Ashtin is someone I knew I wanted to interview the first time I heard his single “Broken.” It’s one of those songs that you can just feel as you listen to it. For me, it’s a song I can 100% relate to. As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety myself, I remember hearing the words and being like, “Yep.” It’s relatable. And, in a culture where we really need to start speaking more about mental health instead of sweeping it under a rug, it’s very refreshing to see more and more artists doing just that.
The beat of the song and the quick hi-hat, in combination with the mellow tone of the song are the perfect setting for what the song is about (which you’ll read about below). Ashtin’s voice is just the icing on the cake, especially when he just belts it out when the chorus comes in – I totally did not see that coming – but I remember the first time I heard it, I was sitting at a red light and was like, “YESSSS!” It’s good stuff, you guys.
RL: Your breakout video was a rap battle on YouTube that went viral. I’ve watched the video – it was CRAZY! What got you into rap battles?
AL: I came up watching Grind Time rap battles on Youtube, people like Rone and Dumbfoundead. For a really short period of time I was super about doing it myself, but that was short lived. I still respect the craft, but for the past few years I’ve had no interest in anything other than progressing as a musician.
RL: Talk to us about your journey from high school rap battles to pursuing a music career.
AL: I actually wrote, recorded and released songs all throughout high school. I would freestyle at football games for people and stuff, and people knew I could rap, but it was more of a hobby. The rap battle blowing up brought a lot of attention to my actual music, and showed me that it wasn’t some impossible thing. I’ve pursued it ever since.
RL: What has been the biggest challenge for you on this journey?
AL: There’s been a lot of challenges, from the judgements I receive, learning to take criticism and grow from it, to the financial rollercoaster that is the indie music scene. The biggest one is the uncertainty. I don’t have a boss or a teacher telling me what to do in my job to succeed. I have to figure it out and pick it up from others as I go, and my success is still far from guaranteed.
RL: Who have been some of your biggest influences and why?
AL: Early on artists like Wax, Dumbfoundead, Watsky, the palmer squares etc. I was really into this niche lyrical west coast white dude rap. I still love those guys but my music taste has grown a lot, and I’ve realized hip hop is a broad spectrum full of great artists that I was overlooking because I didn’t feel they were “lyrical” enough. It was a pretty cringey time period for me. I have influences from so many people at this point it’d be too much to list, but I’m really happy I grew out of that phase. My music has grown A LOT from that.
RL: If you could pick anywhere in the world to do a show, where would it be and why?
AL: Japan. I’m a really big fan of Japanese culture and I’m actually teaching myself the language. I would love to do a show in Tokyo or something, and be able to take a few of my fellow anime loving friends.
RL: Do you ever get writer’s block, and if so, how do you deal with it?
AL: I get writer’s block constantly. I find my best songs come without a fight. I don’t have to sit down for days trying to write them, and they tend to sort of just flow out of me. When I feel like something just isn’t working, 90% of the time I take that as a sign that it just isn’t meant to be, and move on to the next project.
RL: Let’s talk about “Broken” – it’s a pretty deep track. I personally can definitely relate to what you’re saying, I’ve totally been there. You can feel the emotion as you’re singing it.
AL: “Broken” is a song I’m really proud of in a lot of ways, and I feel like it’s a real milestone in my growth as a hiphop artist. I love to sing, and I deal with a lot of depression and anxiety. It just sort of happened and everybody I showed it to prior to releasing loved it, so I released it and it’s done really well so far. My therapist loves it too which is pretty cool. Sometimes it’s cathartic to just sing and yell about how sad you are I guess.
RL: Can we expect anything else from you in 2019?
AL: You can always expect more from me. I have two new songs fully finished and ready to release, and I’m considering a second full length album, which hopefully I could get done before 2020. I have a bunch of shows this summer, and I’d love to do some more videos as well. Music is my life, so I doubt there will ever be a time where I’m not making new songs.
RL: What would be your dream tour?
AL: My dream tour would probably be a tour with all of the incredibly talented artists I work with who don’t get the recognition they deserve. Ryan Biebel, Zensei, and a lot of my other musician friends. I get super anxious when I’m away from my friends and my home for a while, so my dream tour would be one where I can take them all with me.
RL: Finally, what advice would you give any artists just starting out?
AL: My advice to new artists is this: Have fun, find your sound and don’t be afraid to grow. Network like crazy, get involved with the local music scene as well as the online community. Learn to be as self sufficient as possible, and learn as much as you can from people with more experience than you. Most importantly, follow your gut. That goes for everything from bad contracts and sketchy business meetings to just music in general. If you feel like music is your calling, don’t let the doubts of others (or yourself) prevent you from chasing that. As cliche as it sounds, just don’t give up.
Check out “Broken” from Ashtin Larold below!