Los Angeles-based R&B singer-songwriter, Asiahn (born Asiahn Bryant), remembers the many Greyhound bus rides she took from her then-hometown in South Carolina to the creative hotspot of Atlanta, Georgia. From nine years old, Asiahn knew she wanted to sing and perform for people. So, by 15 she was taking the 300-mile often-overnight Greyhound bus trips every other weekend to A-Town to learn the ropes, to write and record. When not in transit, however, Asiahn would continue to work. At home, she’d film herself singing in-performance with her family’s handheld video camera, critiquing a high note or watching how she moved with a microphone in her hand. It’s not that she was obsessive, exactly. It was more than that. She was determined to be better. These days, Asiahn is working even harder, inspired by a session with the famed singer, Jennifer Lopez.
“I used to think I was busy,” says Asiahn, who co-wrote “Booty” (2014) with J. Lo. “But she came to the studio after just leaving the set and another rehearsal. She was with her kids. So, she fed them, then recorded another song. She was gearing up to go to another rehearsal after that. I was like, ‘Bro, I’m not doing enough! I can do more!’”
Asiahn is driven. But she’s also intentional. Hers is not an aim for work for work’s sake, although there is merit in that, too. Instead, Asiahn wants to change the world through her ambition. For instance, she released her latest EP, a reimagined orchestral version of an earlier EP, The Interlude, in March. For the artist, who is known for her breathy melodic dreamscapes, the fuller symphonic version provides both a boosted musical quality as well as an enriched socially-conscious one.
“People always say my sound is very ‘ethereal,’” Asiahn says. “So, I wanted to take that to the next level. I wanted to give people an escape—somewhere else to go. I wanted to sweep you away. But then, given the climate that we’re in, I wanted to make something magical for Black creativity, too.”
In Asiahn’s experience, she says, when people talk about orchestral players—those who bow violins, pluck upright basses—there is often an association that those players are of a certain race or skin tone. So, to help break that stigma and to showcase players who look more like her, Asiahn showcased Black musicians in her reworked sumptuous and sensuous release.
“I miss those times,” Asiahn says, “when orchestration was included in everything. I love the music of Quincy Jones and Berry Gordy. I wanted to harness the genius they had and make music feel like that.”
Lopez isn’t the only big name Asiahn has worked with of late. Others on her resume include Kanye West, Pitbull, Dr. Dre, Miley Cyrus and others. These collaborations are the result of a great deal of hard work. Indeed, Asiahn prides herself on her songwriting as well as her singing, performance and skill working with others. Just as no Greyhound bus ride was the same, no studio session mimicked previous ones either, of course.
“It’s crazy,” Asiahn says. “I have so many different experiences with so many people I’ve worked with.”
As a kid, she was surrounded by music. Her mother and grandmother sang in the house and she listened to myriad artists from Monday through Sunday. While Asiahn never had a formal vocal coach, she did have her video camera critiques and a great deal of energy.
“I would record myself,” she says. “I’d pick a very hard song that was difficult for me to sing and I’d record myself singing it over and over. I’d see what I would do. If I bent over and a note fell flat, I would need to work on that.”
A few years alter, Asiahn sang the National Anthem at a Charlotte Hornets NBA basketball game. Her father was a big fan of the team, and of diminutive point guard, Muggsy Bogues, so that made the family especially proud. It also provided yet another piece of proof that she was on her way toward a productive career. Today, as Asiahn continues to work on her craft and book slots on prestigious late night shows, she wants to explore the fringes of where she can take herself. She wants to see how “crazy” she can go, she says. Asiahn doesn’t want to be put in a box (other than maybe Pandora’s). She wants to continue to make tactile music that people can run their fingers through it to feel at ease on a tense day.
“I’m excited about my next project,” Asiahn says. “I love music’s ability to cross boundaries – I love that it is so universal – and I love music’s ability to help people find healing.”