Ashlynn Malia is a bold, emerging artist in the world of “dark pop.” Hailing from the city of Los Angeles, the singer-songwriter knows how to create a blend of dreamy synths and ethereal vocals true to her sound and voice as an artist. Ever since the unveiling of her debut EP, rather be alone, in 2021 and her newest EP, navigating galaxies, Ashlynn has graciously invited the world into her life's inner workings – her challenges, triumphs, and the most intimate corners of her mind. From the complexities of angsty situationships, to the emotional rollercoaster of love's ups and downs, Ashlynn's songs are a resonant soundtrack for audiences everywhere. With her latest single, “Nobody Else,” and the release of her upcoming single, “Cool Girl,”' Ashlynn invites everyone to explore her unique sound and delve into the stories that make her a most promising and fresh voice in the pop music scene. We spoke with Ashlynn about her creative roots, "Nobody Else," and what's next on her agenda.
Tell me a little bit about where you grew up and how your hometown inspired you as an artist and a creative.
I was born in New York but didn't live there for super long. I was raised in LA and started in the entertainment industry as a means to pay for college. When I was 10, I started doing background work because I was from a big family, so earning money to pay for college tuition was definitely something at the forefront of everyone's minds. I just got into it from there, but I knew I had always liked singing and dancing. My family opened a music school when I was young, so I was like the test kid whenever they'd hire a new teacher. I took a lot of music lessons just to test out the new teachers, and then I'd go to my friends afterward and be like, "Oh, they taught me this and this and this." But from that, I just ended up learning how to play a bunch of instruments and singing and got really into it. Then, I started teaching there until it closed in 2020. That's kind of where the music started, the training, and all that kind of stuff. I was super into choir as a kid, but just being in the entertainment industry really young and it being such a thing for kids who live in LA to do, I got my start there. When I was about 12, I started touring with the kids' music group for a couple of years.
Amazing. So, when did you start your independent career and decide to release music as a solo artist?
"I'd say that I started doing my own thing a few years after I had left that tour as a kid. Once that had ended, I was actually really insecure about my voice and didn't love how singing made me feel, but I loved writing. So, I was writing a bunch of songs, but I was like, "I'm not going to be a singer. I don't have what it takes. I'll just be a songwriter and do that." Instead of singing all the time, I really got into dance and enjoyed it a lot. It was just kind of this thing that I was good at, and I could see progress immediately, which was so different from singing. I loved the validation that dance gave me and just kept going with that until I ended up in a professional dance career that I didn't completely mean to get myself into. I was grateful for it, nevertheless. I love dance so much, and it's like one of my biggest loves. I feel I wouldn't be as happy or in the place I am now if I hadn't done the whole dance thing and fallen in love with it. But then, as that continued, I realized that I had taken some time off of singing and then realized that I could find a way to like my voice. I started, little by little, singing more and more, getting myself more comfortable with it because I loved what I was writing. Then I started this little series on my Instagram story, just for myself, called "Midnight Singing." So at midnight every night, I would make these little singing videos. I started doing that just for fun, and I really didn't expect anything of it. But then people started commenting like, "Wow, you have a really comforting voice, like I feel a lot from your voice," and that was something I had never heard before, and I really liked the feeling that people heard my voice and felt something. So I kept running with it, and it was during pandemic times that I took a music career very seriously and made it my full-time thing. Everything just got so completely uprooted, and at that point, I was like, "Okay, well, I am living my life to please other people right now. My job is dance all the time, that's how I'm making my money, but now there are no dance jobs at all," and I guess this is the time to really take a risk and go with it because there's nothing else I should be doing."
I love that so much, and there are a couple of things that you said that I've been thinking about recently when it comes to following those dreams that scare you and are scary to go about. The first thing of being in those positions where you said, "There's nothing but that naked truth of your calling is poking at you, and let's go for it," and just navigating that in a controlled way is very beautiful. And then also what you said about the validation thing, I wanted to tap into that a bit. Being a musician, how do you balance the validation as a creative in general? What do you tell yourself and do on a day-to-day basis to get past that hump?"
I get off my phone. The days when I do just get the fuck off my phone and off the internet for at least a little bit, I tend to decompress and remember that "The internet isn't everything, and that there's an entire world outside of it," and that there's no real filter of opinions on the internet. Everybody can kind of just say whatever they want. As somebody who is on TikTok every day, I hear a million different opinions about one person. Whatever discourse is going on the internet or whatever opinions people might have, you don't always get the responses you want or feel the community you want to feel, which is tough. I'd say the two things I've been doing recently that are very helpful are getting off my phone and focusing on the few really good things that happen in a day, so there's proof that things are going well. I think at any given point, you can see five reasons why things are not going well and five reasons why things are, and it's kind of my choice whether I want to suffer or not. So, I try to focus on the things that are going well because that's what I want to give momentum to.
What's your zodiac sign?
Can you guess?
This puts me so much pressure. Okay, is it water, earth, fire, air?
Oh, it's air. Okay, you just threw me for a loop.
Did you think I was an earth sign by any chance?
Okay, wait, I actually get confused about the, um... Oh my god, wait, wait, wait, you're a Libra.
You're an Aquarius.
You're a Gemini?
Oh my God. No, you're not. You don't give me Gemini energy; well, I guess I don't know you for real, but like...
I get Capricorn a lot because I'm a Capricorn rising!
Okay, so I thought you were a Capricorn and then I was like, "That's not in earth signs," so I was like, that's not what you are.
I'm a Capricorn rising, so that's definitely the first vibe I give off. And then, you get to know me and you're like, "Oh, she's a mess!" What are you?
