May 19, 2020
Tune-In Tuesdays #70: Maxine Ashley on “Runaway”
R&B artist and model Maxine Ashley strikes an alluring poseSource: Maxine Ashley
After diving into the music industry at 13-years-old and getting signed by Pharrell Williams just a few years later, Maxine Ashley has established herself as a fierce, independent R&B/pop artist and model.
Last month, the unbelievably down to Earth and lovable artist released her very candid single, “Runaway,” which details the rollercoaster of learning to be honest with yourself and your partner in a relationship.
Recently, we spoke to Ashley via telephone to learn more about her start in music and the story behind “Runaway.”
Tell us a little about yourself and your music
I am from the Bronx, [N.Y.]. My music is very heavily influenced by where I’m from but also what I went through in life and all the musical genres that I love.
I obviously grew up on hip hop, but also salsa and Spanish music, which is very dramatic. The lyrics are very heartbreak kind of music. I listened to rock and stuff like that, too.
What sparked your interest in music and what ultimately inspired you to pursue it as a career?
View this post on Instagram
I haven’t put myself together since the quarantine started (except for my bday) so all I have is throwbacks!! I’m busy editing this video, working out and singing these songsssss!! I’m about to come out with more fire! In the meantime stream RUNAWAY. Thank you for all the current streams, we’re getting up there! The goal is a million ?????????????
My family was in a salsa band, my mom sang, so I grew up with music. I thought it was normal. I’ve met some people who are like, “Yeah, I don’t really listen to music,” and I’m like, “What?!”
I grew up in a family that played instruments and sang. I didn’t know I wanted to pursue music as a career – I always sang as a child – but it wasn’t until I went on YouTube.
How do you find balance between your career as a model and your work as a musician?
They’re both in the same type of realm, both are an industry having to do with exposing yourself [laughs].
Honestly, I always have time for whatever it is. It doesn’t take any time out of my music career. If anything, modeling is the reason why I was able to leave my label and invest in myself.
How come? Did that decision give you more space to brand yourself, or…?
It was an industry that I got in that actually paid, y’know?
There’s more legal protection for models. When you’re at an agency, you’ve got to get paid. There are people that actually fight for you, there are no loopholes, none of that – unless you agree and there’s a contract.
When it comes to music, you have this one contract that’s pretty broad and it’s kind of hard to get paid.
Speaking of being signed, you were signed by a label at 17-years-old after your talent had been discovered on YouTube. What was that early period of your career like? Could you tell me a little more about your YouTube days?
I started YouTube at 11, I think. I started posting around 12 and I got discovered at 13. Then I moved to London by myself – at 13-years-old – and I was writing for big British groups.
I left after I had a hit at 16 called “I’m in Love” with a guy called Alex Gaudino. Then I posted another video on my YouTube on a new channel and I got discovered by Pharrell at 16 or 17 years-old.
I didn’t know that it was going to get to that extent where I met all these people. It kind of happened naturally.
What was it like working with Pharrell and Ariana Grande? What did you learn from working with them?
“Perpetual Nights” by Maxine Ashley feat. Pharrell WilliamsSource: Maxine Ashley – Perpetual Nights Feat. Pharrell Williams (Official Music Video) | Maxine Ashley
Honestly, working with Pharrell I got to meet every single celebrity ever. It was the weirdest. I went to dinner with Kanye and Kim Kardashian, I went to Grammy’s, I partied with Beyoncé.
I was 20-years-old sneaking drinks, partying with Rihanna and Beyoncé at Grammy’s party. I have stories for days with this man. He exposed me to a world that I never even thought I could touch or be in, in my life.
I’m not gonna lie, it was very, very overwhelming – as a teenager, especially. I didn’t know how to handle it.
Sometimes, when things are overwhelming, I can be a bit bitchy because I’m just trying to protect myself over something. I went through a lot of emotional rollercoasters. There was a time I was in the room with Pharrell, Timberland, Justin Timberlake, and they were playing Beyoncé’s album.
I was like, “Alright, I can’t handle this right now,” [laughs]. “I don’t know how to act.”
I even went to Pharrell’s wedding. It was really, really fun. I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot. Things I saw on TV I was experiencing in real life.
I kind of got caught up in all of the… I wouldn’t say “the hype,” because I never was the type of person to be like, “Yeah, I did this and that.”
It was overwhelming, basically, because I just didn’t know how to act.
So, how would you summarize your latest single, “Runaway” in just three words and why?
Emotional, dramatic as hell, and immature. It was in a time where I was first getting together with my partner.
Y’know, you’re 21-years-old and you don’t know a bunch of shit is gonna pop up from your past, like past traumas. And I’m here, growing up in a relationship, in love with somebody. I went through all this crazy, toxic shit, arguing. You’re too immature to sit down and just talk it out ’cause of your pride. You’ve got that young pride blocking you.
I remember all my life, everyone talking about, “If you don’t mess with me, if you don’t like me, oh well, you can leave.” That kind of mentality is really selfish and I had to unlearn a lot of things. I had to unlearn a lot through a relationship, as well.
