Mason Ashley Discusses Paper Planes and Strangers

Falling in love with music and writing at a very young age, singer/songwriter Mason Ashley drew from her emotions and experiences by documenting them into lyrics in her journals. She has allowed herself to understand her life and different circumstances and events that have happened to her through her lyricism. This includes her latest single and music video, “Paper Planes.” Just released about a week ago, the emotional ballad focuses on the realization of a relationship gone bad.

“When I was sixteen, I met an older boy—that happened to also be a songwriter—and he was kind of a loose cannon,” Mason stated about how the story for the song came about. “I knew there was no way it would end well and that I would probably end up getting hurt, but the curious part of me knew I had to see it through, and the songwriter part of me knew bad relationships always lead up to great song material,” she quips. “I wrote ‘Paper Planes’ the week I met him before our four-month relationship even started. I wrote the song in past tense almost like I was looking back on a situation that hadn’t even happened yet. I had written the melody a while back and never found the right lyrics for it until I was folding laundry one day and saw some old pajama shorts with paper planes on them, not kidding. I literally ran and grabbed my guitar and wrote the whole song in about an hour.”

The music video follows Mason walking through the ruins of an abandoned building as light beams through the windows. “The ‘Paper Planes’ music video definitely has some deep meanings for me,” Mason admits. “The whole concept was basically creating a visual metaphor for a disastrous relationship without making it too obvious. We wanted to capture the emotions of watching something fall apart right in front of you and trying to fight your way through it without losing who you are.” She shares that it was important to portray that honesty and realness that comes with that relationship, “It is fragile and messy but still pretty to look at. From the outside, it looks fine, but on the inside, it’s breaking at the seams. The old building is very symbolic of a dangerous love. You know it’s gonna crumble…but you’re too intrigued to run away from it.”

“Paper Planes” is the first single from her upcoming EP, Strangers. “Anytime I explain Strangers to anyone, I always say that it’s basically me in album form. It sounds like me, it feels like me, and it’s basically my journal,” Mason says. “It is very diverse and has some different styles on it. There’s some singer-songwriter/alternative influence, some pop influence and even some throwback 80s/90s hints in a few of the tracks. Every song sounds different than the one before it. It is a very passionate and emotionally driven album, but it’s also a fun, sing-along in the car kind of album.”

C1-7x9qWQAEU_i5The title for the EP comes from one of the songs on it which Mason says was written later on in the recording process but that was already in her mind starting out. “I had the song title, ‘Strangers’ in my notes on my phone for probably a year and never really found lyrics or a melody that fit how I wanted it to. When the song finally came along, we had already recorded most of the songs for the EP and the project was planned to be titled Paper Planes.” However, it was the pull to ‘Strangers’ that kept calling her, “When we started wrapping up the album, I just kept coming back to ‘Strangers’. I feel like the word itself is just interesting. To me, it’s about more than just people who have never met, it can also be people who are acquainted but don’t actually know anything about each other. Or about people that once knew each other well but don’t anymore. In relationships, you’re strangers when you first see each other. You might be strangers while you’re together. And there’s the part after the love is gone when you avoid each other in the grocery store making you strangers again. And those complications definitely sum up the whole album for me.”

Mason explains further how Strangers carries that kind of honesty when we talk about what she would consider her most ‘autobiographical’ line. “Honestly, this record is full of a lot of powerful lines to me. My most personal and maybe most ‘autobiographical’ lyric I’ve ever written is probably a line in the last verse of ‘Show and Tell’.”

She quotes the lyric, “Don’t you dare try to save me ’cause I’m not drowning. You’re just an anchor but I’m a kite and I’m still flying.” Mason continues, “That line hit me. It literally came out of nowhere when I was writing the song late one night and made my chest feel tight and I felt it so strong that it made me emotional. It’s a line I didn’t even fully understand at the time but now it means so much to me. I’ve ended every show with that song just because of that line. I love it because it has so many meanings.” She explains, “It’s about not letting people or someone hold me down. If you think about it, a kite doesn’t always stay perfectly up in the air, it floats based on the wind. Which is like life. We have ups and downs and we all have to ride it out. Also, obviously an anchor would keep a kite from flying away, but it wouldn’t keep it completely on the ground. It would still be in the air as if someone was holding it. So that means that even if someone has a hold on me, I’m still me.”

DSC047431Before her Strangers EP, Mason released a 5-track folk EP (some of the tracks available on her Soundcloud) titled, Into the Song a year ago. “Into the Song was really a compilation of songs written from when I was thirteen to when I started recording at almost sixteen.  It was very straightforward stylistically and was my first project to ever record. All of the songs were pretty much written and ready before we started the recording process so I didn’t really have to write for the project.” Strangers, however, was a little different. “For Strangers, ‘Paper Planes’ and ‘Show and Tell’ were the only songs written before we started pre-production. We really started working on Strangers a few months after Into the Song was released so there wasn’t much time in between. I had to make myself write for a specific project and kind of for a deadline and I’d never done that before. it was just as frustrating as it was exciting. I actually wrote quite a few tracks that didn’t end up on the record because they didn’t feel like they fit for me.”

