This is an archive of the band profile for Ashley Hicklin.
Ashley Hicklin's world is a quirky little place. Scribbled lyric sheets scattered like a maze and a treasure chest of hand-me-down LPs, all dimly lit by a rusty old lantern swinging to and fro. This is his song-writing haven, hidden in the cabin of a small sail-boat in Hamburg's harbour. It's an enchanting setting that's certainly added a unique twist to his mainstream debut, a somewhat fitting backdrop for such a distinctive voice - one you will either love or hate. The charisma continues into his wardrobe (a style he aptly describes as "bohemian-vogue") and also in his live shows. Onstage he's a dynamic character, soaring high and low - fusing delicate moments with moments of intense energy - potentially one of the most captivating fragile pirates of our generation...
Raised on open-mic nights in his parent's little bar, Ashley first picked up the guitar, piano and drums in his early teens. After rocking-out in punk bands for a year (frankly he found it all "a bit sweaty"), he then turned to classical music, going on to compose works for World-renowned ensembles such as London Sinfonietta. Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall were followed by many months touring up and down the UK as a Folk-Pop singer-songwriter (in "the most orange camper van known to man"). He swiftly made a name for himself as the "Bright Young Thing" from the North, and the BBC soon invited him into their studios. The live video broadcast created an immediate buzz in the music industry, and among those who approached him was Peter Ende, the CEO of EMI Publishing Europe ("living legend"). In less than a year after signing, Ashley had written his first number one single for Swedish Idol's 'Johan Palm', Belgium's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest and a host of chart hits for major artists across Europe (working with the teams behind Skunk Anansie, Leona Lewis, James Morrison, Marit Larsen, Amy Winehouse, Sugababes - "basically a lot of cool cats"). It's hard to believe that he's still only 24 years young.
From a sleepy sea-side town to working behind the scenes of Pop Idol, Ashley became painfully aware of the cynicism inherent in the music industry. Dreams were shattered rather casually, five minutes in the limelight and each contestant's career was over. Fortunately, Ashley is not one of these polished, one-dimensional pop acts designed by a machine to fit one specific niche. Rather to the contrary, here we have one who belongs to that very rare species of real pop artists, one of those few whose talent, musicality and creativity seem boundless - a composer, a songwriter, a lyricist, a renowned arranger of complex string compositions, a musical director, a producer and, last but not least, a born entertainer. Here is someone who knows exactly what he wants, someone who will not allow producers or the bosses of a record company to push him around. There are not many of his kind. Prince may come to mind, or even Damon Albarn, but essentially all comparisons fail, simply because Ashley is... well, Ashley Hicklin.
'Parrysland' is the title of his debut as an artist in his own right, a concept album based upon a series of turbulent relationships - "They always start like fairytales, and then everything just slowly descends into chaos!" The record's title is taken from the writings of Emily Bronte, whose novel Wuthering Heights features a similarly turbulent relationship and is set on the Yorkshire Moors where Ashley grew up. Maybe the eclectic use of musical styles on the record is akin to what Ashley calls the "anarchy of love" or maybe it's down to his versatile musical background. Either way, from the opening upbeat 'Eskimos To Astronauts' with it's rootsy folk-pop vibe, to the acoustic-disco beats of 'Whizz Bang Bang!!!' - it's certainly diverse. Nashville tracks, heartfelt ballads, political angst, funky bass-lines, all anchored together with majestic orchestral arrangements, honest lyrics and one defining feature - that voice. You can hear the blood, sweat and tears in every note.
Live onstage is when it really hits you slap in the face. Regardless of whether it's him and a guitar in a record store window, on an internet TV programme with his raucous string quartet, or pounding a big festival stage with his full 9-piece backing band - you can always feel an electricity in the air as soon as he opens his mouth. "I'm like a wild-child lost in emotion, I even dance like a five year old!". He's certainly a showman - a hint of Michael Jackson's raw energy and a good measure of Jeff Buckley's delicate sense of emotion, but most of all, he's just an experienced performer that's grafted hard - "ten years falling in and out of bands and vans is the best way to enjoy the stage and find out who your friends are in this business". His cocktail of talented musicians were discovered along various musical escapades around the world - "they know me better than anyone, we've all been through a lot together!" Having just secured a record deal with Ferryhouse Productions and Warner Music in Germany, they're surely destined to be on the road for a few more years to come.
For most people it must seem that Ashley Hicklin is living the dream - recording in big studios and travelling the world. But the honest truth is that he never once believed that a career in music wasn't an option - "I live and breathe music and never even considered doing anything else, if I wasn't where I am today I'd be a busker somewhere". One thing's for sure, if Ashley were a busker, he'd have a hat full of appreciation..