Music Monday: From Ash & Dust

Hello everyone! I’m very pleased to be welcoming today’s guest for Music Monday, Braeden Daggett, aka From Ash & Dust, a local musician who balances many different genres and just released the first single off his upcoming album.

Braeden stopped by for a socially distant interview and we talked about the new album out this month, the brand new single, and his musical process. Liam Sturgess, a familiar face around here, also joined us for the interview as the producer of the new album and frequent collaborator with Braeden

Read on to learn more about Braeden’s musical projects, the story behind his stage name, and where to find the new single and album!

Photo of a white man performing on a stage. He holds a microphone to his mouth, and has short hair and wears glasses and a long-sleeve shirt. He and the stage look blue in the lighting.

About the Musician: Braeden (From Ash & Dust) began rapping as an early teen and found his passion of songwriting and storytelling. By the end of high school, he independently released his first demo album, “Dumb it Down” which gained attention from his future collaborator and friend, Liam Sturgess.

In 2017, he made his first official release on major platforms with “Explore”, self proclaiming himself as the “Mr. Rogers of Hip Hop”. Since then he has created several mixtapes, all with the goal of telling the story of Ash&Dust, an imaginary world that he’s created.

“My songs have individual meanings of course, but my albums and mixtapes piece together a story of two friends named Asher and Dustin and their adventures together. It’s through this that I hope to spark a sense of childlike wonder and imagination. That’s why Ash&Dust exists,” he explains in an Instagram post. Some of Braeden’s musical influences include Linkin Park, Twenty One Pilots, Jack Johnson and Macklemore. His new album is set to release early 2021.

Musician links: Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

Listen to the new single: Never Comin’ Down
Pre-order the new album: In Search of Home

Sam/Spines: To start, can you tell me two truths and a lie about yourself?

Braeden Daggett: Oh my word, I haven’t done this in so long. I have never broken a bone in my body. I like country music. And I don’t like tomatoes.

S: I’m gonna say country music is a lie?

BD: Yeah. To be fair though, I will say it’s a particular aesthetic. I won’t sit down and listen to country music but if I’m camping and we’re hanging out and it’s a particular mood, I’m okay with it. But that’s the one style of music that I probably won’t go to.

S: Now we can get more into your music. How did you get started in music?

BD: That’s one of the questions someone asked me on Instagram, “what inspired you to get into music?”. I’m coming up on the ten year anniversary this June. I started rapping at 13 and started to write my own songs just for fun and people were saying I was good so I stuck with it. At the end of high school I set a goal to make my own album and I made the album before I graduated high school. At that point I was finally like “I think this is good, I’m not mad every time I hear my voice”. And I’ve been doing it ever since.

S: How do you write songs, what is that process like for you?

BD: I have changed how I write songs so much from how I used to. I used to go about it where I had something to talk about so I wrote a song about it. Now I go about it a little differently, since Liam and I started making music. We were like the sky’s the limit, we can make any kind of song we want. We can go reggae, folk, pop, rock, we can go anywhere. So I think of what kind of song I want to make, what kind of vibe I want to create. I listen to other songs that inspire me. And if I want to make a song like that then what am I going to talk about? Do I have that energy to make a song like that? Do I have that reason to make a song? Do I have words to put to it? A little bit different now but same passion.

S: You mentioned playing with different genres so how would you describe your own genre?

BD: Ooh! This is something I ask people a lot because I have an idea of what my style is but it’s good to get out of my head and ask other people “what does this sound like to you?”. I get comparisons with Macklemore a lot. But I like to think it is just rap meets everything. I don’t really limit myself to a genre but I rap and I sing and I scream now, as you heard in my Graceful remake for hitting a thousand views. I think the best way to answer that is I’m just having fun.

Photo of a white man rapping on a stage. He is bent over a microphone with a stand beside him and has short hair and glasses.

S: Where did your stage name From Ash & Dust come from?

