Ashleigh McHugh interview: Meet the Leeds star of BBC's All Together Now whose new single is taking Tik Tok by storm
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Ashleigh McHugh's new single is taking Tik Tok by storm.
Fans of the Leeds singer-songwriter have taken to the social media platform to share dance and singing challenges to her track Just Wanna Love You.
The upbeat pop ballad, released on Friday July 23, is quickly gaining traction and has even had the backing of Leeds icon and entrepreneur Terry George.
The heartfelt lyrics depict Ashleigh's love for another woman and she hopes it will inspire others in the LGBTQ+ community to "love somebody because they want to love them".
Ashleigh rose to fame on BBC show All Together Now, where she impressed the panel of music experts and performers with her rendition of Jackson 5's Who's Lovin You.
Her unique tone and the powerful performance had the judges on their feet and although she was full of nerves, singing comes naturally to the 25-year-old.
“I’ve been singing since I could talk," Ashleigh, of Armley, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"My mum plays a bit of piano and she played music constantly when I was growing up, whether I was brushing my teeth or having tea.
"She’d play 90s dance and club classics and always have the radio on and my dad used to listen to Motown. That's probably where my love of music stems from."
Ashleigh is a self-taught guitarist, pianist and drummer - picking up every instrument she could find as a teenager.
"I remember asking my mum for a guitar every Christmas," she added.
"She finally got me one and I didn’t touch it at first, but when I was about nine I picked it up and started watching YouTube, teaching myself how to play. I've wanted to do music professionally since then."
Ashleigh started her career gigging across Leeds, before getting the chance to travel further afield to perform.
But it was her 2018 appearance on All Together Now which kick-started her career, opening up new opportunities and contacts within the music industry.
Although she didn't get through to the finals of the show, her hair-raising performance now has almost 500,000 streams on YouTube.
“It was really scary, but it was amazing," Ashleigh said.
"It gave me the confidence to get out there and keep going. The stage felt massive when I stood on it with all the judges in front of me - it felt like Wembley stadium! I kept in touch with all the contestants and got a lot of gigs from it.”
Ashleigh spent lockdowns performing virtual gigs and writing new music and she's buzzing with excitement to perform her new single in Leeds now restrictions are lifted.
The rising star has been likened to pop sensation Anne Marie and her catchy brand of commercial pop has made her a hit on social media.
Ashleigh added: “All Together Now was a massive career highlight, but I’ve been lucky enough to perform and travel to different cities.
"I’ve just started busking again too which has gone really well, I often get a crowd and people videoing and asking for pictures. It’s a great way to promote my music word-of-mouth and on social media."
Just Wanna Love You has been released as a LGBTQ+ single, Ashleigh said, and she hopes it will resonate with people in the community.
Ashleigh writes about her love for another woman, in the face of scrutiny, singing: 'Reading your lips, moving like this, with all these accusations/And I don’t want us fighting anymore/I just wanna love you.'
She added: “Traditionally, the LGBT community hasn’t been represented in anything. It’s better now, but it’s a long way from where it needs to be.
“I wanted to write a song that could be interpreted by an LGBT crowd. It’s me saying, ‘I don’t want to fight with anybody about my sexuality, I don’t want to be scrutinised. I just want to love somebody because I want to love them’.
“It’s really important for people to have that representation to be able to relate to somebody else who’s gone through the same thing.
“I want it to encourage people to have the confidence to say - ‘you know what? I want to love this person, so that’s what I’m going to do’."
High praise from Leeds icon Terry George
Ashleigh praised the support she’s received from her home city and her new single has been backed by DJ and entrepreneur Terry George, who owns Bar Fibre and Viaduct Showbar.
Terry, who also grew up in west Leeds, recently played Just Wanna Love You on his LDC Radio Leeds show.
“The support in Leeds has been amazing, everyone’s rooting for me," Ashleigh said.
"Terry George played my new song on his radio show and he’s been so supportive, he’s invited me down to the radio station and said he’d play it in his clubs.
“Just Wanna Love You is going a bit viral on Tik Tok, people are posting dance and singing videos, and the single hit 1,000 streams on Spotify on the second day. And it just keeps growing."
Getting back to live music
Like many musicians in Leeds, Ashleigh struggled when the pandemic closed venues last year.
The singer-songwriter relied on live gigs to get her music out into the world, but she managed to keep some momentum going with virtual shows.
Ashleigh is also studying for a degree in music and hopes to be able to teach it once she has graduated, passing her knowledge onto others.
“The pandemic has been really difficult and I feel for everyone else too,” she said.
“All musicians, performers and people in theatre and the arts rely on live performances. But now everything is opening back up, it’s getting better again.”
Now restrictions are lifted, Ashleigh is getting back to performing with a busy summer of shows ahead.
She performed to packed out crowds at the Commercial, in her hometown of Armley, and Pudsey’s the Brittania last weekend.
“It was amazing, it went down so well,” she added.
“The pubs were packed, absolutely heaving. I had people come up to me asking for details and asking to book me for gigs.
“I was really nervous because I didn’t know how it was going to be. But as soon as I started, it went down a storm.”
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