Savannah native Ashley Rauls is all of 19 years old, but her song lyrics hint at an old soul lying deep within somewhere.
Rauls’ debut EP, the five–song What You Want Me To Be, is a mostly–acoustic exercise in looking back, looking forward and looking – with astonishingly mature eyes – at the present.
The young singer/songwriter will celebrate the record’s arrival with a show Thursday, Dec. 27 at Satisfied, the former Loco’s. She’ll sing and play guitar, with assist from Macon’s Shane Bridges Band, the outfit that backed her on the recording (the Bridges band will perform, sans Ashley, the next night at Saddle Bags).
A sophomore at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., Rauls is home for the holidays.
For this listener, the hook on What You Want Me to Be is her voice, which has a sweet but slightly world–weary timbre. She sings like a little girl who’s making her way through a big ‘ol world.
“I don’t really consider myself a singer,” the English major tells me. “It’s just about the music and the lyrics for me.” Rauls says she made the EP simply as a means to an end. “It’s just that you have to sing your stuff, or no one can hear it.” Her hope is that What You Want Me to Do will serve as a calling card, to get gigs.
Bridges’ production gives the record a gentle Americana, country/rock feel. There’s acoustic guitar, atmospheric banjo and harmonica, and the occasional bass and drums. “At first, I was worried that it was going to push me towards country,” Rauls says, “because I don’t even know what to categorize myself as. I don’t even know how to put a label on myself. I wouldn’t say I’m trying to be the next Taylor Swift. But I’m really pleased with how it worked out.”
Although Rauls — who started taking music lessons as a toddler — also plays piano and violin, she has no intention of abandoning her schoolwork and her pursuit of a graduate degree. “I’ve always enjoyed music for fun,” she explains, “and I’ve always said I want to do it growing up — it’s something you can do forever. When I was a junior and senior in high school, I started writing a lot more, and putting chords with the words. I got better at guitar, and I’ve written a lot more in college.”
From “Mile Long Smile” to “Addicted” and an impossibly catchy piece called “Peter Has My Vote,” Rauls’ EP is full of colorful acoustic twists and turns.
“This is a really new thing for me,” she says. “I’ve never considered ‘I’m a musician, rock ‘n’ roll, drop out of school and go on the road.’ I’ve never considered that. It’s a really hard balance now to be a dedicated student and keep up with my work, get good grades, and also try to book gigs and be in the music business.’ But I think it’s definitely worth it.
“But I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to be in the tabloids or anything. I just want to do it for fun and see what happens.”
Until you do something, she says — wise beyond her years — you’ll never really know what it was like. “I don’t want to wake up one day, be married and have kids, and say ‘What did I ever do with my music?’”
The show is at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27, at Satisfied on Broughton St.