Hailing from Brighton, England, Vern Asbury is a session guitarist, although he is trained to play the bass and drums as well – he even sings too. Supporting artists such as Lewis Capaldi, James Arthur, Paloma Faith, Rita Ora and many others, Vern has become well known in the pop music industry. We speak with him about his solo project, future plans and much more!
Why did you decide to enter the music industry?
I’ve wanted to make music my career since the age of 9. I started learning classical guitar at that age and grew up in a household with amazing guitar music playing on the record player from the get-go – The Who, The Beatles, The Stones, Hendrix, Floyd, Led Zep, Neil Young, etc, etc. As I got a bit older I was lucky to have an older brother who was into some great, influential late ’80s / early ’90s guitar bands (Husker Du, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Nirvana), so I didn’t really discover much new music for myself, but as soon as I could get a few chords going on the guitar, that was all I wanted to do.
Can you tell us about your release ‘Something Inside’?
‘Something Inside’ is a bit of a departure from songs I’ve previously written/produced. For a start, I co-wrote this one with my good pal Sam Bourne. Sam is a pretty unique talent. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a more proficient musician – he’s a master of the bass, but one of those guys who’s great at everything. We collaborated a lot on this after my initial sketch. I usually work with stick beats (live drums) but wanted to try something with programmed parts to give a more up to date pop vibe.
It’s a bittersweet song about a reluctant acceptance for second-hand love. I was thematically inspired by Pete Townshend’s ‘Second Hand Love’ from the White City album to that extent.
What was the recording and writing process like?
I record and produce my own work in my home studio, so it was suitably relaxed with no studio budget to worry about. I started the song off with a guitar loop and vocal hook and then batted it over the internet to Sam who added some starting points drums/bass/synth-wise. From that point, we knocked it back and forth adding new bits and editing along the way until the mixing process where I got some invaluable tweaks from my mate Froe Barnes (TMS).
Does the single have any significant meaning for you?
The song is fictional really, not much autobiographical stuff going on here unless my wife is having an affair?? Bloody hope not. It’s easy to exhaust the writing approach of drawing upon personal experience. I will sometimes find myself creating stories in my head to draw upon when writing lyrics. I think this one was initially inspired by reading some trashy clickbait headline on my phone.
What do you hope people take from your music?
I would hope that lyrically the song paints some sort of picture in the listener’s head, like a dreamscape or something, in the same way that when you read a book. You develop a mental picture of how everything feels/looks. I guess the music reinforces that picture and it obviously affects people in different ways.
People have their own unique experience with how they react to any form of art, I suppose. It would be interesting to know what people take away from it. Far less pretentiously, I just hope that they like it. If they don’t, well fuck ’em, they’re idiots! All of them! Sorry.
How do you keep motivated?
I think the main motivation for driving forward musically is that I don’t think I can mentally survive without it as an outlet. I need to make music, so I think I’d struggle to stay sane without it. It’s such a massive part of my makeup that I couldn’t imagine a world where I wasn’t making music. I don’t really need any motivation in that way because it’s such a passion. I guess I’m lucky that my passion isn’t climbing the north face of the Eiger in perilous weather conditions.
How would you describe your sound?
I’d say, of late, it’s more poppy than usual. I always tend to incorporate guitars and typically lean towards a bittersweet/cynical edge from a lyrical point of view. To sum up, I’d say ‘bittersweet modern guitar-led pop’.
What do you think is the best way to discover new music?
I think the internet is great for that, especially at the moment with live music being suspended indefinitely. Right now, Instagram is getting me into a lot of new artists, like Banger ‘n Mashup, for example. A lot of people on there will never have their music commercially released on the same scale as if they had some sort of ‘machine’ behind them (record label/publishing, etc). It’s amazing when you discover someone who is as good as anything that makes that grade but relatively unknown. Hidden gems, innit.
It’s double-edged in as much as that is very frustrating too. I guess the same could be said for my music. If I had someone doing all the promotional legwork for me, I feel I’d reach a much wider audience.
It sort of baffles me to think about the amount of talent out there or even artists of yesteryear who never reached the audience their music deserved. Sometimes I wonder if there were other bands as amazing as The Beatles, for example, that were around at the same time, but never broke through into the mainstream.
What does the future hold for you?
I work as a session musician and am very lucky to work for some high profile artists thanks to my buddies at TMS Productions (Lewis Capaldi, Niall Horan, Paloma Faith), but now I want to write songs for artists as opposed to just playing on their records. I guess I want to be one of those guys who sits in on a writing session and contributes something that goes on to be a hit record, but that is very, very difficult, seemingly. To be a writer, you need to have a writing credit on a cut to have professional credibility; it’s a bit of a chicken and egg/Catch 22 situation there.
If anyone’s reading this in the biz, please can I write a song with you and make your bit of the pie a bit smaller? I mean…ignore that bit. I guess, cynically, that’s part of it too, right? People prefer eating larger slices of pie, generally – especially if it’s cash-flavoured.
Do you have a message for our readers?
First of all, I would like to say thanks for making it this far! I bore myself most of the time, so if you’ve stuck with the article you’re either related to me or after something.
More importantly, I’d like to add that your plan in heaven is guaranteed if you stream the living shit out of all my songs so I can buy some beer. I’ll be putting some more songs of my own out very soon, as well as featuring on some big pop releases due out in the next few months.
Thanks guys, I love ya. Stay tuned.