Local rising country star performs
The career of Lauren Ashley, a country singer and songwriter from Bakersfield, began after she saw a Grammy-award winning 20-year old country singer perform.
“When I was 12, I went to a Taylor Swift concert, and I saw that she played the guitar, and I was like, ‘Mom and Dad, I want to be a singer.’”
In Swift, Ashley saw a woman who was “overcoming obstacles” through her music. Ashley connected with the experience she and Swift shared in junior high school. Ashley said of this shared experience, “When she was in junior high, she had some girls that didn’t want to be her friend anymore. I went through that experience, very much so. I connected to her on that level. In the sense that she persevered through music, maybe music can help me.”
Another influence on Ashley is Johnny Cash. Ashley said of the first time she heard him, “When I was 6 years old, we went to a car wash, and they gave us a Johnny Cash CD. My mom played it in her car. I remember asking her, ‘Oh, can you play Johnny Cash?’”
At 13, Ashley started playing the guitar seriously; the learning process was a bit tough for her, but she found it rewarding. She said, “I taught myself how to play the guitar, so it was hard for a while. It’s an amazing experience, when you learn how to play. You finally connect with it, and you’re like, wow this sounds awesome.”
Around the time she started playing guitar, Ashley began songwriting.
“I enjoy the aspect of music that releases emotion that not necessarily words can describe but I think music and lyrics can describe some of the emotions I feel,” she said. “Being a moody teenager, it’s really nice to have that outlet. I wish that a lot of the same teenagers had that same outlet.”
Ashley found songwriting a cathartic process. “When I was in junior high, I went through a lot of heartbreak with friends. I was often times alone. So, I had all these built up emotions. When I started writing they overflowed.” Ashley also takes other experiences into her songwriting. “I take daily experiences and things that matter to me and I write songs.”
Ashley has performed at many venues in Bakersfield. Her first performance was at American Sound Recording Studios, a local venue for performing and recording music. Ashley said of this experience, “It was just a youth night for kids to come and play their songs. I just said, ‘I’m Lauren Ashley, I’m 13, and here’s my songs,’ and I remember I was shaking so bad.”
Once onstage Ashley feels that everybody out there is her friend. “For once, I got all these friends. I always tell my story. I always feel 100 percent comfortable with being onstage.”
Ashley has recorded several songs for an upcoming self-titled album. It was produced by Monty Byrom and Paul Serpa. Ashley said of recording the album, “It was crazy. I remember the first night we met him (Monty Byrom), me and my dad went home and were like, ‘This is so surreal. I get to produce an album with Monty Byrom who’s played with Buck Owens and all of these crazy-amazing people.’ Just going into the studio everyday, staying until 11 or 12 at night, was just the best experience. When you’re in the studio you just never want to leave because it’s so much fun, it’s such a good vibe.”
Ashley describes her dad, Chris Persel, as “my solid rock.”
“He’s the one at the end of the day I know that’s always going to be there, always going to be supporting me. He’s always there carrying my guitar when I’m too tired after a performance. He’s always there getting me anything that I need if I have a sore throat. I really depend on him a lot in my career.”
Persel is “obviously proud” of his daughter. He said of watching Ashley grow as a musician, “It’s been great. Actually, I was almost shocked in some respects ’cause I didn’t know all that emotion was in there. We (Persel and Byrom) would sit and listen to her sing as she was performing for the record. We would be amazed at the lyrics because of the way she is able to express it in a very poetic way. We were kind of shocked, amazed.”
When asked if she wanted to make a living in music, Ashley said, “Yes, I would like to be performing every night, or touring, or doing something. Just getting out there and showing people my music and what I have to offer.”