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Ashley Poole Keeps The Dream Alive With A Solo Career
Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If you’re of a certain age, hearing Bad Boy girl group Dream’s hit single, “He Loves U Not” likely sparks some memories, or at the very least a smile. The infectious tune was a TRL mainstay in 2000, & is a defining song of that era’s pop music scene.

When “He Loves U Not” launched Dream to national prominence the four young ladies of the group were just entering their teenage years, and they were still in those teenage years when Dream disbanded, and each member found themselves on their own.

With the group now in her distant past, and having experienced a roller coaster ride, both professionally and personally, in the years since their breakup, former Dream member Ashley Poole has been working her way back into the spotlight as a solo artist.

Before her recent headlining show at Mercury Lounge in NYC, I caught up with Poole to find out more about her new projects, her tumultuous journey from the breakup of Dream to finding success as a solo artist, and some of the memorable times she had with her former group.

Adam Bernard: Dream never formally disbanded, and I know you attempted to create another project with two of the women from the group. When was the first time you hit the studio alone, and completely realized you were now a solo artist?

Ashley Poole: I actually did some solo stuff directly out of Dream. I was like 19, and I started to do pop, R&B, country, rock, just really trying to figure out who I was an artist, and through that time the girls and I reconnected, the two girls that you're talking about, Melissa (Schuman) and Diana (Ortiz), and we decided to give it another go.

We love doing music together. It’s really actually pure. It’s not so much about anything but the fact that we like to sing together.

We were doing that for about three years, so it kind of got a little bit too slow for me in the sense that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life, so I was ready to take it to another level. That’s when I really decided to go solo again, not that I decided the first time, they quit, so I had to, but I decided to go solo, and since then it’s been a moving train.

Adam Bernard: On your site you have eighty bajillion remixes to your single “It Feels Right.” How did you manage to get the song in so many producers’ hands?

Ashley Poole: Well, we’re hustlers, first off. Actually, a lot of producers, I think, were excited about the song, and wanted to do their own thing to it, so that’s one of the reasons we have so many remixes. It kind of took on a life of its own.

It’s a really fun pop song, and the UK, it’s a very good vibe for them over there, so that’s where remixes come into play.

Adam Bernard: Were you surprised that so many remixes came in?

Ashley Poole: No. Honestly, my whole team, we work really really hard, and we’re always accepting, and listening to, new people and new things, so the doors really open for us, and when the opportunity is there we seize it.

Adam Bernard: Going back in time a bit, Dream had a meteoric rise with “He Loves U Not.” What aspects of fame were you completely unprepared for?

Ashley Poole: All of it. I mean, I’m a small town girl from Blythe, California, so I didn’t know anything about Hollywood, or how Hollywood worked. Some of the other girls had been doing theater, or auditioning for movies, and things like that, so they were a little bit more ready for the music business, but I was just completely green, so I wasn’t prepared for any of it.

It’s a lot of hard work. It’s not what people think it is. I basically slept between two fat guys on (a) coach (bus), that was my bed for a long time, and we did eight hour dance rehearsals on top of everything.

There’s just so much that goes into everything. I wasn’t prepared for any of it, but it was honestly more good than bad. It was the most amazing time of my life, and I plan to do it all over again.

Adam Bernard: I know you were young when it all happened, so the craziness may have been slightly muted, but give me a situation you found yourself in that you feel represents the absolute height of fame for Dream.

Ashley Poole: I remember we were going to be announcing on the AMA awards, and that was a big deal because it wasn’t just sitting in the audience, we got to announce, and I’m crazy, so I think I reworded the script, and shouted out our album, and that was a really cool moment. Being backstage with all these famous people who knew who were were, that was definitely one of the highlights.

Another one that sticks in my head big time was when our second single, “This Is Me,” came out, and MTV, they loved us, and just played the crap out of our music; we were the first artist to be in the middle of Times Square, on the big screen, premiering our song. That was surreal. We were well established at that point, but I felt like a little kid who was just like, “Oh my God,” geeking out. That was amazing.

Adam Bernard: That was during TRL days, when fans used to stand outside with signs.

Ashley Poole: Crazy amazing fans that used to stand outside in lines, and get your album. Those were the days.

Adam Bernard: Were there any memorable signs? I remember some of them could get kind of weird.

Ashley Poole: Memorable fans. I don’t remember signs, in particular, but my fans, mine in particular, there are two of them here (at the show) that have been my fans for 13 years, and they’re hardcore, they made me t-shirts, they made flyers, they’re amazing, so I have fans that I remember.

Adam Bernard: You’ve had your ups and downs in music, and this industry has a reputation for chewing artists up and spitting them out. With that in mind, was there ever a time when you felt beaten down by music?

Ashley Poole: Yeah, I mean, all the time. There are times I’m still beaten down now, but this is my choice, this is where I want to be, and this is what I love to do.

This music industry is extremely tough, but if it’s what you love to do you have to be strong enough to handle it all, and be a male and a female, so they won’t look at you like a sweet little fragile young girl. You’ve gotta be able to handle yourself, and make good decisions, and they are my decisions, it all falls on me.

Adam Bernard: When was the first time you had to stand up and be like, “Hey, not a little girl, not 12 years old anymore?”

Ashley Poole: I still battle with that. I still feel like a little kid, but when Dream ended, the moment Dream ended I was on my own. I didn’t have my label, I didn’t have my management, I was by myself, so I had to figure it out, and if I wanted to be in this industry I had to go make the phone calls, and knock on the doors, and figure it out, and do that hustle. That was the first time I think I really felt that.

Adam Bernard: Percentage-wise, how many people disappeared at that point in your life?

Ashley Poole: Everyone.

Adam Bernard: You still had the girls from the group you ended up working with again, so at least two people stuck around, right?

