FEATURE: Rising Rockstar, Ace Ambrose
We're here to introduce you to Coventry's own Ace Ambrose! You may have heard her most recent single Doomsayer on our Discovery playlist, where we keep you updated on all the best fresh up-and-coming artists. Now, we're giving you a deep-dive into the innovative mind behind the track!
Recently named BBC Introducing's Artist of the Month in Coventry and Warwickshire for March, it's clear Ace Ambrose is one you should be watching. With her latest release, Doomsayer, which arrived in November, Ace introduced us to her new era of self-produced DIY artistry in the form of a dark, mesmerising dystopian anthem. With its eerie slow-build, electrifying guitar riff, and Ace's entrancing vocals, the track is a haunting reflection on society and corruption. Thankfully, we have the full inside scoop on everything Ace Ambrose!
Hi Ace, thanks for speaking to us! How have you been lately?
I've been up and down honestly just doing my best to power through and keep myself busy creatively.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
I'd describe my music as genre-bending rock'n'roll with a dose of nostalgia and a punk ethos.
I find it sort of rare to see a solo musician in the rock scene, it seems as though bands are the norm. Was this an active choice to pursue a career as a solo artist rather than go down the band route? And do you find it more or less challenging making and releasing music as an individual?
Honestly, it used to be really fun but as an independent artist you have to be your own manager, band, producer, promoter, etc. and it's incredibly challenging, especially as I'm also battling mental and physical health issues; having a team around me makes things way easier and more fun, but this pandemic and lockdown has forced me to be even more of a solo act than before. And while I pride myself as a self-made artist and do perform solo, it's only because up until recently I haven't been able to find committed, like-minded musicians for my band.
I do enjoy solo gigs occasionally but I'm a front-woman at heart and I love performing with a band more than anything, it's a different kind of energy and I fell in love with music from idolising and studying glam rock bands growing up. Not to mention as somebody living with chronic illness, having a band with me relieves a lot of the burden and their support keeps me going. Thankfully, during the pandemic I was able to put together a band consisting of musicians I've performed with or admired at different stages of my career and they're the best of the best; I'm super excited for the lockdown to end so that we can officially start jamming and put on some badass live rock shows.
How has the past year affected you creatively?
The past year has knocked me back in a lot of ways creatively; my album was stopped in its tracks and all my projects halted. But part of being a DIY musician is adapting and everything that's happened this past year has inspired me in ways I never expected and resulted in me creating some of my best work yet.
We love Doomsayer! What was the inspiration behind the track and how did it come to be?
Thank you so much! The track is from my upcoming concept album Doomsday was Yesterday, which tells the story of an Orwellian post-apocalyptic future set in a parallel 2020 in which a virus devastates the planet; the UK falls under totalitarian regime and music is made illegal after a peaceful concert protest turns into a fatalistic riot - but the government are also hiding a much darker secret that is yet to be revealed. Doomsayer is the introduction to the protagonist of the story Gal Fawkes, who goes from trying to warn and expose political corruption to leading an uprising - the lyrics are inspired by Orwell's 1984, as well as Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot activists of 1605.
Funnily enough, I wrote this album concept and song a year before the pandemic even happened, which I find really eerie as I could never have predicted the reality of what happened in 2020 mirroring my concept so prophetically - my friends joke that I have '2020 vision'. But once the pandemic hit, the song evolved and became so much more than I intended. While the original concept of the lyrics tell a fictional story, I changed some of the lyrics and added the switch up at the end to channel my actual emotions of suffering with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed in the surreal world we're living in right now, which added a level of authenticity to the track that made it a lot more personal.
Also, in this fictional reality, Gal is a DIY punk making music from a bunker in a junkyard, so my not having access to a studio due to COVID and having to record and self-produce this track from home with no external support from a band or producer was both a learning experience, but also a cool form of method acting in a way because I sort of got to live out my own character's process.
Lyrically, Doomsayer seems to be quite dystopian and fantastical. When it comes to songwriting, what's your process like?
I'm a storyteller first and foremost, so after I decide what story I want to tell, I create the characters and the concept the way you would a book or film, and build the melody around the lyrics so that the song almost ends up being the soundtrack to the story, and the genre - be it punk, metal, pop, blues - depends on the mood and feeling I'm trying to convey and provoke.
You recently featured on YNES' new song Better Job, lending your amazing guitar skills to the track. How did that collaboration happen?
Both myself and YNES were chosen for the Coventry City of Culture Front Room Sessions Collaborative Album project in 2020, where 16 musicians from the local scene created a song from scratch at home with the help of the City of Culture Trust. Since that project, we became friends over social media after realising that we're pretty much kindred spirits; when she asked me to feature on her track, I was beyond honoured. Due to my health condition, I'm losing strength in my wrists and hands which makes playing guitar quite difficult so I didn't think I'd have an opportunity to play lead guitar as I'm more a rhythm guitarist, but YNES and I worked around that and I'm so proud of the result. I've definitely made a very close friend in YNES and we're already planning some badass future collabs.
What are some of your biggest influences when it comes to making music? Whether that be other musicians, politics, current events, or anything that inspires you, really.
To be honest, I'm inspired by everything you mentioned and everything around me. Before I decided to pursue music full time, I originally wanted to be an author (and still do) because since I was a kid I've had an overactive imagination that became kind of overwhelming. My head would always be filled with stories and inspiration and I'd write just to get it all out, and that hasn't really changed. The world and just existing can be overwhelming, so I use music and storytelling as a form of escapism, but also as a way of being understood.
Growing up in a mixed race family containing several religions and cultures, I always felt outcast wherever I went and dealt with non-stop bigotry, but I've also always been an eccentric person on top of that since I was little, so I had to be savvy about how I navigated the world. So expressing myself through fashion and music and stories and characters that other people could relate to was the safety net that allowed me to communicate and connect to the world and people around me. I didn't have access to modern pop culture growing up as my parents brought me up on everything they were into from the 50s to the 80s, which is why nostalgia is a key theme in my music. Weirdly, Doctor Who has been one of my biggest inspirations characteristically, aesthetically and musically in creating the Ace Ambrose persona, as it was my anchor growing up in a world where I felt lost and misunderstood. Plus, I absolutely adore the soundtrack.
If you could have a dream collab with any artist, who would it be?
I'd love to work with YUNGBLUD one day however since I was little it's been my dream to collab with Aersomith, Billy Idol and Joan Jett.
What's next for Ace Ambrose? Can we expect to see new music from you any time soon?
I've got a hell of a lot in the works right now, including some big projects with the BBC over the next year. I'm about to announce my next single and I'm working on the Doomsday album as well as a related comic surrounding Gal Fawkes' adventures. Short films, books, music videos, collaborations, you name it. This last year has made me more motivated than ever to graft and keep creating. But more than anything I'm stoked to get back on stage with my new band and rock out.
Thanks so much for speaking to us!
Thank you for the feature, it's been a total pleasure!
Review and interview by Chloe Robbins