INTERVIEW: Ashley Kutcher clears her mind and bares her soul ahead of opening tour stop at The Echo

New York-based Baltimore native Ashley Kutcher is set to play her biggest stretch of performances to date, the Survive My Own Mind On Tour, kicking off Wednesday at Echo Park club The Echo. Singer-songwriter Kutcher journeys to major North American cities through mid-February, with a number of dates already sold out and she is no stranger to sold-out shows either, performing to a packed house in 2022 at LA’s Moroccan Lounge and New York’s Mercury Lounge. Despite the fandom, Kutcher really did not know what to expect with fans, breaking out during the pandemic in fall 2020 with “Love You From A Distance”, which resonated with fans and catapulted her career. With 2021 EP One Eighty and a new collection hitting the airwaves in fall 2022 entitled Survive My Own Mind, her consistent releases showcase a 24-year-old in control of her own destiny. While it may sound like Kutcher is diving deep into her head, the songs are a blend of the feels, vulnerability and a vocal tone that has just the right sweetness and purity, power and urgency. This “mind” is also one heck of a songwriter, delivering original tunes on guitar and tackling romance, loneliness, BS and connection.

In preparation for her tour, Kutcher doesn’t just flip a switch and grab her guitar in the spotlight. Rather, there’s lots of planning and creative choices that go into the process. From the rehearsals to tweaking songs to even getting enough sleep and scheduling in some personal fitness. 

“It’s funny ‘cause rehearsals are not crazy long in person, I had about two days of rehearsal, but the prep is a lot more. Derek [Broomhead] is drumming for me but he also does the tracks and the light show. I send some of the stuff over to the producers as well, get volumes leveled and what the audience would want to hear. When we get into these rehearsals we only get in two days and the first day is always hectic, adjusting the levels the entire time. The second day we just run through as much as we could and had a great time. We are super excited about it, there’s still some lighting things. I’ve been in the gym to do things to get my heart rate going, last time I did that I was like it’s a lot of adrenaline but if it wears off. It’s a lot of work. Luckily there’s not a lot of dancing. I do a lot of biking and do a course online by a coach. I’m so grateful that I’m a little older now and I know how to handle things”.

Kutcher played at bars and coffee shops in Baltimore, building up her fanbase in the region and on social media, earning some pocket change and eventually graduating with a nursing degree from Towson University as well as signing a recording contract with Darkroom/Interscope Records. Her tune “Love You From A Distance” was taking off, mirroring the shared emotion of 2020: connection without contact. She’s been at it in New York for a few years, bouncing back to Baltimore as much as possible.

“So I grew up in Baltimore and lived here my whole life. I never expected to move, I thought I was going to be a nurse and I’d just get a job in Baltimore. It really scared me at first —moving—so I decided to try out New York City since it’s only three hours for me. I love New York. There aren’t a lot of musicians anymore, from what I’ve heard so it was a little of a struggle, writing a lot alone in my apartment, which was fine for me. This year was a challenge for me to get uncomfortable, you can’t stay in your comfort zone in this industry. I am actually moving out to Los Angeles, which I never thought would happen. I’ve worked with producers and some really great people out there, so my goal is to move out there in a bit and bring my dog with me. I feel like I do owe a lot of my success to starting out here, in an unsaturated environment, just doing so many things that wouldn’t have been accessible to me”.

Ashley Kutcher also grew up in somewhat of a musical family, in a house on the water, absorbing a lot of Jason Mraz and hearing plenty of Bob Marley from her father. “My dad had a drum set ever since I was young, and that drum set moved when we moved. He built a room in the basement with music equipment and he was very passionate and critical of music. I was definitely raised to like music. A lot of music and a lot of reggae. My sister and I always did the karaoke thing, instead of playing games we would go to the music room and my dad would play something. It’s just what we did for fun. I gravitated toward guitar. I was put in piano lessons when I was younger but I just didn’t fall in love with it as much as guitar. I think around 16 is when I got my first guitar, it was a Seagull; I actually have a tattoo of it on me. 

Kutcher admitted that she was a shy kid and that he sister was more outgoing, and that she felt more comfortable on stage than in other areas of her life. Her path in college quickly took a turn when she was asked by a local bar to play acoustic music for college students and eventually other locations. “I just played music for fun and made good money for a college student. My fingers would turn purple sometimes when I played gigs and I just did it because it was good money. With nursing I wanted to help people. I like communicating with people. I just like being engaged with other people, talking to patients, bedside, helping them, I love building connections. I was building a small following online and people said my music was helping them. It’s nice to hear other people talk about it. At the end of the day, misery does love company. Music felt like a better way to reach more people at the end of the day and to connect with people”.

