Saintly Sessions: Ashley Henry
In January, we partnered with brand-new London music venue Amazing Grace to put on our inaugural Saintly Session. With music by South London genre-bending artist Ashley Henry, food by the kings of Taiwanese street food, Mr Bao, and beer by Lucky Saint, it was a night not to be missed.
We caught up with Ashley ahead of the show to talk about the influence of his community, performing live and his fortuitous love of Lucky Saint.
How did you first get into music?
I didn't have a particular point in my life when I got into music. Growing up in Southeast London in an Afro-Caribbean community, with everyone living close to each other – family and family friends – the way we express ourselves, communicate with each other, dress, the food – music is just the heartbeat and the backbone of it all. It was more like, the music got into me, as opposed to me getting into the music.
LS: How would you describe your sound?
AH: Wow. My sound is an amalgamation of my life experiences. The word jazz gets put into this pre-made mould that my music doesn't exactly fit in.
I'm known for blending genres and doing all these experimental things. In reality, my music is jazz in the traditional sense, as it reflects what's going on now – especially my experience as a black person growing up in Southeast London. There's going to be new things to say, new genres of music to access.
LS: We're in South London tonight. What's it like playing to a home crowd?
AH: Man, I always love playing at home. With everything that's been going on, it's almost validation that it's not just me that's going through this crazy time. We're all experiencing this together, and we're all feeling the psychological residuals of it. Let's come together in this one space and probably the only opportunity that we all get to be in an enclosed space and to experience and engage with the spirit of music together.
LS: What have you missed most about performing live?
AH: I have missed being in the space with loads of people, and only that moment mattering. You're in collaboration with the audience, especially with jazz or improvised music, and you are vibing off the crowd and vice versa. You make a connection. It is crucial because we're humans, and we're here to be connected.
Did you know I stopped drinking two years ago?
LS: What luck! If you're happy to talk about it, please do.
AH: Sure. It just happened, and then I felt more energetic and present. I love the feeling, and I feel more alive. I missed the taste of beer. It just goes hand in hand with great meals, like having a good pizza. I'm a foodie. I like to cook a lot. So, it's just like having beers that I can still taste even though I'm not drinking anymore – it's important!
LS: Finally, what's the luckiest moment in your career so far?
AH: Damn. I haven't had any luck. Well, I wouldn't say lucky moments, but just moments of synchronicity. I was invited to do this gig for this charity event. I wasn't even playing under my name. I was playing for somebody else and said yes, off the cuff. It was like the next day, and I had nothing to do, so I just turned up. The gig was good. It was a great vibe. The head of marketing from the label that I put out my last two records on happened to be in the audience, and we met, and that became responsible for the two releases I put out. So, for any aspiring creative or musician, I would say, treat every opportunity and performance to the same level of importance – you don't know who's watching.
Book a table at Amazing Grace here.
Check our Ashley Henry's new single 'Melanin' here.
Follow Lucky Saint on Spotify here.