When Pia Ashley stepped into the live television studio on Ottawa’s #1 morning show, CTV Morning Live, in February of 2011, it was just the first step in a rapid rise that, in just a few short years, has led to critical acclaim. A rabid online following, and fans at live shows singing her lyrics on cue.
The Ottawa Citizen reports “Ashley has a big voice and her music has a big, radio-friendly sound built on vocal angst and power chords… she knows how to sing rock and roll.”
Indeed, the combined ingredients of infectious rock, a passion for connecting with people, and a professionalism exceedingly rare in today’s world, has quickly led to some excellent opportunities for the gifted artist, including multiple TV appearances, assistance from celebrity vocal coaches, excellent press, and serving as the opening act for platinum recording artist and fellow Canadian, Carole Pope.
Pia and guitarist/husband, Bryan Fonda, produce and mix their own music, Pia says “Over the last few years, we’ve been very fortunate to make some amazing connections in the audio world, which inspired our decision to make things happen ourselves.
Ashley is constantly working to improve her craft as a singer, recording artist, and musician. As she states, “I’ve always been the type that goes all out. I truly believe that you can accomplish anything you set out to do if you take the time to learn and work at it.”
Persevering is something Ashley has done all her life. She spent much of her young age playing basketball. Quite awkward at first, she stuck with it until she got better. So much better, in fact, that she was recruited to play for a private school and awarded a grant to attend and play on the team.
Singing was no different. At 12, she decided she liked singing, and at 16, she bought a guitar and began writing her own songs. Soon she was performing at her high school coffeehouse and at open mic nights, making it to the finals of a local competition.
In 2004, she met Bryan Fonda. The two were neighbors and discovered a mutual passion for music. They began writing and performing together, doing acoustic shows. Within a year, they married. Regarding working in the studio with Bryan, Ashley says, “Writing together just kind of happens. Bryan picks up an acoustic guitar, plays something and I'll start singing, just like that. It’s very spontaneous. We pick and choose what we want to record and develop the ones that we’re both feeling. Working together in the studio has always been fun, it’s our day to day life. We push each other really hard and I think we make each other better all the time. I have a connection with Bryan. We can come up with a brand new ending to a song, live, on the spot, and just improvise. That’s one of my favorite things—just going with it.”
In 2011, Pia and Bryan stepped into a small recording studio to record an original song, and at that point, Pia knew this was something she needed to keep doing, especially after performing on live TV. She also had a growing YouTube audience, where her videos ranked among the top 100 viewed Canadian music videos.
2013 included the release of her self-titled EP and another appearance on CTV Morning Live. She also did live radio performances to promote the new EP, including co-winning the Battle of the Bands on Ottawa’s top rock station, for her song, “My Love.”
As evidence of the growing reach of her audience, later that year a fan from Illinois created the Official Pia Ashley Fan Page on Facebook. Ashley says, “Social media has been invaluable in making connections and being able to share music. I’ve also connected with some people who have been key in my development as a singer and we’ve also learned a lot from mentors about sound recording and production.”
The lessons from these connections are evident in her new video, “Dream,” the first single from her upcoming EP, which Ashley herself says “takes things to the next level in terms of songwriting, performance, and production.” The new EP touches on universal themes of escape, hope, love, strength, and anger—and if reaction to the first single is any indication, it should be another major step in Pia’s journey to reach as many people as she can.
-Written by Jerry Manas