EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Jenny & Ashley
This past week, we caught up with country/pop duo Jenny & Ashley while out on the road in California. They spent last year touring summer camps, festivals and middle schools, making TV appearances and singing the national anthem at ballparks. Now it’s time to see what they’re up to this year! See what these two teenage stars had to say about staying grounded, writing, what it was like to record with Tim McGraw’s co-producer Darran Smith, who they would love to go on tour with, some of their favorite fan encounters, funny stories on the road, and a little get to know them better session!
For some of our readers who might not know much about you, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Jenny: Absolutely! We were born in Wisconsin and we always loved to sing! We would sing in our backyard, to our neighbors, then our dad got a job transfer out to California right around the time we were 7 and 9. We started doing acting and everything in LA, and we just loved the entertainment business so much. We fell in love with country music so that took us out to Nashville. We also love writing music. In Nashville we’ve been pursuing things for about 2 years now as Jenny & Ashley. Our dad works in Miami so we’re between the two places.
Ashley: And we’re sisters! I’m 14 almost 15 and Jenny is 16. Ever since then we’ve been pursuing our county music dream and just seeing where it takes us!
On your site, Ashley – you said you never really knew what it felt like to belong, until you picked up a microphone. How old were you girls when you realized this was what you wanted to do and what made you feel so ‘at home?’
Ashley: I would say I was about 10 years old. I know that’s really young, but music can just take you there and catch you off guard no matter what age you’re at. It made me feel like at home because when you’re on stage, nobody judges – well i’m sure they judge you, but you feel like you can do whatever you want and they’ll accept you. You can be yourself and do crazy things, and it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re yourself & you have talent it will take you wherever. You can just have fun and make people get up and smile, and it makes me feel like I have a purpose. That’s really just what was important to me when I was that age.
Jenny: I would say ever since I was young, I’m talking when I was like 6 years old, I started doing modeling. I just honestly loved being in front of the camera. I was more with adults a lot and I really just loved working. I really enjoyed it and thought it was always fun when I would get cast. With music and everything, especially when you write your own music, you can basically take your values and the messages you want to send to people and portray them and I think that’s really cool.
Being able to tour around the country & perform at a young age is a big dream many kids your age have. What keeps you grounded?
Ashley: I’d say family, definitely. I’m a teenager in this world, especially in this day and age, it’s so hard to stay grounded to what you believe in. But we have such an amazing family that supports us and without that I don’t know what we would do.
Jenny: I would say what keeps me grounded is my faith. I have a really strong relationship with the Lord and I’m a very strong Christian. That definitely helps me stay grounded and make smart decisions. I would definitely credit that for helping me stay grounded.
Most of the artists listed on your site that influence you lyrically & vocally (Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Shania Twain) are country artists. Who are some of your pop influences?
Ashley: I’d definitely say Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, Jessie J because what I wanna do when I’m on stage is make people smile and have a good time. I feel like they’re letting the world go behind them on stage, and that’s what I love to do. I feel like all those artists know how to make people have fun and let loose.
Jenny: I’ve always loved the way Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera perform. The fact that they were able to bring dance into having killer vocals, especially Christina, I love the diva side of that. I also have to say Nicki Minaj. I know all the words to “Super Bass!”
For your “Songs About You” EP, you worked with Tim McGraw’s co-producer Darran Smith and his band the Dance Hall Doctors. What was that experience like?
It was really, really special because our first real studio experience was with a band that was beyond talented. We just wanted to watch them jam out, hang out, mess with different things; it was really, really cool. We got to record on Music Row; so many legends have recorded in that studio, at Loud Studios, and being able to see all the plaques of the different Legends there was really amazing.
If you could go on tour with any artist right now, who would it be and why?
Jenny: I just heard that Carrie Underwood and Hunter Hayes are going on tour together and if I could be on that tour with them, that would be a dream come true! Carrie Underwood can sing her heart out, she is one of the best performers I think, and Hunter Hayes is just flippin’ adorable.
Ashley: Taylor Swift is a huge inspiration of mine, so definitely I’d say Taylor Swift. I’ve never been to a show, unfortunately, but her show is apparently like a broadway musical put on, it’s amazing. I love to go on tour with her.