Ashley Poole: At that time nobody stuck around. Everybody had split. That’s just the truth of the story. I was very lonely. It was probably one of the roughest times of my life, (one of) the most lonely and hard times of my life, and scary times, but through that is when I had to learn what I was made of. Am I strong? Do I really want to do this? Do I feel sorry for myself? I had to pick myself up.

I struggled extremely hard. I was literally left with no one. My family was four hours away. I literally had nobody, but I picked myself up, and made new friends, and continued to knock on doors until I started doing music again.

Adam Bernard: How did you not sink into a depression?

Ashley Poole: I did. I was depressed in a very very real way, and I battle with depression in general, but I fight it. It was a very scary moment for me, but I battled it, and I fought it, and dealt with it.

Adam Bernard: When you reconnected with Melissa and Diana did you find they had similar stories in terms of how they felt after everything happened?

Ashley Poole: We’re all very different, that’s what made us such a great girl group. We all come from very different backgrounds, we all have very different beliefs, so they didn’t handle it, I think, the way I did. They also had their families to go home to. That’s a whole different thing. I was literally left alone.

Adam Bernard: Yours was four hours away.

Ashley Poole: Yes, exactly, and we were all so young, so even if I was hurt then, I look back now and realize we were all dealing with it the best that we could, regardless of what happened. They dealt with it differently, though, for sure. We all dealt with it differently.

Adam Bernard: Did it ever cross your mind to move back home, or was that something that simply wasn’t going to happen?

Ashley Poole: It has now and then, but I go there for a weekend and (it’s like) bye Felicia, it’s time to go. I left when I was 12 for a reason. I love my hometown to death, my first single was based off of that, but it’s not where I am as comfortable. I stick out like a sore thumb there, and they all know it.

Adam Bernard: I know it must seem like forever ago, but you toured with Destiny’s Child, Eve, and Nelly back in the day. What was the wildest thing that happened on that tour?

Ashley Poole: Gosh, there were so many (things). That tour was amazing, and crazy at the same time. Jessica Simpson was there, too, and 3LW, there were a lot of us artists. One (memory) that’s popping in my head right now, we were four young white girls, who were like doing their homework on the side, we were really like honest to God good girls, and I remember Nelly going around on his bike backstage and he ended up coming into our bus, and Destiny’s Child had given us these robes, which I still have, these long black robes that have each of our names on them, and I was changing, and I had my robe on, and Nelly comes in, and I’m not wearing anything underneath, and I’m like “HI NELLY!”

He was so nice, he was so super super nice.

Adam Bernard: You mentioned Destiny’s Child gave you the robes. Do you have a Beyonce, or a Destiny’s Child, story from your time on the road together?

Ashley Poole: We were pretty separate from them because I think the age difference was a big deal, and we had 3LW on there, and they were our age, so we kind of hung with them, but Beyonce, I will say this, they used to come and watch us (perform), and we were like, “Why would they come out and watch us,” Beyonce in particular.

What I know about her is that she studies everything. She’s not stuck in her own world, and that’s probably why she’s so great, she looks at everyone, even the amateurs.

She used to watch our shows, and I, in turn, would go and watch every single one of her shows, and at that time Beyonce was doing Dangerously in Love, so they all had their own single moment, and every time she would get on stage it would literally be so connected, and that, as an artist, is very difficult to do. It wasn’t just doing the moves, she was in that moment. That was something I learned from her. That's what I’ve always wanted to do, and seeing someone do that every night, it was something I learned is possible.

That was really the only relationship we had with them, we were learning from each other.

Adam Bernard: Staying on the topic of learning things, what’s the most important lesson you learned during your early years in the industry that you’re still applying to your career today?

Ashley Poole: That if I truly work hard enough at something, especially the things that I lack in, I can achieve them.

I’m not the best dancer. I wasn’t the lead singer. I am just a small town girl. I didn’t have the same things that everybody else grew up with, so everything that I have done has been my hard work.

During the second album I got on half the album, which is unheard of for a girl group. Usually they keep the same formula. I started writing on every song, and I still write all of my songs.

I would do the eight hour dance rehearsals and go home and practice more, and I would beg the producers, please please please just try me, just try me, and I would practice and practice and practice.

What I learned from many people, Laurieann Gibson was a part of that, Kenny Burns, and all of these people who I learned from who are amazing to this day, Vincent Herbert, was that if I practice hard enough I can be as good as I want to be, and I can compete. That was honestly the biggest lesson that I’ve learned to this day, that I hold true.

Adam Bernard: Finally, a lot of people, when they end up parting ways with Bad Boy, don’t have great feeling towards the label. How was your Bad Boy experience? Do you feel like you left in a better place than when you arrived?

Ashley Poole: I never had any problems with Bad Boy, and Bad Boy never quit me, the girls quit Bad Boy. Diddy and I still have a great relationship. Every time I see Puff he takes time to say hello to me, he knows me by my name, and if we’re somewhere he’s always promoting me, shouting me out.

I support him, he supports me, and I have no hard feelings at all. He gave me my first deal, and everybody in my crew that came from him, like I said earlier, like Laurieann Gibson, those are people that I wouldn't have been introduced to had it not been for Bad Boy.

Everybody in Bad Boy is still family to me. They still treat me like family. I can go there any day of the week that I want and they will treat me like family, so I, personally, have a different experience, maybe, than other people.

Also, the thing with Puff that people need to understand, yes he’s an artist, but he was my boss, so it was his job to tell me if I was doing something that was less than (my best), and why wouldn’t I want my boss to do that when it reflects on what I’m gonna be looking like? He never said anything that wasn’t true, or real, or that didn’t help me, so for me, I didn’t have the experience that other people did, maybe, if that’s what you're talking about. All love.

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 1:00 PM  
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