bronx native maxine ashley is pharrell's new protege

21-year-old Maxine Ashley has been steadily racking up an increasing amount of fans – including man of the year Pharrell Williams who signed her to his I Am Other imprint – off the back of the homemade YouTube videos she recorded and uploaded in the...

by i-D Team
18 August 2014, 7:25pm

Photography Stephanie Sian Smith

Hey Maxine! Welcome back to the UK. You used to live here, what brought you out here?
I was signed to a label here when I was 13 so I lived in Kent, then I moved to London when I cut ties with the label. 

Did you always know singing was something you wanted to get into?
I never did anything else. When I was nine I was in a TV show called American Juniors, which is like American Idol for kids. 

Was there anyone in particular you aspired to be like?
Just everything on TV… Aaliyah, Britney Spears, I would watch the videos and copy all the dance moves. 

Does working with someone as established as Pharrell add a whole lot of pressure or does it just come as part of the package?
I didn't really know who he was at the time. When you're young you don't care about producers, you just care about the artists so I was like 'I don't know what you do…' But yeah he showed me all these big studios and all the time celebrities would be walking in - I'd be like OMG! 

Are people sitting up and paying a bit more attention now?
There's been more respect because everyone loves Pharrell, there are haters though, like 'why does he like her? She ain't nothing special.' 

You kicked off your career recording and uploading cover songs to YouTube. What's your favourite thing about social media?
It gave me a lot of knowledge, In my hood no one was thinking like me, everybody was just doing the same shit all the time, gangbanging… they're still on the same corner. 

A couple of weeks ago you tweeted 'I want to be amazed and be amazing.' When was the last time you were amazed?
Last time I made a song that I really liked, it was fun, it wasn't hard - that amazes me. When music isn't hard to make it's free, it's fun. 

Do you still get nervous before a performance?
When I was younger I was terrible on stage, I used to perform in every dingy bar in London, there would only be two people or whatever but for some reason even having those two people there just scared the shit out of me. I try not to think about it now, if my voice is good everything else will come. 

Also we love your tattoos, talk us through them…
This one, the wings with armour, I got when I was about to turn 18 and it's kind of like that I'm grown up and able to make my own decisions. 'New York' cos fuck yeah New York. 'Fear' on my finger was the first one I got. I did one on my chest myself, I have one on my buttcheek… The one on my finger I got done at some guy's apartment and he fucked it up and I had to peel it off my skin and rub it with salt. I had to get it done three times over it. 

You peeled it off yourself! 
Yeah. It hurt me more to see that the tattoo was fucked up though. I was so upset I just scooped it out my skin.

So what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Finishing my album, getting all these visuals on point and done then pushing through.



Text Alya Mooro
Photography Stephanie Sian Smith

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