There is a plethora of rising artists now putting themselves and their work online, but there are certain hardworking stars who rise above the rest. Ashley Leone is one of these artists, using her stunning songwriting abilities and her soulful voice, reminiscent of some of the greatest R&B artists in history, to skyrocket her to a position where she’s set to be a future superstar.
Leone hails from Philadelphia, where she grew up listening to R&B and soul music with her family, and has played in nearly every venue in the city with her band. But in 2014, Leone relocated to Nashville, feeling that it was time for her to grow as an artist and a person. She attended Belmont University and her writing and music style formed there. “I recently decided to leave school,” she said, “and pursue music full time but I’m so happy I went to Belmont and got a taste of college. I don’t think I would have grown like I did without it.”
Ashley Leone recently released her debut EP, Sugarcoated, on SoundCloud. Sugarcoated seems to draw from many great artists as influences: Lauryn Hill, Ed Sheeran, and Amy Winehouse, to name a few. She told Acentric, “I’m inspired most by their melodies and the messages of their songs,” which is apparent from the EP’s assertive and independent tone. Overall, Sugarcoated is an expressive, catchy quintet of songs where Leone is unafraid to let her witty songwriting shine. “None of the songs are sugarcoated, and I wanted the listener to grasp that as they listened to the entirety of the EP.”
Sugarcoated is categorized on SoundCloud as “Pop R&B,” which is a perfect description for Leone’s niche in between the genres. From the moment the first track begins, Leone’s voice captivates her listener. “I freeze up when you walk through that door,” she states in the song “Famous To Me”. She compares her lover to a celebrity, describing that ever-so-present starstruck feeling that she gets when she’s around them. It’s mid-tempo and can only be described as groovy, relatable to any listener who’s ever had a celebrity crush or been in love. The second song, “Sugar In My Coffee,” is more rhythmic than the last song, with an uptempo drum beat and a catchy melody. “You bring out the bitter side of me,” Leone enthuses about her lover. Following “Sugar In My Coffee” is “Coming Back,” which features rap artist Nate Jordan. This song is about Leone’s inability to let go of a relationship she knows is bad for her. The musicality is slightly darker than the rest of the songs on the EP, and Jordan’s rap verse ties the song together, showing off Leone’s songwriting range. “Lonely Dreams” is the next track. It perfectly conveys the mood of title, as the change from keyboard and guitar melodies to flowing synthesizers create the feeling of detached heartache for the listener. The last song on the EP is “Don’t Wantcha Back.” It’s impossible to sit still while listening to this track, while Leone soulfully explains that she’s dressed up not to get the guy back, but she’s “just gotta make sure that you know what you’re missing.”
While each of these tracks are a masterpiece, the EP altogether feels more like a group of songs that stand on their own rather than a continuous collection. This could be due to Leone writing each song individually. “When I wrote the songs I had no intention for them to be apart of an EP,” Leone explained to Acentric. “Some of them were actually written years apart! For example, I wrote “Don’t Wantcha Back” when I was still in highschool, and “Sugar In My Coffee” during the recording process. I almost released them all as singles, but once I stuck with the idea that I wanted to create an EP this year, I weeded through the songs I frequently played out and the ones I was writing and the EP began to form.”
Not only does Leone have an enthusiasm, and a talent, for songwriting, she also enjoys playing live. “The passion can be seen and felt over and over again. I really love making a human interaction and creating an experience for and with a group of strangers.” Her next steps include conquering Nashville, “and then growing to the rest of the United States and beyond eventually. Being an opener on tour in the next year would be ideal and absolutely lovely!”
We asked Ashley to describe her genre in three words. “Gives you feels,” she said humorously. “Or, if you need a real answer: emotion, movement, soul.”