Emerging Singers and Songwriters Part 2: Ainsley Navarro

Just like last time, the second part of this series is an interview with a newly emerging singer and songwriter, Ainsley Navarro. Ainsley lives in Tennessee and has just recently published 2 songs on Spotify! During our interview, we discussed the meaning behind her music, her mission, and where she plans to go in the future with her songwriting career.

Could you please tell me about your first two songs?

Yes, uhm. So, self / destruction, and Humming. Humming was the first song that I started working on. That’s probably the first song that I’ve ever fully produced and like fully written. I have been writing songs since I was five years old, and I’ve always known that I wanted to be a singer, songwriter, and musician. So yeah, this year I started (2021). Well, I wrote humming last year in eating disorder treatment in my second week of Residential and that’s what the song is about, I guess. 

The thing I missed most in treatment is kind of cheesy, but it was singing because I always sang at home. But when you’re in Res you can’t really do that, there are just so many people around. There’s no privacy, really, so I would hum to myself at night and when I was alone. That’s basically how I kind of wrote this song, and I just kind of came up with it. It started as a poem, and I read the words to myself before bed. I mean, I wrote the song in, I don’t know, just in a few days, just carrying around a piece of paper with the words on it. Lyrically, I think that’s probably one of my best songs, just because I think the words are extremely powerful and encompassing how I felt in Res. So, I finally started working on that when I got back from treatment, and I met with my music producer. He’s my old school music teacher and I have known him for a long time. He’s such a great guy and he’s pretty much like a family friend now since my sister and I both work with him. I’m technically signed to him because he is starting his own studio company. We have the partnership with all the songs I produced because we both work on them together, so I tag him in my posts and whatnot. His name is Jonathan Haeger, and his studio is Lightfield Studios.  

So I started working on Humming when I got back from treatment, around March or something. It took forever to finally put a melody to it, especially because all I had was the poem.  Once I did that, I don’t know, we kind of just started working on it, and I would say that it was pretty much done in July. Still, I wasn’t ready to release it, since I wanted to release an album or at least an EP. I didn’t want to just release that one song and let that be the only introduction of who I am. So, I waited, and I am glad I waited because around August my entire album layout came to me, and I’ve had many album layouts before. I’ve wanted to write, produce, and release an album, but this one I knew I really had to go through with it. That was when I pretty much quit school and just started working 100% on that. That was also when I thought more about Humming, and I kept working on it in the studio. A lot of changes were made throughout the whole process of it, but during the process of it we got much more advanced and expensive equipment, so I was able to really find the specific sounds I was looking for to complete the song. So, the song kind of just came to life. I worked on it for so long that finishing it was pretty easy. So that is Humming. 

self / destruction was a poem that I wrote on my last couple of days of PHP (Partial Hospitalization). It’s also on my Instagram (@AinsleyNavarro). I posted it for NEDA Week (National Eating Disorder Awareness Week). My therapist told me to write a letter to my ED (eating disorder) because she knew that I was a writer and all that. So, I wrote that poem, and the poem is one of the best things I have ever written. What I liked was that in August when I got my album layout, I wanted my album to be called Self Construction. It is still going to be called that, and I did not even have the idea of self / destruction yet, but when I did, I was ready.  

I asked myself what the song was going to be about. Self-destruction. That one word just completely brings to my mind one of the lines from my poem which was “Forced to self-destruct and reconstruct your creeds” because that is the basis of recovery. You must completely self-destruct everything; everything you know, everything you believe, and for me that was my own self-worth. My ED was like my worth to me, so I had to self-destruct my definition of worth really. I had to completely rebuild it, and so that was the line that struck the idea of calling it self / destruction. 

That song was supposed to be slow, and sad as well. Before self / destruction, I had only ever written really really sad songs. That’s all, I guess, I didn’t know how to write an upbeat song, I guess. For self / destruction it was going to be this sad song until I started producing it really. All the sounds I was using and the process of producing the song really just came to me. At first, the version of the song I created was very much in the style of Billie Eilish, completely, as it had a heavy base and trap beats. I don’t know why, I guess that is just what came to me, but it still had the same melodies, verses, lyrics, everything it has now. Then I showed it to my producer and we both literally self-destructed and reconstructed it, ironically. I’m not a professional when it comes to producing music, but I do it to the best of my ability, and then I show my producer and we work on it together to its best potential. That song has come a long way. It was probably the most confusing song to work on, and I don’t know where it started. At one point, it had around 190 tracks, which is insane. The computer kept crashing, all the apps kept crashing, it was a lot, but it definitely took a lot of mixing to fully get the sound that we wanted.  

I released that song on December 17th because that was my day of going to Res last year, and I know for some people, probably, the day they are admitted to a hospital is not a very good day to remember. Usually it’s because their parents made them or something, but in my case, my parents never believed me. It was me calling ERC (Eating Recovery Center) and researching different places because I knew that I needed help. I knew that I wasn’t OK, and I could not live like that any longer. Finally, my mom believed me and so I was able to go there and get help. For me, December 17th was a relieving day because that was the day that I took my worth back. My goal was to release my album earlier, but self / destruction alone took forever. So, I decided that would be my first song, which I have no regrets about. I had the choice of either doing Humming or self / destruction first. My producer thought I should do Humming, but I said I think self / destruction would be better. I felt like it was a good hook; it’s a good way to introduce myself, like saying Hi, I’m Ainsley Navarro and this is what my music is going to be. You know, it is me introducing myself to many people who don’t know that side of me. So, yeah.  

What was the inspiration for your album covers? 

