The best music is always the most relatable music. You know what we’re getting at… It’s not a coincidence that artists such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, and Neil Young are regarded as songwriting Gods. It’s not their individual musical talents that got them to where they are; it’s their heart, desire, and authenticity. An artist in the same vain is Ashley Virginia, who’s hitting us with her new Alexei Mejouev-directed and edited music video for “What’s On The Way” today, in preparation for the release of her new record And Life Just Goes On Living on August 13th. The video has a real flower power undertone to it, with Virginia seemingly at peace with her surroundings, as she twists, turns, and picks at flowers out of the ground. It’s a “keep calm and carry on” type of song, a theme that threads itself through the album’s eleven tracks.
An artist that prides herself on her honesty, And Life Just Goes On Living is quite a confessional piece of work. Not afraid to hide herself, Virginia has been very open and honest about her battles with her depression and mental health. “Apathy Blues,” in particular, emphasizes the general raw themes around the album, of dealing with mental health disorders. In writing these songs, Virginia viewed them as diary entries, songs meant to help her process her thoughts, but also to inspire herself, and others. In keeping with its ’60s influences, the lyrics are also meant to be motivational, words to encourage others to use their voice and be heard. There are certainly political undercurrents, which is not surprising given the political and social state of the U.S. in which these songs began to come together.
As an accompaniment to the premiere of the “What’s On The Way” video, Virginia has shared with us a special album commentary, where she touches on each song on And Life Just Goes On Living. Read on as she details her thought process and point of view in this special track-by-track rundown.
1. “To Be Dreaming”
Ashley Virginia: “Right before the pandemic hit, it felt like I was really starting to develop my stride. The sudden loss and isolation COVID brought on made me fall HARD back into depression and dissociation. The message behind the song is a little disguised by the cheerfulness of the tune, but it’s really about disassociation.”
2. “She’s So Tired”
“I wrote this song as an assignment for a songwriting class back in college. The opening line of the verse started as a throwaway line, ‘My mind is blank, I can’t think of anything to say,’ as I was literally struggling to come up with something to write about. This class really helped me to enter that creative liminal space where you don’t criticize your thoughts. The music and lyrics flowed out and the message revealed itself as I went along. It was really a eureka moment, realizing what I needed to do to break free from the spell.”
“‘Bellyache’ was written after giving advice to my best friend who was struggling at the time. As I got deeper into therapy and understanding of my mental illness, I became really good at giving other people advice on how to deal with their problems. I had that eureka! Nonetheless, it was, and is still at times, difficult to apply that same advice and love to my own life. Realization is one thing, but practice and implementation is another. I can preach about love and healing, but in reality I am flawed and struggle like anyone else. I don’t have all the answers. My songwriting is often my way of reflecting on the darkness within myself.”
“I’m really proud of the fact that I wrote this song in a complete stream-of-consciousness freestyle. Luckily, I had my phone voice memo recording as I sat at the keyboard improvising. Later on, I sat down and listened back and decided to keep it. I take the song to be a message from my higher self to let go of worry and just be.”
5. “Apathy Blues”
“‘Apathy Blues’ is a protest song about how constant consumption breeds apathy. The never ceasing intake of bad news after bad news makes one feel powerless. There are so many problematic aspects of American culture that are not normal, but with no obvious solution, we just learned to get used to it as a way to cope.”
6. “The Pause”
“Coming dead smack in the middle of the album (and the end of side A on the record), ‘The Pause,’ is a reflection on how caught up we get in the hustle bustle. I got to a point where I constantly had to be productive and distracted to not break down. I was constantly looking forward and keeping busy because I was afraid to be alone with my own thoughts. I think the line from verse two explains the overall message pretty well, ‘The time for repose is one that’s supposed to help me to see the good everywhere, but I’m caught unaware of beauty right in front of me. Outside the birds are singing, and life just goes on living’ (the album title!).”
7. “Invisible Hand”
“This is a protest song about capitalism. ‘Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and work hard, and you can be rich like me!,’ says the corporate elite as they exploit our labour while dangling the carrot of ‘The American Dream’ over our heads. The sad truth is, that wealth and promise is unattainable for most of us, and the lucky and privileged few will do everything in their power to keep it that way. Our society values money over our collective well being, and so most of our society’s problems (including mental illness) are, in part, a symptom of that.”
8. “My Mother Grows Tired of My Sad Songs”
“I wrote this after an actual conversation with my wonderful mother, who loves my songwriting, but naturally worries about me and wishes I could write happy tunes. I don’t write music simply to entertain, I write to process emotions not easily expressed otherwise. Songwriting is my diary. I started sharing my songs after realizing that they resonate with others, and that made me feel a little less alone.”
9. “What’s On The Way”
“This song is based on advice from two dear friends of mine, to stop worrying so much. The line, ‘what’s on the way is already coming,’ was given to me by them, and so they are partially credited as songwriters on this tune. Letting go of that worry is, of course, a little hard to do when you have an anxiety disorder, and so I wrote a song about it to remind myself.”
“A big part of my healing has been found through an understanding of my childhood trauma and pain. The lyrics of this tune are a reflection on what my inner child cries for and the ways those wounds continue to reverberate in my life. This song is my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. The chorus of ‘ahh’ is meant to symbolize the cries of my inner child. It was a really healing song to write!”
11. “Above The Clouds (Come Down)”
“I wrote this song back in October of 2020 when I had hit an all time low. To be real with you, I was seriously contemplating whether I wanted to even live anymore. To get away, I took a retreat to the mountains of West Virginia and spent a week ‘getting lost’ in the woods. There was no WIFI and no cell service there, and honestly, it was the happiest I have ever felt in my life. That trip gave me the perspective I needed to begin to heal again.
When I listen to this track on the album, it feels like the curtain call; the credits are rolling and you feel just a glimmer of hope. The final chorus is made up of family and friends who pre-ordered the album and made this project possible.”