OFFICE – How’d you end up in this spot?
MAXINE ASHLEY – I AirBnb’ed here once a long time ago, and I thought it was amazing. So when I was moving to LA a few months back I found it again and was like “Yes, this is lit! I got it!” Frat house. My friend, she stopped me in the street recently she’s like “Oh hey, what’s up? Where you living at?” I’m like “Right here in Hollywood,” and she’s like, “Girl, that’s ratchet!” [laughs] You know what though, this gives me such a nostalgia feel. It reminds me of my childhood in the Bronx, but like, this is mine. To be honest, I see beauty in ugly. I love ugly shit.
O – You’re headed to New York next week, what are your plans there?
MA – I’m playing LES Festival, SOB’s, the Puerto Rican Day Parade—they made me the ambassador, the PR Princess! But yeah, just playing shows, seeing family, friends, studio as much as possible. I always book studio because if I don’t make music I think I’m gonna go fucking crazy.
O – And you grew up in the Bronx?
MA – Till I was thirteen years old. But I was also back and forth from Puerto Rico, cause I have family there. Then at thirteen I moved to London for like three years.
O – Was your childhood very Puerto Rican influenced?
MA – Well not just Puerto Rican, it was very everything influenced, cause the Bronx has like, heavy Italian spots, heavy Jamaican spots—and the Bronx is big, but as soon as you know that my grandmother’s from that hood over there, and I’m from this hood over here, I’m going to know somebody within that perimeter, you know?
O – Was it a good scene musically? Did you feed off that as a kid?
MA – My whole family does music. I grew up on salsa and bachata bands every day. I hated it when I was young, I was like “Ugh, I wanna vomit, this is so boring.” But now—we’re our parents now, pretty much. Yeah, I grew up with my mom performing, my dad in a band, my uncle, both my brothers play guitar. My whole family dances. Like, everybody. I can show you videos.
O – How do you stay up on music?
MA – My friends turn me on to shit. Like right now I was just blasting Post Malone’s new mixtape. It’s lit, it’s so good. I really appreciate it. And I was blasting, um, Azizi [Gibson]. Then this morning I was blasting Sade. But mostly it’s Romeo Santos, bachata, salsa, old school La India and shit. So much so they want to kick us out.
O – You ever sing in Spanish?
MA – I have. Actually, it didn’t come out in Spanish, it came out in Portuguese. But yeah, I have songs in Spanish. My Spanish is really…bad. It’s like my English. [laughs]
O – So what brought you to London?
MA – Music. I never had a real job in my life. The first video I ever posted on YouTube, people started hitting me up. I met with these people and they were like, “You ever been to London?” I was like, “No—yeah, I’ll go—the fuck?!” It was a record company that did just UK pop—pop, pop—pop shit. I just wrote a bunch.
O – Writing for other artists?
MA – Yeah I never wrote for myself! I thought it was for me. I just didn’t know, I was thirteen. I didn’t know shit. This is something that I have to understand now, is that I grew up in it, and I always loved it, but business-wise I never understood it. Growing up in it was great, was fun, but I had to learn a lot of shit—when people see you growing up in something, later on when you finally take it seriously, people are like “Oh, I saw you at seventeen, you wasn’t paying attention.” You’re like, “No no no no, I’m my boss now, I got it now, I know how to pay a bill now.” It’s good and bad, everything comes with good and bad.