BD: People ask me this all the time. If I ever say anything about Asher and Dustin they’re like, “who are you talking about? You mention these people like we know who they are”. Because I do feel like people know who they are without me telling them. Around the time I started to give up on making music I went by a different moniker, Triple D, and I was focusing more on myself as a rapper. I wasn’t happy with that direction anymore. I still wanted to make music but I wanted to expand from being stuck as a rapper. I thought “what if I made more of a project?” so I developed From Ash & Dust, which is based on a short story I wrote. It’s about two boys named Asher and Dustin who become friends and together they create this imaginary land called Ash and Dust. Explore was written from that place and all my projects since then are too. It’s more concept-based, there’s a strong narrative behind me making music now.

S: Can you talk about the new album coming out this month and the ideas behind it?

BD: It’s called In Search of Home. It’s a level up from Explore, a lot of the same things but at the same time this is a much more introspective, personal, emotional project. It goes places that Explore didn’t which I’m excited about. A lot more abstract too than Explore was. This [In Search of Home] is more about universal themes throughout the entire album, a sense of finding belonging and home — what is home, where is home. If you listen to the whole album I hope you find that.

Pre-order In Search of Home on Bandcamp

S: Did your writing process and the process of making the album change at all from Explore?

BD: A lot of the fundamental things have stayed the same but Liam [Sturgess, producer] since Explore went off to the Nimbus School of Recording and Media and learned so much. There’s things that we didn’t know about how to make music during Explore that now we do. For me, it feels like the same thing that we’ve always done but on a much broader scale. And I think this album too feels a little more, I don’t want to say less collaborative, but in terms of the track listing Liam is the only other collaborative singer on the project. It doesn’t mean we didn’t have other collaborators who did all sorts of instrumental things on the album, but on Explore we had Owen Patterson, Cole Ren, Amy Williams [aka Leo aka Amelita], Alex Balanko, and so forth. This album feels more personal with less voices having a say on what the message is.

S: Is there a song on In Search of Home that was your favourite to make?

BD: Favourite to make, yes. It doesn’t mean it’s my favourite on the album but favourite to make, definitely My Butterfly. When we were recording that song, maybe it was the political and economic state at that time, maybe we were just both losing our minds, hadn’t seen people in a long time, but it was a funny day. One of my favourite days of 2020 actually. We met an interesting fellow in the studio and we’re very grateful that he was able to collaborate on this project with us. He doesn’t like to be recognized that often but when he does show up in the studio his talent truly shines. He goes by no other name than The Walrus Man.

S: And do you have a favourite song on the album?

BD: Oh it changes. Right now is Invasion because the rock songs are the direction I think I’m going to go more towards in the future. We’ve tapped into it a lot on Explore with Still Standing and I’ll Thank Me Later. This [Invasion] is the combination of both of those on another level. It feels like the rock song of the album. People are excited about it when I’ve shown them clips. So if that’s what they want then I might do more of that in the future.

Liam Sturgess: It was also super stressful to make.

BD: Invasion was very difficult, probably the most stressful to make because we didn’t just want to make a rock song, we wanted to make it a hip hop rock song. So how do we incorporate a Linkin Park feel into it and are these drums live, are they electronic, are they both? Plot twist, they are both. There’s a lot going on but it worked and we got there, we got to that sound that we wanted to make.

Graphic of album art for In Search of Home by From Ash & Dust. Illustration of a tree, on the left side is a silhouette of a boy sitting at the base of a green tree. On the right side is the curled up silhouette of a boy sitting at the base of a dead black tree, though the trunk is connected. The album title is written in white text across the tree and the musician's name is written in pale pink in the lower right corner.

In Search of Home comes out March 25th

S: Can you talk about the album art for In Search of Home?

BD: My friend Andy Billy, my adopted brother we’ll say, made the album art as fan art. I really liked it and wanted to play around with it. It was originally a lot darker colours and dreary-looking, which is a particular aesthetic but I wanted to add some colour to it, make it From Ash & Dust-esque, like a picture book. I threw on From Ash & Dust, In Search of Home, and showed it to him and I said “can this be the album art” and he was like “please!”. I love having my brothers involved because they’re not only fans. Even if they don’t contribute to the actual processes of it, I feel like they’re a part of what I make and why I make what I make.

