Pharrell Protege Maxine Ashley Tells Us About Her Rise To Stardom

How one girl took her career from YouTube star to being signed by Pharrell

Screen-Shot-2014-09-08-at-12.52

by Alya Mooro |

The name might be relatively new to you, but Maxine Ashley is big news to a lot of people. So much so, that the 21-year-old already has a fan in the shape of man-of-the year Pharrell, who signed the budding superstar way back when all she had to her name were a bunch of YouTube videos she had shot in her room.

We caught up with the New York songstress to talk about meeting Pharrell for the first time (and not realising who he was), staying true to yourself and beginning a music career in the age of the internet.

Hey Maxine, how are you enjoying being back in the UK?

It’s a huge difference to the US. The Tubes close at 12! And there’s no food that’s good that I like.

There’s no food that you like!? Nothing?

Other than Indian. I love Indian food. Indian food out here is the best Indian I’ve ever had.

But you're vegan, right?

Yeah, I’ve been vegan for a few years now, ever since I was like 13. I was watching a slaughter video and eating sesame chicken from a Chinese and I guess I got really full and it nauseated me and I was like, 'I’m just gonna stop eating…'

Yeekh! We can imagine the combination wasn’t particularly fantastic.... So** you’re signed to Pharrell! That’s pretty awesome! How did that happen?**

I just got an email from his camp, we met him the next day and he wanted to sign me right there. He said he’s been following me on YouTube for two years. I didn’t really know who he was at the time. When you’re young you don’t care about producers, you just care about the artists so I was like, ‘I don’t know what you do…’

READ MORE: Jessie Ware: 'I Told My Mum To Chill The F*** Out On YouTube'

Haha! Did you tell him that you didn’t know who he was?

He knew I didn’t know; but he taught me,and that’s when I started realising that producers do everything.

**So tell us about your new stuff? **

It’s gotten way stronger. I’ve been writing since I was 11, but professionally since I was 13. I’m 21 now so it feels like everything I write now is more personal. Before it was more manufactured – writing for other people, writing for reasons that are not even… I’m happy I’m doing it now because I understand more and I know what I wanna do more and I’m not going to compromise who I am anymore just for some fame or something.

**I guess it takes a while for people to sort of realise that… **

Yeah, and realise when you really love it. When you’re young, you’re just like, ‘Ahh I’m gonna be famous! I wanna be famous!’ Now I’m just like, 'Fuck that shit, actually I just want my love for music to be famous.'

You started off with covers of RnB tracks you created in your bedroom. Did you tidy up your room before pressing record?

Nope! I didn’t even put make-up on… I was disgusting. I was so nasty. I look at them [now and] I’m like, ‘Eww, what’s wrong with me!?’ Lazy ass videos, that’s what they are.

Obviously the YouTube stuff really helped garner attention. How beneficial do you think social media’s been to your career as a whole?

Oh, it was amazing! It helped me like… I’m here! I’d still be here some way if the internet wasn’t there, like doing other shit like live performances and all that, but the internet makes it easy for everyone to access you.

Lots of people say that the social media persona of someone can be quite a carefully curated image, but you seem pretty out there: you always post Vines of yourself up close and personal, with no make-up, etc. Is that something you actively try avoid doing?

Trying so hard takes up a lot of your time, trying to fake shit and I’m just too lazy to do all that. I just put it up. This is who I am. We all make mistakes, I can’t try and edit everything.

We salute you for that! You’ve always got some pretty awesomely bonkers clothes on, too. What inspires your sense of fashion?

Honestly, this may sound annoying but when I get dressed it’s literally like a pile of clothes and I just put it on. But beforehand I go thrifting and I make sure I pick items that I really like because I have no time to be like, ‘Oh this goes with this…’ so whatever I do pull it's like a cool, random selection. I make sure that I like everything. If I put on an outfit that I don’t like I’m like, 'I did something bad in shopping.'

I don’t know about you but lot of the time we buy something and then try it on later and are like ‘actually…’

My life. All the time. That’s why I wear the same things like every day.

READ MORE: Girlband M.O Talk Sex And The Spice Girls

You get a lot of compliments on Instagram of the ‘OMG you’re so beautiful’ variety. Do you think it’s easier or more difficult to make your way in the music industry as a good-looking female?

Honestly, it is pressure because you want to look good for yourself besides the whole music and stuff, you want to look good for yourself and make sure you feel good about yourself and there’s gonna be people like, ‘Damn! Looking fly!’ So you try be your best for yourself but its all about preference – some people are going to think you’re ugly, some people are going to think you’re cute. You can’t really think about that too much because then you get consumed with how you look and you’re not thinking about what you’re doing it for. It’s like, ‘Do I look pretty?’ Bitch,whatever! You look like you!'

*Maxine Ashley's EP Mood Swings is out **15 *September on iTunes.

**Like this? Then you might also be interested in: **

Malala Yousef Doesn't Really Get Modern Pop Music But That's Cool

Career Advice From Music Legend Nile Rogers: 'We Want To Bring Freaks Into The Work Force'

Anna Calvi: 'I Find It Strange That Women Are Seen As A Minority

Follow Alya on Twitter @MoorizZLA

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us