraid of. I applied that to my music. I was determined to do it and make it a success.”
Ashley grew up in a liberal, musical household and was always encouraged by both parents to express herself creatively. She started dancing at the age of three and singing soon after. She was influenced by her dad who, having left the Mamas & Papas to move to Arizona to get married and start a family, formed his own band and had a recording studio at home. “My dad being in a band really gave me lots of amazing opportunities to learn about the industry and how tough it was,” says Ashley. “The fact that he had been so successful was a bit intimidating, but it also made me realise that if I wanted to make a career in music, I could.”
When she moved from Arizona to L.A. in her teens, initially to study dance, Ashley appeared in pop videos for the likes of Jane’s Addiction, Counting Crows and Pink and did some commercials. “I had black and red hair when I moved to LA,” recalls Ashley. “One day, I was asked to do a commercial where they dyed my hair blonde. I said no way. I was anti blonde! But I needed the fee, so they dyed my hair and straight away I was constantly booked for jobs. The blonde stuck!” Within six months, she joined Pussycat Dolls, after singing Bjork’s ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ in the then legendary Viper Room as her audition piece.
“Looking back at the Dolls, I appreciate how much we achieved. We had the likes of Lady Gaga and Ne-Yo supporting us. We went on tour with Britney, Rihanna and the Black Eyed Peas. It was an amazing experience. But best of all, it led me here; to this moment, this music, and I hope you love it.”