S: Can you talk about the single that was just released?

BD: Never Comin’ Down came out on March 11th, the one year anniversary of the pandemic. We did a lot of this album during lockdown and COVID in general but it felt right to release the first little bit of what we’ve been working on for the past three years on the one year anniversary of all of this craziness. It feels kind of monumental. This is Liam’s favourite song, this is a lot of people’s favourite song. It’s a fun song, it’s fast, pop, rap.

LS: It’s uplifting in a way where it almost feels like it’s written about, like we made all this happen during the pandemic so we’ve come so high even through a pandemic.

BD: Yes, the whole premise of the song is about finding that unstoppable hope during whatever. A lot of the same themes I talk about in my music are about finding that imagination and creativity but at this peak of nothing can stop me, I’m on top of the world feeling. You’re in your cloud making whatever you’re making and nothing’s going to bring you down. That’s the main hook of the song and that’s what we want to share with people. Why are you never coming down despite the world and everything going on in our lives right now. I think there’s a lot for people to pull from.

Warning: rapid flashing graphics at 2:02 and 2:52

S: And I think you’ve touched on it in a few questions but what do you enjoy most about making music?

BD: Ooh I love a lot of things. I think now I really like the underlying narrative behind the songs. When I say this lyric I know what it actually means and it contributes to what Asher is doing at this point in the story. That’s why I get really excited about making songs and projects now but in terms of the actual music, I love recording and I can’t wait to do live shows. I don’t think I’ve performed in two years now and I’m so excited to get back on stage and give it to the people.

S: Let’s do some of the submitted questions from Instagram now.

BD: Kyle asked a question we already answered, “what inspired you to get into music?”. Julia asks “what’s your go-to song right now?”. That’s interesting because it’s not favourite song, which I don’t answer because it changes every second. But go-to song right now, I’ve been listening to a lot of Grandson’s new album and Yungblud’s new album. It’s this alternative, emo, rap, rock thing that I’m really excited about trying out, probably on the next album. My most listened to songs from last year according to Spotify was everything off of Linkin Park’s A Thousand Suns project, my favourite album right now. But my go-to song right now I just keep coming back to, Avril Lavigne just put out a new song called Flames.

My cousin Josh asks me “if bell bottom disco pants come back in, will you wear them along with your emo hair?”, and I’m so confused because I don’t know what bell bottom disco pants are.

LS: Is this a meme?

S: I’ve never heard of that.

BD: I thought bell bottom jeans were the 2000s, ‘apple bottom jeans’ with the things at your ankles but disco makes me think this is the 70s.

S: I guess if they’re wide-cut disco pants, are those coming back in style?

BD: If they are, I want to see what they look like now before I make a decision. But yes, I’m growing out the bangs. I’ve done just about everything with my hair that I can think of. Actually that’s not true, there’s more things I’m going to do with it but right now I’m going to keep it at that.

Next question, Josiah says “drop it on my birthday”. March 25th is the official release date for In Search of Home so happy belated birthday when that comes out.

Zachary says “aw yeah what’s happening?”. I don’t know how to answer that. I could say what’s literally happening right now. We’re doing an interview, we’re sitting on the couch. What else is happening? The album’s coming out, the single.

And the last question I got was from my friend Jen, “what is the highlight of your year so far?”. I would say finishing this album. There’s so many highlights that are yet to come, I feel like there’s going to be a good amount of highlights this year. And I got my degree, my degree came in the mail! So this is all coming together, the album, my professional life, a lot of things all coming together and it’s going to be a much better year than 2020.

S: Is there anything else you wanted to add that we haven’t touched on yet?

BD: There were a lot of collaborators on the project: Raiaan Parekh, Dylan Trevor, Elias Cerpa, Morgan Perry, Isaac Corber. Raiaan led the tapes on Ghosts. The drums of Invasion were done in one take by Dylan, that was fire. The big drums on North Star were Elias. It wouldn’t be what it was without that. And there’s people who didn’t musically contribute but they gave us feedback and constructive criticism.

