The art direction for the album release poster was influenced by Ashley’s love for flowers, organic shapes, cherry blossoms and the color pink. An airy layout with digital illustrations and both script and bold typefaces mesh together poetically defining Wishful Thinking which is the name of the album.
The album artwork was heavily influenced after a photo shoot in North Jersey at an orchid greenhouse. We only had a half hour to shoot the photos before the moon made itself present, however we managed to get the contemporary, natural shots Ashley was looking for. The front cover features a rustic look, western typeface for the country sound, and again a pink tint overlaying the images front and back. The back cover we kept more simple, distorted layered images of palms and greenery and a sense of surrealism with the text left aligned to the photo and the cherry blossoms from the album release poster making their appearance, making a subtle connection to the front cover.
Art Direction, Design, Photo Direction, Album Artwork
Ashley McKinley is a singer songwriter from central New Jersey. Her unique sound can be described as a blend of modern pop with a relaxed country undertone. Ashley and Emily became friends through Blackbird Presents where they work together. Ashley came to us when she was working on her first album. Her debut album came out December 29th, 2017.
Where are you from and where are you going?
AM: I grew up in Tinton Falls until the summer of 6th grade and then I moved to Howell. I would like to be going somewhere that is conducive to a creative environment. Somewhere that has a room with especially echo-ey walls, that has green plants, and is surrounded with music that I like or feel inspired by would be ideal. I am thinking of moving to New York City. I will also be continuing my eduction in music for songwriting, but I am not sure which one yet.
You have been singing and playing guitar for a long time. When was the first time you knew you wanted to make music? Who were your major influences that first inspired you and who influences your sound today?
AM: The first time I knew I wanted to write my own music was when I was sitting in the parking lot listening and singing along to an Avril Lavigne song. I remember wanting to change some of the words and part of the melody. I used to make up little rhymes and melodies as a kid and one day, when I was 8 years old, I wrote an entire song acapella called, "Me." I was very influenced at the time by whatever songs were on the radio. My mom and uncle used to show me a lot of country music. As a kid, I really liked The Dixie Chicks, Christina Aguilera, and NSYNC. I also frequently attended broadway shows with my grandfather. I loved all types of music and art from a very young age. When I was in my late teens, I was introduced to artists like Bob Dylan, Carole King, and The Beatles. This changed my life. I also discovered and fell in love with songs by Norah Jones, Christina Perri, Sara Bareilles, Kacey Musgraves and so many more. Something all of these writers have in common is that their songs are incredible and written without a band. It's just them singing and playing the song on their instrument, whether it be piano or guitar. It became my goal as a songwriter. Of course having a band is incredible and adds so much, but like these artists, the main focus for me, is the song itself. It needs to be strong enough to stand alone.
Your music on Wishful Thinking flows beautifully for someone who has only had one album. Were you working on it for a long time?
AM: From ages 16-21, I had the privilege of being able to work in a studio for endless hours, with everything I needed at my disposal. From 16-18, I had a small EP recorded and almost ready to go that I pulled the plug on. A few of those songs were re-worked but made it on my album. I was mostly focused on making sure the songs sounded different from one and other than the same. I wrote a lot of songs that didn't end up on the album and one of the reasons was that they would sound too much like another song that was already going on. However, it was really important to me that it flowed together as a whole. I didn't want anything to come out of left field when the next song played.
Which songs off of your album were your favorite to write? What are these particular songs about?
AM: "I Can" might have been my favorite to write because it felt really natural and I also enjoyed crafting it as a songwriter. It was one of the first songs I wrote really conscious of song structure. I had a goal with that song to keep things short, simple, and to the point. I also wanted a big chorus that was uplifting and I was able to make that happen. This song is about regaining strength after getting your heart broken.
"Falling Apart" is a special song to me. I wrote this song after putting songwriting down for a little while. I played this song at a lot of open mics and people liked it so much that they began requesting that I play it. At the time, I wasn't fully sure I should commit to songwriting as a career and now I thank this song for helping me believe in myself. After getting such good feedback, I decided to record it. When hearing the first rough mix which included a full band arrangement, I realized I wanted to record and write music for the rest of my life, and decided to make my album, Wishful Thinking!
What are your plans for the future? Hopefully a tour is in the works?!
AM: Well, I am constantly writing new songs! I'll be working on new material for the next couple of months and then I will start to choose the right blend of songs again for my next album. I am aiming to start recording at the end of the year. As far as tour goes, I will be playing locally of course and I am working on a few gigs in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, D.C., and New York State. I would looove to be a supporting act on an up and coming artist's tour. So that is my goal!