You both either wrote or co-wrote every song on your “Our Kinda Life” EP. What’s a typical writing session like for you?
Ashley: I just love writing in general. A typical writing session for me is a variety things. Sometimes i’ll just sit on my guitar and write songs. For example, “My Kinda Life,” I wrote all on my own in my own room with my guitar. I write a lot of stuff on my own but I also write with writers, it’s really great to have more than one head in the room to put different ideas together.
Jenny: I really like relaxed writing sessions. I think that if you can get to know your co-writer; I do a lot of co-writing, I think it’s more fun. It definitely brings together a great song when you have different perspectives. Ashley and I write with Bridgette Tatum and Alissa Moreno, and they are two incredible writers out of Nashville and the fact that we all bring completely different things to the table – Bridgette is such a country girl, Alyssa is from LA, she’s very earthy, and Ashley and I are just so young and youthful. Bringing all the different styles together is such a relaxed tone. We’ll just talk for the first hour instead of write [laughs], and then we’ll figure something out.
Ashley: We’ll have snacks, just sit on the floor, bring out pillows. Writing is really chill for us, that’s how we get the most inspirational stuff out of our minds.
You touched on this a little bit, but do you prefer to write together or individually, and how old were you when you each wrote your first song?
Ashley: I wrote my first song when I was around 10ish, we write together and separately, I don’t think I have a preference. Both of them we get good songs out of.
Jenny: I probably wrote my first song when I was around 12. I personally love co-writes. I’m not as strong writing on my own because I really just love sitting in a room and I get the most creative when I’m with people in that social relaxed setting. So many ideas come together when you’re talking to different people about different things, and just about life. So, I definitely prefer co-writing.
What would you say is the coolest thing about what you get to do & what have been some of your favorite moments so far in your careers?
Jenny: I would say the coolest thing we get to do see is see all the different audiences and meet all different kinds of people all over the country. I think Ashley and I both agree that the concert that we did in Nashville, TN at the Wilderness Lodge for the “Indescribable” music video – we got do it at a water park in a wave pool; and we were on top of the wave pool and all the fans were swimming while we were singing and it was honestly the best experience. I don’t think many artists are able to experience that so I felt really honored to be able to do that with Ashley.
Have you had any fan encounters that really stand out in your mind or any that have really inspired you?
Ashley: There was one I think in North Carolina or something, where this guy came up to us and was like ‘can you sign my abs?’ [laughs] and luckily, he had a six pack so it was pretty fun, but that was always so, so funny.
Jenny: That shows Ashley! [laughs] I would say, we’ve had about 6 times, all in different places, people will come up to us with inspirational stories. There was one girl who is a dancer, and her mom had breast cancer and she had just gotten on remission. She was like “You guys just inspired me to follow me dreams. We’re now able to pay for dance classes and I just kinda lost hope, but by watching you guys do what you love to do just really shows me that I can follow my dreams.” And I just thought that was really cool. There’s been so many other encounters where people will come up and sing for us because they have dreams of being a singer. The amount of talent and passion out there from people is incredible and we’re very lucky that we get to go around and see all of that.
That’s really awesome, it’s really cool to be able to inspire people too. I think that’s a really neat thing about what you get to do.
Jenny: Absolutely, I wear a ring on my right hand and it says on it “Inspire.” I got it made when I was in Disney World and I wear it every single day. That is my goal and I keep it on my body so I remember!
Any funny stories from being on the road that you’d like to share?
Ashley: Oh boy, do we! [laughs] This past summer when we were on tour, we were in our rental car, it was in a really small town, and were driving through, I think it was McDonalds. It was me, my mom, Jenny, Julie, which is our manager, and we’re like “Mom! Do a funny accent!” So, we pull up to the thing and my mom is like *speaks in accent* “Hello, can I please have this” and she like uses this bad accent so it sounded Australian, mixed with English and whatever. So, we get up to the place where you’re supposed to pay and she totally blanked that she had an accent cause she talked with an American accent and they’re like ‘what just happened.’ [Laughs]
Jenny: Sometimes we’ll get good nights of sleep when we’re on tour, but there are some nights when we’ll get to bed and we’ll only have like 4 hours of sleep so we get the “sleepy haha’s” is what we call them and it’s where everything is just hilarious. So we decided to make webisodes on it so it’s on your Facebook and Youtube. Any time that we have a super funny moment, we’ll record it on our iPad or on our phone and we share it to our fans. The next morning we’ll be like “Why in the world did we just post that for the world to see?!” But [laughs] it’s funny!
