South African born singer-songwriter Ashton Nyte (also of The Awakening, Beauty In Chaos) recently released his new solo album ‘Waiting For A Voice’ along with a cinematic dark folk video and book with the same aforementioned title. ‘Waiting For A Voice’ is Nyte’s 7th solo album that instantly hits the heart strings, featuring some of his most personal songwriting to date. The album was mostly written and recorded right after his 36 date European tour with Wayne Hussey (The Mission), concluding last October.
‘Waiting For A Voice’ literally feels like Ashton is taking his listeners by the hand as he shares his most intimate and vulnerable thoughts and experiences. It’s a journey of deep personal contemplation mixed with the perfect balance of light and dark that ultimately leaves us all with a feeling of hope in the darkest of times.
Dubbed “Johannesburg’s Bowie” by Cosmopolitan and the “lovechild of Johnny Cash and Nick Cave” by NPR, the new work sees Nyte blending poetry with haunting acoustic minimalism, animated by his rich, diverse baritone voice. The album contains 11 original songs, written, performed, and produced by Nyte, along with an intimate rendition of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” dedicated to Nyte’s father, who passed earlier this year. The accompanying 134 page book expands on themes explored on the album and is his first book of poetry, lyrics, short stories, and musings, published by Intervention Arts.
‘Waiting For A Voice’ is available in hardcover and paperback at www.ashtonnyte.com, along with vinyl, CD and digital versions of the album.
Ashton Nyte takes some time out for Torched to share his thoughts on his new release ‘Waiting For A Voice’, his new book.. and more!
What was your inspiration behind the new album ‘Waiting For A Voice’? What made you decide to put this album out as a solo release instead of by The Awakening?
I have always wanted to create an album that is more focused on the words and how they are delivered. I wanted to generally keep the instrumentation to a minimum, to allow the poems and stories to shine, without slipping down any “over-production” rabbit holes or other malarkey. I had just completed a 36 date European tour with Wayne Hussey of The Mission and was feeling exhausted but inspired by the elemental nature of it all. I think performing solo, with nothing but my voice and acoustic guitar, every night (and seeing to my delight that the audience members weren’t all running to the bar after 3 minutes) gave me the confidence to finally bring this album to life. There is something very intimate about that way of performing and I wanted the album to feel intimate, especially given the very personal nature of the lyrics. There never was any question as to whether it would be a solo album or released as The Awakening. The work in the album and book very much reflects where I am in my life, at this moment in time.
You held a couple of Skype listening sessions celebrating your new album for friends and fans pre-release date. How do you feel this worked out for you? Were you able to feed your cats?
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience! It was also significantly more emotional than I had anticipated, which I’m sure had a lot to do with the subject matter and the beautiful responses of those I was sharing the work and my thoughts with. And yes, our cats are very grateful for the generosity of friends and fans. Vivien had a celebratory second round of drinks for the first time in weeks.
Everyone has handled the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways, depending on their situation. How has this affected you personally? Have you found yourself to be more or less creative?
I had actually just finished the writing and recording of the album, when my Father passed at the end of February. My wife and I flew back to South Africa to help my Mother with everything that needed to be done, and then packed up her old life and brought her back to the US with us, just as COVID was unfolding. I still had the book to finish, and yes, the pandemic certainly influenced the writing, as did my Father’s passing.
As far as daily life goes, it is not massively different for me, living in COVID times. My wife and I are fortunate to be able to work from home, and we’re both rather introverted. I’m a bit of a germaphobe by nature, so other than wearing the mask, and obvious restrictions on visiting friends or places of interest, life has not changed radically for us. If anything, I’m probably more creative for it.
Ashton Nyte photo by Todd Davis
You’ve also published a new book at the same time as your new album release. How long did it take to put this all together? Do you have a routine that helps to keep you focused as a writer? What are a few things readers can expect in your book?
Both the book and album actually came together quite quickly. But for a few older songs, the bulk of the album was written and recorded between October 2019 and February 2020. The book includes poetry, lyrics, short stories, musings and other oddities. Most of the work was written between March and May of 2020, and like the album, it includes a few works that are older. Some of the poems (and one of the stories) date back a number of years, and in addition to the lyrics to the new album, I have included a few older favourites there too. But yes, most of it was created this year. In retrospect it was often a cathartic experience, what with life as I knew somewhat rearranged by losing my Father and adapting to living with the Plague.
I can’t say I have a routine as a writer just yet, other than trying to stay honest. Give me a little time and I’ll hopefully answer that one a little more thoroughly, after the next book.
As a photographer myself, I’ve always been drawn to abstract black and white imagery. Your new album cover depicts an abstract background of tree branches with a single leaf in focus. What inspired this image to represent your album?
It was almost one of those beautiful accidents. I was out shooting one particularly overcast and rainy day and that was one of the images that spoke to me. It just wanted to be celebrated. Months later, when I started assembling and editing the Waiting For A Voice video, I was once again moved by the beauty and symbolic elegance of that image and I knew it had to be the album cover. The album has a multitude of themes and subtexts but our connection to nature is one of the stronger undercurrents.
You recently collaborated with Beauty In Chaos on its new release “The Storm Before The Calm”, lending your vocals and lyrics to the song “The Outside”. What was your inspiration behind your contribution? Do you have plans for a new video to accompany “The Outside”?
Yes, I suppose it is one of those songs that probably sounds like it was written about our present pandemic situation but was actually penned many months before. It is a song about trying to understand my place in a world I generally don’t want to be a part of. As for a video – with Michael and I living nearly 2000 miles apart, that is a little difficult at present, but I remain optimistic.
The lyrics for your new songs seem to come from a very personal space for you. Are your lyrics based on real life happenings or fictional stories/ideas?
Yes, this is certainly my most personal work to date. I am very much writing about life as I have and continue to experience it. At times it is presented intimately and at times metaphorically – often a blend of the two.
“Waiting For A Voice” gives me an instant feeling of hope in a chaotic world with an unknown future. Was this your intention as an artist for your audience to interpret it in this way?
Thank you, Judy. Yes, the theme of hope in the face of adversity, difficulty, depression, darkness, and then some, is a prominent one on the album. I hope the listener will find solace and a sense of community or solidarity in the things I’ve shared with this new work. There is so much ugliness out there, I think we could all do with a little more hope, to say the very least.
Keep up with Ashton Nyte and The Awakening