From Los Angeles to Boston, the Iranian Dark-Pop Artist and Singer/Songwriter Ashley Zarah have been reaping the rewards of her musical year. Featured on countless online blogs and magazines, Ashley Zarah has truly made the most of 2020.
A few achievements that Ashley Zarah has seen this year are her deep dive into the Electronic Music realm. Collaborating with D-SAB on their single "Let Go," Ashley Zarah mentioned that it was her most fulfilling release thus far. As well as her music video for "Fakin' It" (directed by Luis Zavaleta), Ashley Zarah finally found a way to use her overactive imagination through the art of video creation.
We were left breathless by a few of Ashley Zarah's singles, starting with "Like I Do," which saw many remixes from Electronic producers. The song touches on self-love and not settling for anything less than what you deserve, which brings us to her powerhouse anthem, "My Boyfriend." A tune that reminds listeners to steer away from toxic love, Ashley Zarah dropped this empowering piece for anyone who needs an internal pick-me-up.
A similar theme is mentioned within her single "Let Go," which sings a spiteful message to those who should be well past their unhealthy relationship. Switching up the perspectives for her piece "Everybody Knows," Ashley Zarah felt empowered to write this song about an apology she never received.
All songs stated can be found as singles through Ashley Zarah's discography and within her EP "Better Mess," which marks the 4-year journey of inner realizations and self-reflection. Make sure to stay updated with Ashley Zarah's captivating musical stylings, especially as we head into 2021.
What would you say was the most significant and influential realization you've made in 2020?
I really understand the gravity of gratitude now, and how much comfort it can provide. Many of us dealt with a loss this year – it felt like wherever I looked, there was another entity to mourn over. I had to face cancer in my household twice this year, and with that in particular, I found so much peace and security in showing my gratitude for what and who I have around me. Really finding the sweetness of each breath I take, respecting the trajectory of life, and feeling blessed for everything I have during it. I usually associated thankfulness with guilt or fear of loss, but now I’m so much more focused on the present that showing my gratitude just brings me joy when I’m feeling my lowest.
Speaking on your self-coined genre, Dark-Pop, could you describe what we should expect from this genre and why you use it to define your brand/sound?
Sure! I was this really grungy, emo kid who loved pop music and Persian dance music; those genres always lifted my spirits and all, but I remember the first time I actually felt spoken to in music. I heard “Move Along” by The All-American Rejects on MTV. That was my introduction to alternative rock and the emo-wave. Pretty much like everyone else, I had a dark life that pop music was like… intentionally being blind to, cause maybe they thought honesty isn’t fun? – but it can be if you choose to frame it that way. That’s what Dark-Pop is; the coexistence of light and dark, superimposing the void with the kaleidoscope – because life is colorful and bleak at the same time. So rather than focusing on quixotic happiness or eternal damnation… I’m just making difficult subject matter easier to talk about – give a traumatizing story a catchy melody, and suddenly people are seeing what’s truly inside of them.
We've noticed that you're a prominent advocate for mental health, suicide prevention, and gender equality. How do you make your audience aware of this?
Of course, the music addresses these subjects, and if not clear enough, I make sure the videos play a role in explaining them further. I think “Fakin’ It” is an excellent example of that, ‘cause sexual assault was really hard for me to be super direct about, so the lyrics were more abstract and vague. However, I made sure the music video showcased a more objective version of the story. I try to use every platform I have access to be a representative of these topics. Interviews like this one and social media are great ways to have that discourse with my listeners. I sell merch where a percentage of the proceeds are donated to suicide awareness and prevention programs; I even have an IGTV series called “Dark-Pop Stories” where I flesh out the stories behind my songs, and the topics you mentioned tend to come up very naturally in those conversations. Overall, I just try to be as transparent about my journey as possible so that people may see themselves in something I do or say and feel more seen and less alone because of that.
Speaking on your venture into the Electronic Music world in 2020, should we anticipate more experimental EDM tunes in the future?
Definitely! Actually, my first two releases of 2021 are collaborations with international, electronic artists; experimenting with cinematic synth-pop, to straight-up house music. I have such a deep connection and love for electronic music, I feel it’s impossible to stay away from it, especially after the warm welcome it gave me this year.
With the release of your EP "Better Mess," what did you want your audience to take away from the project itself?
Discovering truth; that the discovery of truth is the first step towards change. Each song starts with some form of denial and ends with the admittance of reality. The EP itself starts with a song that validates lying and ends with a song that worships honesty. So, I’d hope that the journey through it showcased that lying to oneself, even for the sake of self-preservation, is actually self-destructive. Making that brave choice to be brutally honest is how you break the chain.
Regarding each single you've released in 2020, which would you say is your personal favorite, and why?
If I had to pick one… I’d say “Everybody Knows.” I think it encompasses who I am as an artist but also as a storyteller really well. There are so many layers to that song, and the impact it made on my listeners was a testament to that. I think it’s one of the most cathartic and relatable ones I’ve written, and I really stuck to my guns with the production which is something I tend to shy away from. This song bounced around three different producers who were all pressuring me to change things until PlotTwist and I got into a room together. My patience finally paid off, and I found someone whose vision aligned with mine; and we created a graphic, emotional journey that hits me from head to toe every time I listen to it.
Are you currently working on anything to be released in 2021? What are your next steps?
I have so much music that I think I get too ahead of myself. A collaboration with Italian producer, Sound Surfer, called “Dream Away” is coming out in early 2021; and then nearing Persian New Year, I have a desert-themed EP with my good friend GVLA who I’ve worked on a few electronic projects so far. I’m also in post for a stripped EP reimagining some of my songs in a more natural and exposed capacity. There is so much Dark-Pop lying in wait, I promise.