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Interview: Charlotte Hatherley - from the ashes

9th October 2008

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Charlotte Hatherley, ex-guitarist of Ash, now has one solo album under her belt and is about to release a second. Since the release of Grey Will Fade in 2004, Charlotte has been out of the spotlight writing new offering The Deep Blue.

Charlotte HatherleyI wanted to know what could be expected from her upcoming album.

“It [Grey will fade] was mostly about my pop-punk influences, and it was more of a celebration of that than The Deep Blue, it was recorded in a couple of weeks and it was really bashed out, whereas with this album I had a lot more time to write and record it. Being in Italy recording was great, and this album is just much more ambitious, the guitar takes more of a backseat and makes way for strings, piano and brass, and there’s much more depth.”

“It [Grey will fade] was kind of similar to Ash in lots of ways, but I think this will appeal to a wider audience, not just the Ash fans. The albums not out yet and I can already tell that some people are going to say ‘I don’t like it’, but you know, that’s fine.”

Alongside Kate Bush and David Bowie, Charlotte sights XTC as one of her favourite bands. Andy Partridge (XTC front-man) collaborates on album track ‘Dawn Treader.’

“My publishers set me up with Andy, he’d been writing for some quite strange characters, like Jamie Cullum and Sophie Ellis Bextor, and he’d been doing quite a lot of poppy stuff. He said he really liked Grey Will Fade, and told me to come down to his shed, and you know he’s been around for quite some time, so he was a bit of a big brother to me, he told me I could talk to him whenever I want, because I was going through quite a tough time with the Ash split.”

Away from Ash Ms Hatherley is stepping out on her own, even releasing the album on her own label, Little Sister records, which she set up with her manager.

“I started my own label because I could, I was able to pay for it myself, I did think that I wanted to go to a bigger label, so I had that security of being able to finish the record, but I realised things were happening pretty slowly, so I thought, ‘fuck it, I’ll do it myself’. It was that little bit easier for me to do it that way, and I have complete control. I don’t have any time to write! It’s fine at the moment though, I can barely afford to put my own records out, but I couldn’t bear the thought of that becoming my job.”

Obviously, leaving Ash wasn’t an easy time for Charlotte, but it would seem that she is contented with being a solo artist.

“The decision to leave was quite easy to come to, it was a long time coming, but I think we all knew that it was going to happen, it worked for nine years, which was really good, but I think the thing I miss the most is the structure. Before Ash I was going to take a year out to see what happened with my other band, but I do not know what I would be doing now if it weren’t for Ash.I’d definitely be playing guitar, who can say, maybe I would’ve done the solo thing! I haven’t heard any of the new Ash album, but I’m sure it will be a success, I heard some of the demos that were around at the end of the summer, I’m sure it’s going to be great.”

Moving from being a guitarist to a solo star is quite a dramatic change. I want know how she copes with being in the limelight and how she hopes to be perceived by others:
“I hope that I won’t always be seen as ‘Charlotte from Ash’, I don’t want ‘from Ash’ to always be part of my surname, I’m sure it will be fine, in fact it’s a lot less of a big deal than I thought it would be, and I’m encouraged by that. I haven’t been recognised for a long time, I got recognised in HMV recently, one of the guys who worked there and he was really nice, but that’s it, I don’t really feel that I deserve to get recognised, it’s been a while and I’m feeling a little bit shy and nervous, I just need to get back into it! I’m a lot more image conscious now than when I was a guitarist, I think being a girl I’m a lot more conscious of image and style in a way that I’m not completely comfortable with, I’m much happier to be at the side of the stage with my hair in front of my face, I would never class myself as an exhibitionist.”

Charlotte is starting to turn heads and was recently tipped as one of the 5 artists to watch out for in 2007 by Lauren Laverne on BBC2’s The Culture Show: “I’m a bit of a sucker for reviews, I hate that period when you know that an album’s being reviewed and you’re waiting to find out, but it’s really fucking cool, it sounds good, but we’ll see! I met Lauren years ago, she was in one of our videos, so I see her every now and then and she’s been very good to me.”

With stars like Graham Coxon telling her how much they like her music, this confidence is probably not misplaced, and it seems she’s itching to get out of the studios and prove Miss Laverne right.

“I’m really excited about touring, last year I didn’t do any which was brilliant, because it’s quite a huge part of being in a band, especially with Ash, but that’s the way it was, but now I can’t wait to get back. I’ve got a great band together; I’ve got two girls with me, which is brilliant! I said after Ash, ‘I am never touring without girls again!’ I think March 5 is going to be the proudest day for me, I can’t quite believe it’s going to be out, I’m really proud that I just got on with it.”

Even with the backing of big names, and success seemingly imminent, Charlotte still seems reassuringly down to earth, and isn’t afraid to admit she’s a bit of a reality TV addict; “My news year’s resolution is to stop watching Big Brother! It’s quite amazing really, I do have quite a lot of sympathy for Jade, she is an idiot but I think it’s all really cruel she’s a scapegoat, and it’s all so horrible. I was doing well until all the controversy, then I couldn’t stop watching again.”

It seems that Charlotte’s still got her feet firmly on the ground, even if 2007 is likely to be the year she really takes off.

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