San Diego, CA — Singer-songwriter Ash Easton is a little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll, ready to set the music scene on fire. Heavily inspired by southern rock, her songs and stage presence draw just as much on the swagger of powerful vocalists such as Janis Joplin, Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, and Ann Wilson. If you’ve experienced any of her previous oeuvres under the stage name HLLNDR (pronounced Hollander), you know she has plenty of swagger of her own, not to mention the pipes and songwriting chops to pull it all together. Her first full-length studio album, Rough & Tough, debuted in August. Easton talks about the journey behind her new record, her creative values, and why onstage she won’t sing into anything except an Audix OM6 handheld vocal mic.
“I started singing as soon as I could talk, essentially,” she begins. “I had an older sister who was a professional gymnast and her work meant we had to do these drives to Los Angeles six days a week. I’d be in the back with my headphones and my giant boombox, singing at the top of my lungs and driving the rest of my family crazy! At age 11, I started taking lessons from a professional voice coach. I kept with her for 11 years. When I was in junior high and high school, we traveled internationally to do all sorts of things.”
That led to learning to play the piano and write songs on guitar, her favorite instrument. Her sound turned heads, and gigs in clubs and bars weren’t far behind—along with the microphone nightmares that can come with them. “There was this one time the house insisted I use their mic even though I had my own,” recalls Easton. “I’m looking at this thing and it’s dented all over, the grille was gunky with who knows what, just a mess. I start playing the gig, and the sound guy just leaves. I’m noticing I can’t really get signal out of the mic. I finally found this one spot on the side of the grille that I could sing into. Maybe it was the only place the openings in the grille weren’t blocked up. From that point on, I have exclusively used my own mic. I tell places, ‘Oh, I don’t want to get lipstick on yours!’ But really it’s because mine sounds better!”
Specifically, Easton prefers the Audix OM6, a handheld dynamic mic whose hypercardioid pickup pattern is tailor-made for loud bands in tight spaces. “The OM6 … doesn’t pick up sounds that are coming from too far away from me or around me,” she explains. “It has been a dream for a lot of the smaller venues I play in. I have a new drummer. He plays loud and I love it! There was one show where we were supposed to play more softly because the venue had gotten some noise complaints from neighbors. I was like, ‘Bring your quiet sticks and a minimal kit.’ He doesn’t really know how to do that, but I love that about him. And I’m always set up right in front of him. When we are playing hard, it would be a real issue with most other mics I’ve used. The OM6 works perfectly in that scenario.”
Personal stories and challenges directly informed the ten songs on Rough & Tough, but the process left Easton not only inspired but yearning to inspire others. “My hope in the process of … recording these songs was to create connection. There are a lot of wonderful women coming up that are creating space for other women to be able to do the same thing. So, my advice would be to be brave, be everything that you are, and to not stop at anything when you’re running towards your goals.”
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