Chris Mountford spoke to London-based R&B gospel singer ASHA ELIA
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Asha: I just used to sing in the shower really. I loved music but I definitely wasn't a singer. But because my friend helped me with it, he was able to show me the ropes, help me stay in key and stuff.
Chris: I mentioned at the beginning a song called "Nights Like This", which I think you released as a single but is also featured on an EP called 'New Woke Deal', 2020. Some of our listeners will have heard that. What's the song about?
Asha: "Nights Like This" was basically about a time when I got tired of living by rules and regulations and I said to God, "It's too hard, so I'm going to go off and do my own thing for a while." Then I realised after I got my heart broken that God makes these rules and laws and stuff for a reason because he loves us. It was that realisation that there is so much hope in life even after pain. The whole concept of 'New Woke Deal' was becoming awake as a dedication now to being awake in the spirit.
Chris: The song was really a breakthrough song for you because it got picked up by DJ Target on BBC Radio 1 Extra and was nominated for a MOBO award as well. Tell me the story about how you became a Christian.
Asha: I didn't grow up in the church and when I went to uni I went to Freshers week and pre-Freshers and it was a lot. I realised that partying and alcohol isn't all that it's cracked up to be, got a bit boring and tiring as well. And I just kept meeting Christians around campus and they'd always say 'do you want to come to church with us' and I'd go. One day I decided to give my life to Christ because there was something about all the Christians that I'd meet that was really intriguing. They were different to everyone else and I thought to myself whatever they have, I want it. I gave my life to Christ and my whole life went into a 180 and I've been growing ever since.
Chris: I want to pick out one or two of your more recent songs. Tell me about "New Me".
Asha: That was written about realising my new identity in Christ and the reality of it, it not just being words on paper but the fact that I get to have that new identity whether my behaviours match up yet or not. Just continuing to speak that over myself. I realised that the behaviours will follow my identity. It was me switching it up because for a long time I felt like a bad Christian because my behaviours weren't lining up. But once I'd switched my identity first, the behaviours started to fall in line. It's very easy at the start of our Christian journey to be like ok, being a Christian means I do this and do that and I don't do this, this and that. When life hits us and we realise that we're not as good as we want to be we feel ashamed, like God's going to be angry at me or I'm not good enough. Or everyone else seems to be living right and I'm the only one who's not. When really that is not what faith is about; it's about getting to know God, getting to know his heart for us, getting to know him as a real person, as our father. We've been adopted into the family of Christ so none of our behaviours will take that away from us. For me what I realised is when my behaviours don't line up with my identity in Christ that's not a reason to pull back and isolate myself. It means I need more of God. It means that I need to keep coming into his presence and keep receiving his loving, reading his word, praying, staying in community and keep reaching out to church
Chris: Asha, tell us more about the latest single "Love Is Sweet".
Asha: That was about my fiancé. It was about some of the questions that I asked leading up to the engagement. Like is this a God thing? Like I need to be sure. But I felt I was sure from the start but I had to ask this question. Mostly he was asking this question like we really need to dig into God about this. Some of the questions about dating as a Christian and acknowledging what real love looks like and how sweet it is.
Chris: And it did turn out to be it?
Asha: It did turn out to be it and in the song as well I talk about feeling that peace deep inside. In one of my past relationships I felt such a lack of peace that my chest would physically hurt every time I prayed. I actually felt peace this time, I know this is right. That was important to me to not repeat the cycle.
Chris: Coming up very soon you'll be able to spread your music alongside one or two other artists around the country so tell me about Lifted tour.
Asha: That's going to be me, Still Shadey and Annatoria. We're going to four cities around the UK, Birmingham, London, Manchester and Bristol (I'm so excited about Bristol). It's going to be beautiful - we're like three musketeers. It's going to be some of the longest sets that me and Annatoria have done so it's going to be challenging but I thought we'll be able to give the people that come a real experience of the live music as opposed to just listening on earphones.
Chris: Have you been able to tour much and take your music out and about live or is this very much a new thing for you?
Asha: Since Covid was all wrapped up I've been doing more and more shows. I was able to go to Canada in February which was my first international show and that was really fun. Since Covid was wrapped up I've been on a mission to get out there performing and work on my vocals, on stage presence, all of these different things.
Chris: That's brilliant, Asha. All the best with the tour and thanks very much for joining us on Cross Rhythms today.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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