Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments. — I’ve always had such big dreams that I hardly ever appreciated any of my accomplishments. I always wanted bigger and better so I missed out on a lot of joy in the moment. This is something that I wish I could go back in time and tell myself how proud I was of all my hard work and to enjoy the moment.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ashlee Williss.
Ashlee is a genre-melding maverick, on the cutting edge of Pop, Dance and Country, she effortlessly blends her southern roots with a feel good EDM flare…. Born out of a life of trials & tribulations, Ashlee Williss’ story is one of a singer-songwriter who needed music to escape — and turned that escape into her purpose. Ashlee (aka DJ Bad Ash) made her mark as the one & only Female Country Music DJ and has traveled the world opening for everyone from Snoop to Gwen Stefani to Chainsmokers (among others). Now partnering with multi #1 hit producer T.I Jakke (Ava Max, “Kings & Queens”), their new single, “Summer Jam” brings the heat with a flirty summertime anthem just in time for the arrival of the highly anticipated season.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/db9aed5f88445f1d2aed23f2fa6ff822
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Yes, thank you for having me! I grew up in Jacksonville FL, to extremely humble beginnings. I was singing and dancing from as far back as I can remember. My father was an alcoholic and I would constantly try to distract his violent outbursts with my performances, so that’s actually how I learned to entertain. I saw Trisha Yearwood perform at the local county fair when I was 8 and I realized then, that was my calling and I was gonna do everything I could to make a better life for myself.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Music has always come so natural! My older brother tells me I would critique everyone’s singing before I even knew anything about singing, I just had perfect pitch and knew what sounded good from the very beginning. Since we didn’t have money to spare, my mom (who is my biggest fan) started cleaning a music/dance studio in exchange for me to take lessons. That’s where I met my first manager and the rest is history. Went to Nashville where they said I was too Pop, went to New York where they said I was too Country, then eventually I moved to Los Angeles with a deal on the table. It didn’t end up working out, but I just continued on my musical journey, tons of ups and downs and close calls and somehow it led me to a 7 year DJ career….and then Covid led me back to my roots of singing and songwriting, full circle.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I could write a book about all the interesting things I’ve seen/done since moving to LA. Here’s a story that’s pretty wild. When I was 21, I got hired to sing at The Grammys, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! I was hanging with all of my idols, literally every celeb you can think of. I even sang with Stevie Wonder! I felt like a million bucks, everyone wanted to know who the new girl was. The very next day, I was working at Costco, passing out makeup samples trying to pay my bills…..the dichotomy of my 2 worlds was so crazy to me. When co-workers asked how my weekend was, no one even believed that I was singing with legends the day before.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was 20 I performed in the gifting suite of the Country Music Awards and met Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus right before Hannah Montana came out. Billy was impressed with my singing and told me I’d be great on this new Disney show they were about to start filming. I immediately thought, “Disney??? Ew, NO I’m too old for Disney. I want to be a serious artist, not on some cheesy Disney show for kids.” — Well, needless to say that was a BIG MISTAKE! I was so young, dumb and naive, I didn’t realize how huge that offer was. I learned to keep an open mind to all opportunities after that.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
After the release of my new single Summer Jam, I am taking a month off to have a BABY!!!! I’ve been involved in so many exciting projects over my life, but I’m pretty sure being a mom will be the coolest thing I’ll ever do! I already have a new song about motherhood ready to release after my baby comes. I’m just so excited to see what this next chapter of life is like!
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Diversity and inclusion is so important I actually shot my last music video, “Don’t Let The Music Die” completely around that concept. It is extremely important to celebrate all walks of life, all cultures, all ethnicities, all shapes, sizes and ages because at the core, we are all the same! The more our culture accepts equality, the more peace and love this world will have. It’s actually a gift to have such a diverse world. We can learn so much from other cultures! It’s truly fascinating to me, everyone has a story!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. It’s never what you imagine it to be. — Literally every fear, every success, every job, every opportunity, every person in your life turns out to be so different that you build it up to be in your head.
2. Learn the BUSINESS of the music business. — It’s extremely difficult to make money in the arts. Typically creative people get into it because it’s an outlet for them, but to make a living at it, you really need to be good at business. And that’s a whole other skill.
3. Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments. — I’ve always had such big dreams that I hardly ever appreciated any of my accomplishments. I always wanted bigger and better so I missed out on a lot of joy in the moment. This is something that I wish I could go back in time and tell myself how proud I was of all my hard work and to enjoy the moment.
4. You can’t please everyone. — By nature, I’m a people pleaser and it’s been a lifelong learning lesson not to let other people’s opinions affect me. The older I get, the more I realize it’s about being happy with my own decisions and no one else.
5. You can’t expect ANYONE to do anything for you. — No matter how many promises people say to you, the ONLY person you can count on in this life is YOU!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Know your strengths and weaknesses and find people that have the talents you lack, so they can help grow and accelerate your career. Also, take breaks and celebrate your small wins.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d really love to inspire people to spread love…..we need more uplifting things in this world.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m grateful to many many people I’ve met along my journey because they all helped in some way or another. Good or bad, it’s all been valuable lessons. But one person, in particular, I am forever indebted to is John P Kades. He literally taught me everything I know about DJ’ing and has never asked for anything in return. He is truly one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever met.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Well, my family always says, “Where there’s a Williss there’s a way” and that always reminded me to persevere. If I couldn’t figure something out, I’d just need to try a different way, but never ever give up because there was always a way.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
This may sound weird, but I’d love to sit down with Britney Spears and share stories about our experiences in the industry. We’ve led such different paths and while I admire the amount of success she’s achieved, I know it’s been a very difficult road and I’m so intrigued to hear her full story.
How can our readers follow you online?
All social platforms, but Instagram is my favorite — find me @AshleeWilliss
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you so much for letting me share a little bit about myself