Her songwriting process was also changed in the way that she found herself composing the songs for this project, “I typically write on guitar, but for Strangers most of the songs were actually written on a keyboard and it sent the album in a very different direction than Into the Song. This record was very experimental for me. It was a completely different genre and difference experience from the first and I feel like it definitely pushed me. It was challenging to get in the mindset of writing because I had to and not just writing when I wanted to. But I feel like it made  me a much better writer and I feel like a lot of my favorite songs on Strangers came from pushing my limits and writing style.”

“Honestly, I tend to just write what’s on my mind and I usually don’t even realize what kind of song I’ve written or even some lyrics I’ve written until later,” Mason explains about her general, or lack of, a songwriting process. Her lyrics tend to come out of inspiration which she writes about and then creates the music later to fit, “I do like to tell stories in my songs even if they aren’t in-your-face style stories. I like being honest and using metaphors to portray my emotions.”

Of course, the decision to be that honest and share so much in her music didn’t come naturally. “I used to be terrified to be too open with my music,” she stresses. “I wouldn’t even show my songs to my parents. When I finally got brave enough to start performing and showing people my music, I would only write in metaphors. I wouldn’t want anyone to know who or what I was actually writing about. I actually felt that way even when writing the songs on Into the Song. It wasn’t until this record that I realized that I love being honest. I love putting personal things in my songs. Not only do I connect to it more, but so do other people.” She quips, “Plus, it feels awesome to put in a subtle line that is very specific and obvious to the person I wrote it about, just to be like, ‘BAM you heard me’. I still love using metaphors to paint a visual picture in the listener’s mind because that’s my writing style, but I also include very specific lines and stories in my songs. Every time I play a song, it really takes me back to those moments I was writing about.”

“I never write songs about things that don’t personally happen to me, but I wrote a song called ‘You Should Know’ that will be on Strangers that wasn’t exactly inspired by a real event,” Mason reveals about what surprised her while writing. “An ex-boyfriend of mine was a songwriter and he had written a song about me and I thought about how cool that actually is. I’d never been on that side of things. I write the songs, I don’t normally get them written about me. So the song just kind of happened and it’s written about writing, if that makes sense. It’s about using lyrics to tell someone how you’re feeling instead of calling or leaving a letter on a porch like in some 90s rom-com. So, the song isn’t really about anyone, it’s just about the power of music.”

Talking more about inspiration, both in the messages in her music and how she crafted her sound, Mason says, “Inspiration is a really curious thing to me. There are times when I will sit down with a guitar and try to write and nothing will come of it. Then, I can be in the deli section at the grocery store and all of a sudden a random line pops into my head and I write it down as fast as possible before I forget. It really does come from the most random things. I like to think of those moments as little gifts. It’s like small surprises that come from somewhere inside me that I will never understand.”

“Soundwise, I draw from many artists and genres,” Mason continues. “I listen to pretty much every kind of music and I think subconsciously I get musical inspiration from any of those genres even if it’s a melody in a rap chorus or a guitar part in a country song. I really like to make the sound of a song match the emotion of the lyrics. I like it to feel like the lyrics are coming to life and making the sound for themselves. Weird, I know.”

Without a doubt, Mason’s love for music is genuine. “Music is honestly a part of everything I do, whether I’m listening to music, performing, or just writing, it really calms me down,” she muses. “If I’m stressed and I’m out somewhere, I’ll put my headphones in and get a coffee and I honestly believe those two things make everything right in the world.” Mason also expands thanks to her family for support in her endeavor, “My family is awesome. I have so many friends that never got to pursue their dreams because their parents didn’t think it was a real career or mature decision. I have never had to question my path and a lot of that is thanks to them. They push me to write and to get back into the studio and to be the best I can be. I think having that support has really made me want to work even harder to make a name for myself.”

From supporting her to being influences for her, Masons family graciously stand by her and her pursuit of her dream as well as helping her keep her mind creative through travel. “I am such a traveler at heart. When I’m out of town, I really feel like I could just travel and never stop,” she praises. “I get very inspired when I travel. Seeing new places and meeting new people usually sparks something in me and I write a lot more.”


Mason Ashley’s Mini-Playlist for Readers:

1. “The Sound” by The 1975 (or really anything by The 1975)
2. “Cool” by Troye Sivan
3. “Poetic” by Seinabo Sey
4. “Born” by OneRepublic
5. “Pull Me Down” by Mikki Ekko
6. “Not My Type At All” by Jacob Whitesides
7. “Made in Hollywood” by LANY
8. “Clean” by Taylor Swift (because Tswizzle is necessary on every playlist)
9. “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James (I’m an old soul)
10. “Robbers” by The 1975


You can stay up to date on all things Mason Ashley by following her Facebook, Website, and Twitter accounts.

Watch Mason’s Paper Planes video here.

(photo cred: Travis Reinke)

24-year-old Chicagoan and Creative Writing/Television graduate that's always writing, reading, and watching something. Future creator of television and books, co-creator of this website. Follow my Twitter and Tumblr to learn more.

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