When you listen to Ashley Xtina sing, there is no pretense, no mask, nothing but raw emotion, as she uses her voice and musicianship to make her emotions and experiences come alive.
While writing music has long been an outlet for the Astoria songwriter, recording her songs was another matter entirely.
“It was not only cathartic but also very empowering. Every time I listen to it, I can still feel every emotion I was feeling while I was writing and recording it,” she said. “Recordings are just very intense memories that if done well, you can really share with your audience and have them connect with it.”
You can hear those memories on Xtina’s first EP, “Stability,” which came out a few months ago. Her solo debut was the latest in a series of steps that boosted her confidence and abilities, until she was ready to put them to tape.
Xtina began performing in a rock/blues duo called Pretty in Blue. While the group had a short lifespan, the time spent playing concerts in local bars was essential to her growth as a musician.
“I will forever be grateful for Pretty in Blue for opening my eyes and making me realize that I am indeed a singer and a songwriter,” Xtina said. “Being a singer is easy, but baring your soul to an audience with songs that you’ve written about your own life is a whole different story.”
Besides the challenge of emotionally exposing herself to an audience, Xtina also struggled with funding the EP and deciding what form the songs should take. Through lots of saving and crowdfunding, she gained enough cash to record. Finding a genre was a little harder, but with the help of her producer, Xtina settled on a piano-filled sound that lets her conjure whatever emotion she wants through her voice and through the keys.
Although she works on reaching an emotional apex when recording a song in the studio, Xtina said that her concerts are all about reaching out to the audience.
“I feel that playing live lets you connect with the audience more, meanwhile studio recording lets you really connect with yourself,” she said. “I often find myself changing things in songs while onstage depending on the crowd. In the studio, it really depends on the mood you set for yourself.”
In addition to her solo work, Xtina is a member of Queen of Wands, an all-woman rock band where she plays bass guitar. Meeting a fellow musician on bandmix.com, the three-piece quickly came together and started playing shows in September.
“It’s really nice to have people to bounce ideas off of, especially when they’re as talented as my bandmates are,” Xtina said.
– Joe Marvilli