I'm a Cancer. Okay, okay... Getting into more music-related things, what would be the first song, project, whatever that you put out where you kind of had that moment of, "Okay, I'm on the wave that I want to be on?" I always ask this question because we all have that moment where we're like, "Okay, this song is how I want to sound; this is what I've been trying to do.
It's awesome because I really want to say this current release. I'm already feeling a bit of a shift in just how things are going for me since the recent release of "Nobody Else," which came out on August 11th, and I worked really hard to make a music video for it that I was really proud of. This string of releases that I have going on this year, now more in the pop realm, have been what I've wanted to do for a while. I love singer-songwriters. I love that style, and it's what I do naturally when I'm by myself. But this time, I kind of took a trip with my producers, and we just sat in a room together for two or three days and started making songs all of us together, instead of what I usually do, which is I write a song fully and then bring it to them. But like I had written pieces of things, and then we kind of put it together as a group, and that was really fun. A track would be being made while I'm in the other room writing something, and then I bring what I've written to them, and they're like, "Oh okay, this can fit here," that kind of stuff, and that's been a cool process. This release and this video is the level of quality that I've been striving for five years, and it is five years in the making for sure. And I love directing. I love music videos that have dance involved in them, and I would have done it earlier if I hadn't broken my fucking foot at the beginning of the year.
Everything happens for a reason. Something was supposed to work that way you know?
On the way home from the shoot for the "Nobody Else" music video, someone turned to me and said, "Honestly, I think breaking your foot was the best thing that ever happened," and I was like, "Are you fucking serious right now?" He replied, "Yeah, because you're a dancer, and we've been in dance music videos before as a dancer, so you know what's expected of a dancer in the dance music videos. And you physically couldn't do that because you're still in recovery. So, you had to kind of just be the artist that stood there sometimes and did the moves halfway but still served, you know?" I appreciated that perspective because that was a hard injury to get through, and I do feel like I am paving the way for the artist I really want to be with this song and this music video.
If you had to say what your genre is and you had no choice but to give yourself one and had to literally just create the name of the genre. What would it be?
Dark pop. That's what we've been going with for this whole time is dark pop because I'm definitely inspired by pop stuff and the stuff I make will fit in the pop realm in some way, even though I go like the singer-songwriter / indie route sometimes, I feel like pop is a bit of an umbrella so I'd say that most things I do will fit under dark pop.
Amazing, let's get into "Nobody Else." We talked about it a little bit, but can you talk about the main messages of the single and what it means to you in that way?
Nobody Else' is just kind of like what runs through my mind when there's a person in my life that I just cannot, for some reason, get over in terms of chemistry. I love pining after people; I love a good pine. But then, at some point, the pining stops, and I don't romanticize this person anymore. But, when there's a person that comes into your life, and every single time you're around them, you have this undeniable chemistry, but you've tried this out, and they made you cry for a month straight, so you're just like, "I'm not doing this to myself again." It's almost frustrating how you just can't deny that there is something there that you obviously want to do something about, and that's mostly where that song came from. I was like, "Okay, it's either I write this song, or I text them," and I know which one's gonna work out better for me in the end."
I love that and you just articulated that perfectly. If you had to pull out your favorite lyrics from the whole song, what would they be?
I think the lyrics in the chorus, where I say, "might pick up our loose ends and tie them up again," I was kind of proud of that one. It's got its meaning, but then it's also got this slightly kinky undertone.
Haha, I love that! When it has the duality, it works. And so, talk about the sound and the production behind it. Like, what was it like working with your producers? I know you said that this time you guys sat together, which was different. If you had to describe the underlying sound and the way it makes you feel, what words might you use?
Grungy, kind of like a gritty feeling. That's what I got from the beat. I remember I had written the song fully and then brought it to them. We were sitting in the studio, just kind of being like, "What do we put over it more?" Like beatboxing over this voice memo of me singing it, and one of my producers, Kobe, found this sound that reminded me a bit of like a garbage disposal, and that is the sound that we ended up using as the beat. It's like this ethereal quality with the synths and all of the harmonies because I love doing background vocals more than I love life itself. I love layering my vocals; I love doing that kind of stuff. For some reason, it's just very satisfying to me. I can't wait to go into the studio and do that because I feel like I make fun things with it, and I like the very breathy, ambient, ethereal quality that tends to give my songs. Then you've got the beat and some stuff on the lower end of that is much grungier than some of my other pop stuff. Ethereal grunge, that's like the vibe it gives me regarding production, and that's kind of the direction we were all headed towards.
So, what do we have coming soon on the way?
I do have another song coming out in September, so we've got a couple more fun releases this year. There is a project on the way with all of this pop stuff, and it's like a little era of mine. I have another song coming out in September, and I'm actually about to film the visuals for it this week. I'm very excited about it. It's one of my favorite songs that I've ever written! Lyrically, I think it's some of my favorite work. I always feel like with all my songs, there's a little bit of opposition, so it's the song that's actually kind of sad and angry as far as the lyrics go, and the entire sound of it is very chill, breezy, easygoing. The song is about hating that I must put on this very chill, breezy persona to get anywhere in my life.
The Gemini showing!
When I'm actually quite angry, I have a lot of emotions that I feel like won't get me. where I want to go, and so it's a frustrating, sad, pretty song, and I'm excited about it.
That's so relatable and I think that's what's so special and so I'm sure it will do very well with all of your fans, too. Is there anything else that you want to share at all?
Ooh. Um, yes. Let me think. Honestly, I just want to express my gratitude to the people paying attention to my music right now. Anyone reading this article or supporting anything I'm doing — know that it means a lot that the stuff I make resonates with anybody and that people want to follow.