On the tune “Nothing’s All The Time” from the recent EP, Kutcher offers a lyrical moment well beyond her years, singing “Good things don’t last, but neither do the bad things”. The warm, feel-good track has a pulse with acoustic guitar and it is perhaps a song we all need to hear, about appreciating what is happening in the present, while also remembering that tough times are not permanent. Her voice soars on this one, and it also pulls in the listener. It’s one of many songs where Kutcher is creating an ongoing conversation helping young peers and listeners of all ages to cope and to heal. She’s aware her songs are hitting people in various ways and it’s just as powerful for Kutcher as it is for her fans when they connect.

“ I would say the most impactful things that I have really sat back and watched were people’s covers. The fact that people actually sat down to learn chords and lyrics to my songs really hit me. [It was] after my first headline show in LA, when I was meeting everybody. I’m very communicative but I’m not this big social person, out. I’m not always the one talking, I was amazed and blown away just how people’s reactions included people crying, which I’ve never experienced in my life. It’s overwhelming but it reminds me that I’m doing something important to help people. When I got on the plane I was just crying watching people’s videos. I thought this was a moment I’d always remember forever. 

She swears she felt the same way in New York, but clarified that LA was the first time she ever met fans in person. Kutcher even mentioned while watching videos on the plane, it sparked a simple yet impactful way to build up her moment walking on stage for her upcoming tour intro. Kutcher’s songwriting hits her fans and a lot of her songs are emotional so she of course embraces discussion on mental health, even though she most certainly does not dwell on it.

“I will say, the reason why I talked about it is because I grew up with severe anxiety where I dropped out of school twice. I felt like I couldn’t even be in class or out in public. I think I didn’t realize how powerful my mind was at the time. Once I found out in and out of the hospital and had tests on my stomach, I realized how connected the body and the mind were. That’s something I didn’t see anyone talking about, the not eating, not being able to leave your house, like agoraphobia. It’s genetic, it’s in your family. But the good thing about it with this panic disorder is it’s the one thing you can work on getting better. You’re very prone to feel feelings more than other people. Once I open up about it, people are like you know, me too. It makes me feel so much less alone to know that it’s not something crazy. I want to prove to myself that I am in control of myself. We’re not alone but you can get past these things and you don’t have to label yourselves and it’s not what defines you. If you told me when I was going through this in high school and college that I’d have to travel the country I would be like you’re crazy, I can’t even go to class right now. I may be uncomfortable but this will better my life, I want to do things that scare me”.

The voice is special, there’s some soul in there and some serious songwriting chops and confidence, along the lines of a Meghan Trainor or a Maren Morris, but there’s also the delicate nature of a Chelsea Cutler. Another of Kutcher’s newer songs called “Sleepy” captures the true essence of a love song, not too mushy, just sweet and honest. In this renewed age of singer-songwriters (both male and female), Kutcher is poised to make her mark among the best.

“I grew up listening to Chelsea. Me and my friends have seen her. I never wanted to do straight-up pop music, it’s not my thing. I think a lot of people like James TW and Ella Mai and Kiana Ledé and acoustic-based songs and a ton of Hozier. I kind of went on a journey and era where I want to go just straight pop, and I love people for loving them but at this point I thought about what is the music you really like? And I listened to my top favorites. Sometimes it’s just about the melodies and the emotion of the song that really draws you in. Sleepy, the melody just pulls me in”.

Brand new tune “Everyone and No One” was release on Friday, another beautiful ballad exploring seen and lonely in the same breath. It’s about being appreciated but also wondering where the person stands and it starts a wonderful new chapter of music for Kutcher, the perfect song to cozy up to this winter with a blanket and a hot beverage.

“It really is a question. It could be taken as a happy thing. In relationships in the past, situationships, how a relationship is great in private but not hidden and how it can really mess with you. Are you going to get along with their family, will they take you to their family, introduce you to their friends. A relationship is really not just two people at the end of the day”.

Ashley Kutcher plays The Echo tomorrow, Wednesday, January 25 with support from singer-songwriter Rosie Darling, who joins the 10 dates.

Survive My Own Mind On Tour dates:

1/25: Los Angeles at The Echo (SOLD OUT)
1/27: Phoenix at Valley Bar
1/29: Houston at White Oak (Upstairs)
2/1: Atlanta at Aisle 5
2/2: Nashville at The End
2/4: Washington, D.C. at DC9 (SOLD OUT)
2/6: Boston at Cafe 939 (SOLD OUT)
2/9: New York at Baby’s Alright (SOLD OUT)
2/11: Toronto at The Drake
2/13: Chicago at Schubas

Words by Michael Menachem
Main image by Grace Campbell