The industry of pop music can perhaps be best represented as an iceberg. To the casual listener, the spectacle of it all is the whole show. Larger than life personas, bubbly music, and the single star at the center of it all. It’s a blissful, sparkling, simply fun lifestyle. But beneath the surface, there’s much more to be found.
London-born songwriter Vicky Warwick has long lived as part of the vast underground of the pop industry iceberg. As a session musician and bassist for English production team Xenomania, Warwick has garnered years of experience behind the scenes in the industry.
As a 12 year old kid in the UK, Warwick, desperate to play the drums, eventually found her niche with the bass guitar. She’s been playing ever since and, after practicing and dedicating herself to the art, was told by a music teacher that a career in the field should be highly considered. Warwick took this advice to heart, and went to music college at the age of 18. Two years into her studies, Xenomania reached out and offered her a paying job as a session musician. She was only 20 years old.
“It was such an insane grounding in the music industry,” Warwick says. “It was crazy to have a salary job and also music industry job experience. They were trying to be like the modern Motown era, big country house in England, with lots of different rooms with a writer and beat maker in every room basically. It was wild.
“At that point, I was just there as a bass player, but it was a great insight into how life might be as a writer.”
Though life as a session musician struck well with Warwick and gave her a front row seat into the inner workings of the industry, the craving for her own artistic ventures was insatiable. In addition to putting down bass for artists in the studio, Warwick also found her place as a touring musician. In 2015, she hopped on a US tour with pop sensation Charli XCX. While traveling from city to city with Charli and her bandmates, any free time found was dedicated to writing her own music. At the time though, plans for her originals were unclear.
“It takes so much time to do your own music,” Warwick says. “And that’s what I found especially touring with Charli. At that time, I was spending all of my free time writing music whenever I could. I was just kind of writing music, but didn’t know what it was for necessarily. But eventually it seemed to make sense that I should do something.”
With plenty of originals and a thirst for more, Warwick uprooted herself from London and made the move to Brooklyn, NYC. After so many years working in the UK, the difference between the industry workings there and in the US were plentiful.
“In Europe, London is the center of everything,” Warwick says. “To where in America, it’s kind of split between New York, Nashville, and LA. And there’s kind of different music going on in each city.”
Luckily for her, the scene in New York proved to be the perfect fit for her musical endeavors: “New York is so creative. I feel constantly inspired here. Everybody is going for their wildest ideas. People aren’t afraid to express themselves at all. They’re very confident and forward. There’s such a great creative community living here in Brooklyn.”
With a creative community behind her and a fresh spark of inspiration, Warwick took the next step into solidifying her legacy with a solo career in the pop field. Hence, AINSLIE was born.
AINSLIE’s debut single, “Grow,” just dropped last weekend. The first taste of Warwick’s solo persona is a minimalistic but ultimately full-feeling pop tune that, much like the title suggests, bubbles and grows throughout its 4 minute run time.
Though the full life of the track has seen both New York and Los Angeles throughout its creation, the origin of the song can be traced back to AINSLIE’s London beginnings. In a West London neighborhood, basked in the golden glow of sunset, Warwick found inspiration for what would become her premiere single as a solo artist.
“I was walking around a park nearby and saw all these streets and gorgeous houses. All these perfect little houses lined up,” she reminisces. “And me, a broke musician, I’m always wondering, what did these people do to have this life? What are their jobs?”
This curiosity, looking into the windows of this picture-perfect suburbia, inspired the lyrics of “Grow,” which Warwick wrote in London before bring the track back to New York to play with some melodies to fit the words and the feeling she wanted to convey.
“It was such a clear feeling,” she says. “The moment where those lyrics came from. I wanted to convey that feeling in what I was seeing. The light of sunset. Trying to convey those things into music is hard, but I think with the guitar especially, I kinda got that sun-setting, that beauty, that feeling that I wanted to get across.”
With a healthy start of a track, “Grow” eventually made its way to Los Angeles, and the studio of Adam Korbesmeyer, the go-to engineer for big name songwriter Ester Dean (Katy Perry’s “Firework”). In only three days, Warwick and Korbesmeyer fully realized three different tracks for the AINSLIE project, one of which was “Grow.”
“I came to him with a song written, but he just made it sound insane,” she says. “I wish I was an amazing producer, but I’m just not there yet. So it’s great to have someone come in and just have a vision and put a different angle on it.”
The final product is the perfect introduction to AINSLIE. With perfectly concise, bubbly pop production and introspective lyricism, Warwick proved her skills in the spotlight. “Grow” is a colorful, textured, and promising debut for AINSLIE, and with such a strong start, the other two potential singles from her time with Korbesmeyer spark hopeful anticipation.
Speaking on the other two singles, Warwick described one as a left-of-center pop track (“I showed a friend, and they were like, ‘Yeah, it kind of sounds like Haim.’”) taking inspiration from the simple but effective production of Emily Burns’ “Bitch.” The other is a more laid back track that takes more inspiration from electronic artists like Rhye.
“I still have all these flavors that I’m trying to figure out how they fit,” Warwick says. “I feel like most artists develop for a while and then have like 20 songs to pick from. But honestly, I haven’t been doing that. I’ve got a hundred songs that I’ve written, but they don’t all necessarily come under the AINSLIE umbrella. But now that I know that this AINSLIE thing is a thing, I’m trying to find which songs fit with it and then I’m constantly writing for that.”
No matter what’s to come next from Warwick, the AINSLIE project is sure to produce many more pop gems if “Grow” is any indication. Her years of experience in the pop industry have certainly given her an advantage, and now with this platform, her full creativity has a place to call home.
“I just want to get my music out there,” Warwick says. “I feel like it’s crazy I wasn’t doing this years ago. I don’t know why I haven’t. Being a session musician is a different thing and can take up a lot of headspace in different ways. So I’m really just dying to get it all out.”
Listen to AINSLIE’s debut single, “Grow,” below. Follow her on her socials @ainsliemusic on Instagram and Twitter for more updates.
Article by: Brendan Swogger
Brendan Swogger is a music writer and college student in Portland, OR. He is the Creative Director for The Crush blog. You can follow him on IG and Twitter @indiealtpdx