That’s what the song is about, how you love me but you’re running away from the situation – but at the same time, I’m doing the same thing.
How would you say you’ve grown since that period in your life?
The biggest growth is I’m actually honest with myself. At the time, I was like, “NAHH, oh well!” Like I said earlier, that “if you don’t like me, this is who I am,” mentality. Not really taking responsibility for my toxic behaviors.
It was in my face, I was going through some crazy ass shit. I was like, “Y’know what? All of this is happening because of me. I need to relax, I need to switch it up, I need to chill out.”
How has music helped you overcome those different challenges in your life and how has it helped you grow?
Music is basically like having a diary. I’ve lived by myself since I was 13-years-old. I moved out, I had to grow up by just taking on the world by myself.
I never really had close friends. All my close friends were back at home, doing their thing in school. I only had myself and these adults that are judging me or hating on me because I’m young.
I had music to express myself – not always in the sense of being honest, but as a form of escapism because I was able to write any life I wanted.
Honestly, music is the reason I got to meet the people I got to meet – like, I got to meet fucking Pharrell Williams [laughs]. That’s amazing! I got to meet so many people who have made it so far in their careers because of music, just this one outlet helped me model. It put me in the agency I’m in now because of music.
Everything I’ve ever gotten in life, my path now, where I am, where I’ve been, is all because of music.
What do you hope listeners take away from “Runaway?”
I do this a lot in my music, and I don’t know if people notice, but obviously I’ve got to put out more for people to notice the pattern. But before “Runaway,” I had a song called “Happy.”
Basically, it’s the same situation about a relationship. Instead of always talking about, “you’re this, you’re that, I’m the shit,” it’s always like, “How could you do this? But I also do this, so I should chill.”
It’s telling the person you don’t like, but also telling them you could do better yourself.
My first verse in “Runaway” is: “Say one thing and mean another,
Just to see you get bothered,” just straight up.
Mostly, it’s not even about the other person at all. It’s still about me. ‘Cause although I’m talking about you, I’m talking about myself [laughs].
I feel like the most I’ve been honest with myself is when I’m actually writing songs because I get to go into depth about how I’m actually feeling about something.
If you could give your audience just one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
We’re in an age where we’re all growing up together. We get to see what someone is actually thinking now because of Twitter and Instagram, all of that.
It’s super easy no matter what age you are. You could be in your forties, and if you have an Instagram or a Twitter, it’s easy to get influenced by other people’s opinions.
I feel like the most important opinion is yours, obviously, but also know what you’re doing as a person to yourself. Don’t lie to yourself because of a rule that you live by.
I had to learn that on my own, to be honest.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be and why? Would it be along those same lines or something different?
If I had to give advice to myself, I would say: “Stop being so in your head in moments you should enjoying.”
A lot of these moments and times, I remember what was happening in my head the most ’cause there’s so much in my head all the time. I never really got to enjoy the moment I was actually in.
What’s next for you, Maxine? Do you have any additional music or videos in the works? Perhaps an EP or an album?
I’m editing the “Runaway” video as we speak. We’re gonna have that.
Visuals are my favorite thing. I love videos coming with my songs because I’m a visual person. I love people seeing what I’m saying.
I have another song coming out after. But right now, I’m writing a lot of songs on a daily basis for a project. I don’t know if it’s an album yet or just another EP. We’ll see.
Could you tell us a little about the “Runaway” video, or is it all still low-key right now?
It’s basically me in an underground warehouse party, drunk, in my head singing this song while everyone’s moshing around me.
Y’know, those times where you’re in a club but you’re still thinking about the person; you’re trying to have fun but you’re so in your head? That’s basically the video.
What’s your favorite part of making music videos? Is it the brainstorming, shooting, editing, or something else?
Every.single.part of it. I love it. I found my true love within music – music videos are SO fun; finding the people to work with, creating it, recording it, finding the people to be in it, styling it, editing it together, then seeing the final results. It’s like having sex and orgasming. It’s like, “YES. We did this” [laughs].
Before we wrap things up, do you have any additional comments or final thoughts to share?
I’m going to be doing this my whole life, no matter how long it’s going to take. There’s always going to be something new for me to put out.
I’m also working in other arts besides music and modelling. I’m doing acting now, too. There’s a lot to come, so don’t get tired of me yet.
Oooh, what kind of roles do you like to play as an actress?
Growing up, I loved seeing Angelina Jolie’s acting – like that badass, sexy ass bitch. I realized I’m a little too awkward for that, so I like to act like an over exaggerated me.
I’m still finding these roles, but I’m coming out in something. There’s something in the works.
Listen to Maxine Ashley’s “Runaway” on Spotify now!
Be sure to follow Maxine on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to keep up with her latest work.
Interested in having content featured in an upcoming blog post or issue of The Burgundy Zine? Head on over to the submissions page!
Interested in working with Burgundy Bug? Learn more about commissioning her writing and art here!
For all other inquiries, please fulfill a contact form.