Who I didn’t thank in the album credits but deserve a shoutout are those random kids on the beach in Waikiki on New Year’s Day 2020. They show up at the beginning of Dance Away the Dark and they close the album. I couldn’t think of a better way to close the album than some six-year-old Russian-speaking children on the beach. We don’t know what they’re saying but we assume it matches the aesthetic and the themes of the album because it sounds like it does. If anyone speaks Russian, let us know what they’re saying or don’t.

LS: Yeah, if it’s going to get us in trouble, don’t.

BD: If they’re swearing or saying vulgar things we don’t know but I think it’s all good, I think it’s all positivity and peace and vibes.

S: What are you working on next musically?

BD: We’re going to work on live shows. We’re planning the release show and looking at doing some acoustic things too. There’s three different ways we can go about it, when there’s more of a hip hop style we could have a rap show and a full band for songs that are rock style, and then the acoustic ones that can be fully sit back and relax, take a load off.

Photo of a white man sipping from a cup of tea. He has short light brown hair and wears glasses and a blue t-shirt. The wall behind him has a checkered blue and black pattern

S: And now for some random, fun questions: Who’s your favourite superhero?

BD: I love Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man. I’m so out of the superhero world. I know the Marvel universe, I watched them all, I respect them for what they are. They’re huge, they’re big deals.

LS: But frankly they make too many, so—

BD: There’s so many to keep up with and I don’t really get on bandwagons. When something’s so big, I’ll watch it but I won’t get that excited about it. I just really like the aesthetic of the original Spider-Man. He feels like he’s the most normal, just a random kid who happens to get bit by a spider and now is able to save people. It feels very down to earth compared to saving the entire galaxy. I don’t need that, it’s too much pressure for me.

S: What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream?

BD: Well I’m dairy-free but I do like sherbet better than ice cream. Always have but now that I’m dairy-free it’s perfect. I will go full rainbow, I’ll go full bubblegum pink. I don’t care about any gender stereotypes. The prettier and the pinker and the more colourful, the better it’s going to taste. Maybe it’s a psychological thing but I’m just saying.

S: And dogs or cats?

BD: Oh sorry, Turtle [Liam’s cat], but I am a dog person. That being said, my dog, Van, acts like a cat so my dog in particular is my favourite of the dog and cat debate. He is the bridge of the dog and cat debate, the best of dogs and the best of cats combined.

S: And where can people find you online?

BD: @From_Ash_and_Dust on Instagram and From Ash and Dust on YouTube, those are the places you can reach out to me. Shoutout to my YouTube fanbase: Parchment Paper Pals, Honey Mustard Squad, Bergamot Boys, Vacuum Cleaner Gang.

S: Now we get to send people to listen to the single.

BD: I hope you’re listening, I hope you’ve enjoyed the single for the past few days and keep never coming down.

Cropped image of the In Search of Home album art. On the left side is a silhouette of a young boy sitting against a tree. On the right side is a silhouette of another boy curled in on himself, sitting against the tree but it's dead on his side.

Thanks so much to Braeden for sitting down for an interview with me! Personally, I’m very excited for this album release and can’t wait for you all to listen to it. I’ll share another post when the album comes out but mark March 25th down on your calendars and go listen to that single, Never Comin’ Down!

About the new album: Similarly to Explore, In Search of Home blends the styles of rap, rock, pop, folk and acoustic music to create a sound that From Ash & Dust has become well accustomed to. This time around however, the project is filled with more introspective and abstract approaches to raps interwoven with emotionally-driven piano ballads like “North Star” and “My Butterfly” while at the same time offering its fair share of bouncy, radio-ready, pop rap songs like “Never Comin’ Down” and “Dance Away The Dark”. The album dives deep into themes of belonging, security, and acceptance of self, while tackling uncertainty and struggles with mental health. The concept of the album tells an origin story of how two young boys named Asher and Dustin become friends and together, create a world where they can be safe, “in search of a home” where they can both belong. 

Pre-order the new album: In Search of Home

Musician bio, photos, and graphics supplied by musician.

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