How rising pop star Asher Knight is helping Leeds pupils overcome mental health struggles
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Pop artist Asher Knight has shared a stage with Boyzone, written music with Olly Murs and performed at Manchester Arena.
Watching him on stage, you'd be forgiven for thinking performing has always come easy to the 24-year-old. But a crippling lack of confidence almost got in the way of his career.
After being badly bullied at school, Asher suffered from low self-esteem which made him reluctant to pursue a career in music.
He "fell in love" with singing while studying at a performing arts school, but it took guts for him to get on stage and face his inner demons.
Now tipped as one of Yorkshire's rising stars, Asher is visiting schools in Leeds to share how performing arts can help young people to overcome mental health issues.
He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "The effect of bullying made me lack confidence, I was anxious and sceptical of people.
"I wasn’t able to do things I wanted to do or make friends easily. I didn’t want to talk to someone in case they hated me - I was scared.
“Music really helped me to move forward and build up my confidence."
Born in Bradford, Asher moved to London aged just 17, where he has built an impressive catalogue of songs and worked with well-known songwriters including Cutfather, Olly Murs and James Blunt.
He's toured across the UK, supporting the likes of The Vamps, Boyzone, Steps, Will Young and All Saints, and he recently performed live on CBBC.
"I've had so many experiences I never thought I'd have," Asher said.
"Being the opening act for Boyzone was absolutely incredible; I used to listen to their music as a kid. But the highlight of my career has been performing at Manchester Arena because that’s where I saw my first concert. I never thought I’d be on that stage.”
Asher has released three singles in 2021, including his latest release Too Much To Ask For, which are teasers of his new EP set to be released later this year.
After almost 18 months without performing, the singer-songwriter is looking forward to getting back to live gigs; he'll be joining X Factor stars Rak-Su on their UK tour in September.
Asher added: “I have missed performing, it’s something that’s a part of me. And not being able to see the people who are so supportive of me and my music has been difficult, I can’t wait to get back on tour and see them again.
“I always try to make the most of every situation, so for me - it was a time to reflect on things that were going on. It was a time to write songs that other people can connect with, which is so important for me.
“It’s given me time to focus on how I feel and the situations I’ve been in, which has helped me to write music."
Drawing from his experiences of being bullied at school, Asher has been touring schools across the UK, including in Leeds, to show pupils how music helped him to overcome his mental health struggles.
“Music has hugely helped my own mental health, it’s a way for me to relax," he said.
"When I left school I had no confidence and I really struggled, but music inspired me to push forward, keep going and, ultimately, to just be myself.
“I cover mental health, body image and being kind to each other in the sessions. It’s something we can easily forget - to be kind. Sometimes a small comment to someone might make them feel terrible; you never know what people have going on.
"It helps to remind children to think about others and to love each other.”
With more than 800,000 streams on Spotify, and the backing of BBC radio stations, Asher is on the way up. He's shared his advice for budding young musicians who may lack self-belief.
“I would encourage them to be themselves and to feel confident in who they are," Asher added.
"Don't feel like you have to mould into someone else, trust in yourself. And be prepared to take a risk - do a performance, whether it’s busking or at an event. That's what will help you to keep pushing forward."
Spreading his message of hope on live TV
Asher performed on CBBC's Saturday Live Mash-Up in March, an interactive entertainment and music show for children. It was the perfect platform for him to spread his message of hope.
"It was incredible being asked to perform on CBBC - and so much fun," Asher added.
"It’s a great platform to communicate with children who might be going through difficult times, and to try to inspire them with my music.
"I want to continue to inspire people to fight past their mental health issues, helping them to know there’s a way forward.
"Hopefully in the years to come, I’m still doing that, because that’s what I care most about. I don’t know where life will take me, but I’m excited to see where it will go.”
Asher's new single, written by John Newman, is out now
Asher’s new single, Too Much To Ask For, is out now. Written by singer-songwriter John Newman, the anthemic pop track depicts the challenges that come with finding love in today’s society.
Asher said: “It asks - is it too much to be loved? We all want love, it’s something we feel like we’re lacking in life sometimes. It’s something we all need and, for some of us, we’re hoping and trying but it doesn’t happen.
“The song is about keeping that hope and faith that it will happen. If we keep trying, we hope, love will find its way to us.
“The response has been incredible. I’ve had so many amazing messages and a lot of people have been able to connect to it.”
Asher cites Taylor Swift as his biggest lyrical influence and hopes, like her, he can turn his personal experiences into music that resonates with his fans.
“I want my music to be relatable,” he added.
“It’s about experiences that we all go through in life and working past them. Hopefully, it helps to give people confidence when they’re going through a hard time, or inspires them when they’re feeling happy.
"And it’s pop - it’s good fun and energetic.”
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