Fresh from a session in the studio, coordinating the finishing touches to his first major label studio album which he describes as “a crazy personal journey”, 26 year old Ashley Henry reflects on the year he’s having. “I’m getting my head around the world arena thing” he explains, clearly buzzing from his world tour with Christine & The Queens. Ashley pauses mid-flow; “Man, I wish to do so many things, so the best way I can show that, and truly speak, is through my sound. I don’t have a single tone or vibe. It’s like I wish I could be the best photographer; be the best actor or product designer, but I can’t, yet. But my music allows me to be expressive, to change, rotate and offer up different ways of communicating ideas.”
Ashley Henry is a young black man in the UK who can trace his music genes back two generations. His grandfather played piano by ear and jammed with The Jolly Boys, a mento band back in 1945 Jamaica, his uncle was a professional session musician across the 1970s/’80s in the UK and his father, a driven individual who also played piano, pushed his son at a very early age to learn the piano “and use your brains with it” in order to make a mark on music today.
From South East London, graduating on piano away from home in Leeds, then a stint at the Brit School and on to the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, Ashley Henry has not done things the easy way. “Having to prove yourself as one of only a few black people each time was cool”.
“It’s a bit of a lie that any big city in western society is post-racial including the academic setups, but it’s up to the individual to learn, and learn I did. Some players right now hide where and how they learn, or others learn in just one place and stick together. All of those things are cool as long as, as individuals, we learn and push the music and the scene forward.”