By Maria Arroyo
Photo by Kate Biel
Around a week ago, I had the pleasure of having an interview with musician Jessica Ashley, AKA HARLOE about her new release “Rivers Run Dry” which just dropped on March 13th! The amount of exuberant energy that she displayed made me so happy to be able to have a conversation with her and talk about her process for this album from beginning to end.
Just for a little bit of background, HARLOE recorded in London with a man by the name Fred Ball. Ball has worked with known artists like Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Eminem, Rihanna, and Jay Z to name a few. As he was working with another artist in London, the two of them hit it off, and from there it was a match made in heaven! Once she figured out exactly what this album was going to be for her, she finished the album in a WEEK!!!
So the thing that sticks out to me the most is the fact that she was able to finish an entire full-length album in a week! So naturally, I had to hear how this all came about, and a little more of the backstory that went with this album. She begins to tell me that this whole album was an experience that she was going through at that exact moment: it wasn’t a memory she had or something for the future, but about a time that she was living through right now. “I was still processing my emotions and figuring out what I wanted to say… ” she says. “I’d have a conversation with my ex and then realize what I needed to write. I had lyrics that would write themselves and say what I wanted to say.”
That Music Mag: So your living this experience and just writing as it happens to you. Tell me more about that.
HARLOE: Well it felt as if it was writing itself. The lyrics manifested themselves and showed me that this (her relationship) is not where I want to be. For the song Rivers Run Dry the melody came right away but the lyrics didn’t. Then I would go back to the hotel after being in the studio and just start writing.
The experience of going through something as you are writing about it is exceptionally hard, frustrating, and sometimes downright impossible in my opinion. It takes so much mental and emotional energy to not only think of what you want to say but also try to deal with it in your everyday life. I think it’s an incredibly rare but valuable skill to have, so I really commend her on that.
TMM: It’s not often that we hear songwriters write about present experiences. We always seem to pull from the past, or indulge in future desires, but for you, it wasn’t like that. How did that affect your writing process?
H: With this project, it was so present and to really tap into it, I have to take a serious pause and listen to myself and give myself that time to go back and say the thing that I really wanted to say. I didn’t want to just put a filter in because it sounded good. I need to know what I’m saying it in a way that my mind and my heart really wanted to say. Usually, in my songwriting, the lyrics come first, and the melody follows after. For this project, the exact opposite happened. I would get in the studio and have a melody that I worked out that I really liked, but then I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I really had to slow down… and the funny thing is, when I slowed down, I made the process actually be only a week because I really processed what was going on. This whole project became my healing and therapeutic process and a final chapter to that part of my life.
TMM: So what do you hope people get out of Rivers Run Dry?
H: I hope people feel inspired or that they want to meditate and get into their own head space… I want them to know that HARLOE is here for you and feel like we are just talking things out.
We got a little sidetracked as the interview went on. I love hearing the fun and also not so much fun sides of the music industry that people experience, and their thoughts on them.
TMM: If you can, what are some of your favorite parts about being a musician, and maybe some of your not so favorite things about it?
H: Well, I love creating in the studio and being able to create something from nothing it feels like. You have this baby that you made and you get to share that with others, and then your fans become your babies and it just keeps growing. I also love the visual side of it all. I love putting the music videos together… there are just so many aspects to it. The not so favorite parts really come from me being my own worst critic. I’ll listen back to myself from a session and think “oh I could have done that better and I could have done this better…” but I’m working on it…
As we started to wrap up the interview, I wanted to give HARLOE a chance to share anything else that she may have wanted to say. She spoke a little about her new music video that was just released, and how she hopes her fans take it.
H: (the music video) is a rawer visual than what people have seen from me. It poses a really important question that I hope will make people dig a little deeper. I also have a possible show coming up in April in New York so keep an eye out for that, and we have something in the works with a very special guest that I can’t wait to share with you guys!
Talking with HARLOE was such a pleasure. She was honest, real, and showed her devotion to not only this new album but to her fans and her career. Her album is EXCEPTIONAL and I can’t wait for all of the success coming her way!