That is funny, but it’s also cool that you do that because a lot of fans enjoy seeing that kind of stuff. You don’t get to see that side of a lot of artist these days.
Ashley: Jenny and I would say that that is totally, totally true. We’re totally not the always business girls. We’re teenage girls, we love to have fun and we love to show people that side of us.
I saw on your blog that you recorded your own version of Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl.” Can you tell us a little bit about what makes it different & when we can expect to hear it?
Jenny: Yes, we created our own arrangement of it and it’s much more J&A style!
Ashley: Most definitely. It’s like a Colbie Caillat slash Jason Mraz-y feel, if you can imagine that. Hers is a total power song, but we made it our own.
Jenny: You’ll be able to see it within the next month. Me, I’m the good girl, and Ashley is the bad girl. It was so fun to film.
Let’s get to know both of you a little better.
- Current favorite songs?
Jenny: I would say I have two. “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson, that’s Ashley and I’s jam. and Wanted by Hunter Hayes.
Ashley: I’ve gotta say, I heard it on the radio the other day, “Better Than I Used To Be” by Tim McGraw. I love that song, it’s so beautifully written and the way he sings it is amazing. And I also love “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. Oh my gosh, she is awesome. Ever since American Idol, we have been her number one fans.
- When you’re not singing, you like to….
Jenny: I would say I love to go shopping! I’m very girly, I love picking out new clothes & shoes. I love going to the beach, we are living in Miami as well for my dad’s job so we just go and hang out at the beach which is awesome. Because I travel so much, it’s kinda hard to have too many friends, but I do have some really great ones and it’s always fun to come home to hang out with them.
Ashley: Mine is definitely to ride horses, I’ve always loved riding horses. I love jumping on trampolines, and just chilling with my friends. Any time I get with my friends I cherish it, I love it.
- Is there one TV show you can’t miss is?
Jenny: I would say Smash, the new show about Marilyn Monroe and broadway. I’ve always been a huge Marilyn Monroe person, I just love her.
Ashley: I love the CSI – CSI Miami and NY, and whatever CSI’s there are, there’s so many. But I’m obsessed with CSI and Criminal Minds, that kind of stuff.
- What is your ultimate dream & goal as a singer?
Ashley: My ultimate dream is to sell out an arena, I’ve always wanted to do that. My goal is to just like I said before make people to let loose and have fun. I just want people to forget about their worries and just have fun whenever they listen to us.
Jenny: Like I said before, how many people I can inspire. One, one thousand, one million how ever many people I can get to by the time I die. I want to make sure that i can show people that it’s okay to be who you want to be and to follow your dreams.
- Tell us something your fans might not know about you.
Ashley: I usually don’t play guitar with a pick, unless my guitar teacher is forcing me to [laughs]. I just don’t like playing guitars with picks I don’t know why.
Jenny: Which is funny, because she’s not the normal kind of player. She taught herself how to play, she plays it by ear she doesn’t like to read notes. She’s just totally not the normal guitar player. I would say one thing that my fans probably don’t know about me is that I’m a school nerd [laughs]. I love learning. If I went to high school, I’d be the person who would be class president and super into school, I love learning.
That’s great, It’s really good to inspire kids your age to be like that too.
Jenny: Absolutely, I think valuing your education – this is what my dad always tells me – is that people can take a lot of things from you, but no one can take your education from you and I think that definitely stays with me all the way through.
Any big plans coming up for this year?
Jenny: Yes! We are working on writing our album, and we’re also co-writing with a lot of cool writers in Nashville, super talented people. We’re playing shows all around the country, we actually have one this weekend in Glen County, California, so we’re really excited about that. Yeah, just some great things coming up!