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Ashley Walters: 'I never gave the music the time it needed'

VETERAN: Ashley Walters

HIS DISTINCTIVE raspy voice laced some of the biggest garage tracks of the 90s.

As one of the leading members of south London collective So Solid Crew, Ashley Walters had successfully struck the balance between mainstream success while retaining street credibility – no mean feat. But there comes a time when keeping it real, can go desperately wrong.

In 2002, at the height of So Solid fame, the musician, known then as Asher D, was sentenced to 18 months in jail having pleaded guilty to possessing a loaded firearm.

He spent a significant time away from the limelight, but proved, upon his release, that his talent far exceeded his circumstances.

In 2004, the trained actor landed a leading role in Bullet Boy – a film about a family in crime-ridden east London and the eldest son’s involvement in gun crime, striking yet another balance - this time between real life and art. Ashley handled the role with care and gritty realism and the critics agreed. A film star had been born.

He went on to land roles in other box office hits, including rapper 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and 2011’s Anuvahood, written and directed by fellow UK star, Adam Deacon.

Understandably, something had to give – to my despair, and that of his many music fans, he chose music. While the star released a number of ‘underground hits’ (his words, not mine), his acting career enjoyed more success than that of his music.

Fast forward a few years and the 30-year-old has made the decision to dust off his mic and put the movie scripts down in search of mainstream success.

He said: “I watched festival season this year and I’m just jealous man. As an artist, I never got to tour. I never got to do festivals. Even though we (So Solid Crew)did Glastonbury a couple of times, it wasn’t on the main stage. I watched Tinie Tempah at the V Festival and I just thought that was amazing. Out of all the stuff I’ve achieved in my life, I’ve never achieved that.

“I’ve just been doing it on an underground level since I left So Solid and never really achieved any success that I felt I should have. I never concentrated on giving the music the time it needed.”

Jokingly, he adds: “There’s a lot of people who would prefer that I stick to acting and do what they feel I do best, but I feel that I’m good at music and until I’m proved wrong, I’m going to keep on going at it.”

Your Love, the pop-inspired single featuring Britain’s Got Talent judge - and long-time friend - Alesha Dixon, is far-removed from those street anthems that we’re used to from him.

“Well, I’m definitely trying to chart with this music now,” he explains.
“I don’t want to make music for nothing, I want it to be popular music that the masses can sing, in order for me to have festival sort of hits that I can go on stage and sing.”

Worrying talk from someone who made his name and subsequent fan base from talking about his experiences growing up on the streets of south London.

He pauses, before revealing: “One defining moment for me was when a popular DJ on mainstream station said I sounded ‘angry’ on a track I had written about my father’s death. The track was called Had Enough and he said it didn’t sound mainstream enough and that stuck with me.”

He adds: “When I go into the studio, I’m always thinking about it. I decided, ‘let me try and sing more. Do something different on this one and make the flow a lot more melodic and try my best not to sound angry about anything’.

“As you know, when I’m writing, it’s like an autobiography, I’m just talking about my life. I don’t want to be one of those artists that has no affiliation or no connection to the songs that they’re making. I think it’s one of my best pieces of writing.”

In fact, Your Love, is a track about his former relationship with the mother of his four children, which broke down last year.

“Your Love is about the mother of my children and a lot of people know that. There’s a lot of stuff (about the break up) on Twitter. I’m taking bits of all of that and putting it in a track. Hopefully, people will respect me for that.”

On the breakdown of his 13-year relationship, he says: “It started off well and it just declined. It got to the point where it was worse for us to be together than to carry on."

“I’d do anything for my kids, but I don’t believe anyone should stay in a relationship for their kids, because if you’re not happy, your kids know that you’re not happy and it affects everyone.

He continued: “I thought I was doing the right thing by being strong and being the man. I’ve always wanted to be the family man, not have kids all over the place, but the more you try not to do something, the more it happens. I had to hit the nail on the head and bite the bullet, which was the hardest thing I’ve had to do.”
He embarked on a relationship with British actress, Danielle Isaie – who has a 10-year-old child of her own, earlier this year and says he has never felt more “inspired.”

“She’s just motivated,” he says. “She’s running three different businesses and running all these jobs, she’s just a grafter. We have the same dreams, goals and it just works.”

Danielle also appears in the star’s new video alongside Dixon.

When questioned about the possibility of a few other familiar faces (namely So Solid crew members) making appearances in his new music or indeed making new music of their own, he simply replies, “Never say never.”

Your Love is released on Oct 28 through SK Records.

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