Well, for self / destruction, that picture was done by one of my best friends I met in Res, Kate. We both love taking pictures, but she likes taking pictures and I enjoy being in them. When I visited her we took so many pictures and it was so much fun. .That girl will tour with me and everything and take my pictures because I just love her to death.  

Anyways, she took that picture when I visited her. It’s similar to my album cover that I’m planning to do for when my entire album comes out. It’s kind of the same but a different one. I just couldn’t find a better one, and I guess it just encompassed the feel of self / destruction, like with the cat in front of me. That picture was taken probably at like 2 AM, I don’t know. It just felt like it suited it the most. 

For Humming, I don’t think I could have thought of anything else that encompassed the song more than what I envisioned listening to it. I remember the first time I actually really listened to it. I just sat on my bed with headphones trying to listen to it and feel it, to bring up all of the emotions that the song is made of. All I could do was picture me in my bed. The room in the album cover is Room 215 at ERC. I don’t know, I think that’s what I picture. I picture my bed and I have the blanket with stars on it because I remember that’s exactly what I had. The clock is from New Year’s Eve. I didn’t have a clock in my room beforehand because I took all the clocks out. I don’t know why, and it felt like I was going insane because I never knew what time it was. Finally, I got a clock, and I held it and watched it. I watched the second hand go to 12 AM. Then that was the end of 2020. I just could not believe it because 2020 was just a shitshow. I remember just doing that on New Year’s Eve. Then my friend and I went out into the hallway and just silently celebrated together. So that’s the clock. 

Anyways, I don’t know how, I just picture a plain room. I filled the walls with all of the lyrics from Humming. When I think about my album covers, I think about a vinyl cover. I think about what would look really cool on vinyl. I feel like the main message or thing that I show through my music, and more specifically these two songs, is just vulnerability, I guess. For the cover of Humming, it is just a drawing and my handwriting, I mean I wrote that and didn’t edit the words or anything.  

Which singers and songwriters inspire your music? 

So many people, but my biggest inspiration is Lana Del Ray. I love the icon that she is and what she stands for. A big part of her is the vulnerability that she sings, even the way that she sings her lyrics. I love how mesmerizing her music is. I love how her words are poems and I love how before anything she’s a poet. That’s how she refers to herself. I don’t know if you’ve read her book, Violet Bent Over the Grass, but it’s really well done. I just love that she refers to herself as a poet, and I just feel like that’s who I am and so I love her for that. I definitely love Phoebe Bridgers for her lyrics. I am a huge fan of the genre known as Sad Girl Rock. It’s like Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and then people like Mitski, just all of those people. I love all of them and I’m deeply inspired by them and their music. Oh, I forgot to mention Billie Eilish. I’ve listened to her since she had 3 million followers and her first album was just released. So I’ve seen and witnessed her grow from a 14 year old who’s just releasing music to a now 20 year old. She’s huge and she blew up so fast. Her relationship with her brother just reminds me of me and my sister and how we make music together. She also struggled a lot with mental illness and just wrote about it. Her music is personally my favorite because there is nothing like it. In terms of my music as a whole it doesn’t really fit into one genre, it’s kind of like Billie Eilish music. That’s who I hope to be like. I just want to stand on my own. The music I make is just the music I make and I feel like that by itself will stand alone if that makes sense. I also just listen to a bunch of different types of music which I think inspires me like heavy rock? I don’t know. I also really like the sameness of really slow, sad songs, but definitely all of the sad girl rock artists.

So you refer to yourself as a poet then?

Well, okay, I think I’m an artist first, and then a poet. And that sounds like I just made that way more complicated than it needed to be, but I guess I’m both. Probably an artist though. 

What I guess you mentioned a little bit about self-construction in your future album, but what are your plans for later music? 

I already have a ton of ideas for my second album. I am hoping to release my second album in maybe a year because I know it will take a long time to fully write. I’m thinking this will either be my next album or possibly my third album. It just depends on how I’m doing in life, I guess.  I think I want my next album to be called Ethereality. I plan to just keep making music until I grow bigger, I guess! 

You mentioned that you dropped out of school. Could you tell me a little bit more? 

Yeah, I dropped out of high school. The whole situation has been very messy, but basically last year during treatment, I switched to homeschooling because I couldn’t keep up. In my entire life, I had never gotten a single B. I was always in AP Honors with all straight A’s. I was so focused on being this perfect child, student, whatever, but I guess going to treatment was such a wakeup call of asking myself questions like “What do I really want to be in life? ” and “What do I want to do”. So, I started homeschooling, and that was going fine. When I got my album layout, my sister and I both decided that we didn’t want to do school. So we just stopped doing school. It took our parents about 3 months to realize and is usually one of those parents that’s like “You have to do this many hours a week, otherwise you’re grounded” and whatnot. I guess she just didn’t check for 3 months. We just waited it out until she finally did check. It was this whole thing, but basically my parents really wanted us to finish high school. I understand their perspective, but I’m basically going to graduate with my GD or something, which is the same thing. I think personally, school serves no purpose to me or for my life. That’s how I feel, but I do think that some people do need school because for them that does work out, just not for me. Simply put. 

How are you doing with ED recovery? 

I’m doing well, I think. It’s still very hard and I mean, my recovery at home has definitely been slower than my recovery at treatment just because it’s the real world.  I’ve been better and I’ve been worse, and so I think it’s just a matter of maintaining structure in your life and goals and all those things they taught me in group therapy. 

Thank you so much Ainsley for your time today. Your music is beautiful, and I look forward to hearing what you release next! 

Thank you! 

To listen to Ainsley’s music, use the links/embedded items below:

You can also support Ainsley by following her on Instagram! @ainsleynavarro


<— Spotify!