by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
While Americans entered the most uncertain spring in modern history, Jazzy Ash was on fire with creativity. In June, the New Orleans-bred, LA-based musician and Black mother of 2 boys released her first new track/video in three years — “Teddy Bear” — with her band, complete with a video featuring families at home showing off dance moves.
And she was only getting started.
Today, on July 4, 2020, she debuts “Be Outside,” a song and video that is exactly what the world needs right now — especially on Independence Day.
Loaded with funky beats, horns, keys, strings and Jazzy’s rich, soulful vocals, “Be Outside” is pure, instant happiness. When I heard the song, which she says is inspired by daily walks with her dog, Retro, my heart swelled with joy. My sons literally ran upstairs into my office, asking, “who’s that, mommy?” They, too, felt the urge to move. And for a moment, we were no longer sheltered in our homes, riding out the coronavirus pandemic. We were just family, enjoying the present moment.
We recently caught up with Jazzy Ash (aka Ashli St. Armant), to chat about her forthcoming collection of soulful new songs, making time for music, and coping with the state of the world during these challenging times.
Rockmommy: Ash, I just listened to “Be Outside” and felt an instant surge of happiness. How did that track come about?
Jazzy Ash: I’m so glad this resonated with you! I actually wrote this song a year ago! Whenever I’d get ready to walk my dog, he’d get super excited and I’d chant this phrase to him. “You wanna go outside? I’ll take you outside!” Eventually I heard melody, and I thought, “this is catchy!” So we ended up recording it the next time we were in the studio. If you listen carefully you can hear dog chains in the recording…
Now here we are a year later, and I had no idea how significant the idea of going outside would be. Who knew we were taking that for granted? The song has definitely taken on new meaning.
Rockmommy: I also loved “Teddy Bear.” Can you tell me more about your music — do you write songs with families/children in mind, or play music with a ‘vibe’ in mind?
Jazzy Ash: Both. I have projects in music, literature, and theater, and I almost always have a young audience in mind when I write. And, depending on the project, I always think about what I want the music style to be. For this upcoming EP, which includes “Teddy Bear” and “Be Outside”, I’m definitely paying homage to mid-century Soul and Doo-wop music.
Rockmommy: How are you and your musician friends getting through these tough times?
Jazzy Ash: I know that right now, musicians and artists everywhere are leaning into our craft in an intimate way, in order to cope. It’s really been tough not to preform for audiences, but it’s also been really special to play for ourselves, with no expectations — just for the love of it. That’s been really therapeutic.
Rockmommy: How are you doing, personally? What’s it been like for you, as a mom, coping with everything going on in the world?
Jazzy Ash: I have a friend who referred to the feeling as “wavy”, and I can really identify with that — a lot of highs and a lot of lows. A black person, a queer person, and a mother of two black teenage boys who look like men, I’ve felt a heaviness I can’t describe. But this season has also brought some really joyful and exciting things to my life. So yeah, all the feels!
Rockmommy: What are you and your family doing to get through it?
Jazzy Ash: Meditation, nature walks, and planned family time have all become super important for us. I’ve done a lot of writing, including music. And I’ve also taken up pottery!
Rockmommy: Where is the first place you want to play music again, once it’s safe?
Jazzy Ash: I’ve been fantasizing about performing in big, open spaces like The Getty Center in California or Levitt Pavilion in Connecticut. There’s something so magical about gathering in a beautiful, natural setting and letting my voice go as far as the wind will carry it — like a kite. That’s the best feeling in the world.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.