Ashlee Keating’s laser focus sets her apart from many rising pop stars. It’s increasingly rare for a 29 year old to know exactly who they are, but for Keating, the deal was sealed even before she made it to her teens. After performing on television by the age of three and making her Broadway debut at six in The Sound of Music, Keating was already well on her way to realizing her only dream of making music as a recording artist.
It makes sense then that Keating’s club-ready electropop has been adopted by gay clubs and fans from within the LGBTQ+ community. Keating’s empowered self-assurance translates into her music – including last year’s sugary single, “SAUCY” – giving the impression of an artist that’s not doing anything but herself. As she says, “You do you, boo.”
We spoke to Keating about the road to realizing her dreams, the things that fuel her inspiration, and believing that music has the ability to make the world a better place. Read The Untitled Magazine’s interview with Ashlee Keating below.
What was life like growing up in Jersey?
It was great! Definitely gave me my background of who I am today as a person and as an artist. I’ll never lose my Jersey girl self. I love where I come from and where I grew up.
What led to getting your start in music? Are you from a musical family?
Believe it or not, no one in my family has a musical background. I am the very creative, different one making my own path. To be honest, I knew the minute I was born who I was and what I was destined to do. It was a feeling that never went away. I started singing at three years old on a TV show in Philadelphia, PA on ABC called Al Alberts Showcase. I always wanted to sing, perform, and be in front of the camera.
You began your performing career on the Broadway stage at only six years old. What was the role, and do you remember what that experience was like?
Yes! It was the best experience; forever grateful for it. I played the role Gretl in The Sound of Music. I’m very visual, so I remember the way the Broadway theatre looked and certain moments with the cast and what the set looked like. It was such a magical time.
How did the transition from musical theatre into your career as a recording artist happen for you?
I think my musical background really helped lead me and give me even more confidence as a recording artist. I sing live and dance at the same time, which is what you do in musical theatre, which I feel helped a lot – as well as my stage presence – transitioning to the artist I am now. I actually was recording a soundtrack for a local play as a kid, and it was really the first time I had been in the recording studio. I remember just being in awe of the vocal booth and how I sounded on the mic hearing myself back. It was like magic, and I knew I wanted to be in the recording studio doing more, eventually.
What attracted you to music? Did you continue to act as you pursued it?
To be honest, music was really my first love and heart and soul. Music speaks to me. It’s also my therapy. Any emotion I’m feeling determines what music I listen to and sets my mood. It’s always what I turn to. Yes, acting will always play a huge part in my life as well. I love being a storyteller through my craft. Anytime a great acting opportunity comes up, I’m all about it.
Your latest release sees you putting a dance-pop spin on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Why did you cover this particular Christmas song? Does it hold any significance to you?
I’ve always loved this Christmas classic song. It’s such a memorable melody and has great lyrics, and I always listened to it growing up during the holidays. I wanted to do my own original remake version that was upbeat/pop, but with a make-you-want-to-dance type vibe to it.
The video is just as fun and glitzy as the song. What inspired the concept?
Awe, thank you! I just wanted it to be a fierce visual with fun dance moves and great looks.
You released “SAUCY” in early June, and its dance/electropop sound definitely fits right into Pride Month. Was that intentional?
Thank you! No, not at all actually, but the lyrics definitely speak to that community and not being afraid to be your “SAUCY” self [Laughs]. I definitely wanted a feel-good, make you want to dance, self-confidence type anthem.
One of the producers on “SAUCY” is Tommy Brown, who has worked very closely with Ariana Grande throughout her career. How was it to work with him?
I’m forever grateful to have worked on this project with him and his amazing team from Champagne Therapy Group. They’re all so insanely talented! It was so cool. We were able to collaborate and work on this project during the pandemic and write my music over zoom.
Who inspires you musically? Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
So many artists inspire me! Madonna, Beyoncé, JLo, Gwen Stefani, Fergie, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Jessie J, Christina Aguilera, Post Malone, Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars – the list goes on. I would absolutely love to collab with Lizzo and Latto currently, and a ton of other artists too.
Lyrically, a lot of your music incorporates themes of female and LGBTQ+ empowerment. How does the LGBTQ+ community inspire you as an artist?
I love how they express themselves with such freedom and authenticity. I think that’s so important, to just continue to “do you boo” [Laughs]. They inspire me in so many ways, and I have members of the LGBTQ+ community in my family, so it inspires me to write music as well.
You’re also an outspoken activist for women and the LGBTQ+ community beyond your music. What can you tell us about your philanthropic endeavors and why they’re important to you?
I always loved being a philanthropist and giving back as much as possible. I believe in continuing to make the world a better place through my platform and gifts. I work with different charities that I have a close connection to or believe in helping heavily, like women empowerment, mental health, LGBTQ+, children’s hospitals, autism, and many more.
What’s next for you? Is there an album in the works?
Obviously! Don’t worry… My debut official project is coming very soon; waiting to release. I’m so excited to share it! I’ll definitely be out and about performing this year as well. I’ve been very busy and excited for all the amazing things I’m working on, currently. Stay tuned to my social media. @ashleeekeating and @ashleekeatingmusic.
For more from Ashlee, follow her socials: Instagram | TikTok | Twitter | Facebook