Driven by friendship, passion, and persistence The Creative Minds Coalition (CMC) produces projects that come from the heart and define each of their experiences in their own unique way. The Creative Minds Coalition is just that, and alliance for combined action. This group of tenacious, talented young men demonstrates to us what it’s like to be unapologetic in the pursuit of your dreams. The man behind the sound, Ashton Woods, is the culmination of all the things that this brand represents. His methods may be a little unconventional but they are extremely effective. Fresh off the release of Richy Marciano’s Nottingham Pharmacy, I sat down with the producer to learn about his foundation, inspirations, and what the future holds.
A LIFELONG PASSION
When did you discover was your passion?
Growing up around music my whole life I kind of didn’t have a choice but to be passionate about it. My Mom sang in gospel group and my dad was a dj and already into music production long before I was thought of… Around about 4-5 years old I was infatuated with drums. It was all I could think about for a while so…my Pops bought me a drum set for Christmas one year and I know I woke the house up. They couldn’t get me off them lol. My dad sat me down in front of a keyboard when I was 12, and it after that is was a wrap. But it wasn’t until I was about 19 years old that I decided to take music serious. I was hospitalized, and one time I was near death, and I felt like music was do or die. I came out that experience with a different attitude, I felt like if I don’t do this shit nobody can. I felt like it was my time.
Where did you acquire your skills?
I’m definitely self-taught. Never had any formal music classes. I had some OG’s that helped me and guided me along the way. Quentien Denard, Grammy winner fucking awesome, defiantly helped me in a big way. While I acquired my skills over 13 years of dedication to music, I do what to learn how to read music. I went to college and I dropped out cuz fuck that shit. I needed to be able to touch the music.
IN THE STUDIO
What piece of software and hardware could you not live without?
I prolly wouldn’t be able to live without FL Studio (software). Been using that since 2002. And I’d be miserable without my Yamaha MOX 8 (synthesizer). I think if I liked a girl as much as like my keyboard I’d be great in a relationship.
How do you value studio time?
First thing, I have to be comfortable; from there I can create. Studio time is extremely, extremely important. I cannot place a true value on it because it’s a priceless thing.
How do you deal with 'hitting a brick wall'?
“When I hit a brick wall…I just knock that b**** over lol. Fuck that wall.” More seriously though, I rely on technical skill (rehearsed practices over the years) and do what makes since musically or call some of my Pops for help. I love to create when it feels right but sometimes it just doesn’t happen like that.
THE WOODS STYLE OF PRODUCTION
What is distinctive about your production?
This is a hard one for me to answer lol…some of my homies say that I have a certain sound but most times I can’t tell you what that’ll be…unless we’re talking about mixes I’ve been told I have an unusually clean sound from many clients. I love mixing sometimes more that producing. Every piece of music I produce contains emotional elements of myself. Many people can’t fully understand where my music comes from. Music is a very emotional thing for me. If I had a bad day I can put it in my music. When I’m in those moments I’m very vulnerable.
Walk me through your typical workflow from idea development to conception.
First, I wake up around 6:30-7 am or whenever the sun comes up everyday, I’m the most creative in the morning. After a shower, food, a few phone calls… I head to the studio and sit in front of my keyboard. Runs through some chords and finger exercises for about 15-45 minutes. I might hit something I like then BAMMMMMM I find a groove. I start laying drums and thinking about possible arrangements. I usually produce by my lonesome because I may get a lil excited and have to run around the room…flip some chairs…or just be super weird just to get my product out. But if I have company around, I chill and still lay down some crazy records. But I approach every idea, concept, production, mix like this “if I don’t work I don’t eat” and that keeps me grounded on getting things done.
What other producers, songwriters and/or artists do you see as your primary inspirations?
This list could literally go on forever…growing up I didn’t listen to Hip-Hop and rap music (until about 19). I grew up listening to gospel, jazz, R&B…so here goes…
Pat Metheny Group, Simply Red, Stevie Wonder, Kirk Franklin, Pharrell William, Reckless Dex, J Dilla, Dwele, Ashley Rose, Black Nix, Phil Swish, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Missy Misdemeanor Elliott, Timbaland, Dj Quik, Baby Face, Lil Jon, Quentin Denard, Marcus Mims, R. Kelly, Brandon William, and Westside Kharri
Is there an artist you want to work with that you have not yet had the opportunity to work with?
Eryn Allen Kane. “Because perfect”, and I mean it just like that. If you hear her sing, she like takes my soul away, like we should get married have a love child, and we can get divorced later if the shit don’t work out.
CREATIVE MINDS COALITION
Can you describe, briefly, how CMC comes together to collaborate on a musical project?
First, I set the studio appointment. Then we all get together and discuss ideas, crack jokes, the homies smoke, crack more jokes. We’ll play production or start on something new. Then we record…that’s about it. Basically, a bunch of idiot’s walks in room, and brilliance happens.
Do you have a favorite musical project that you've worked on?
Indeed. Thus far I’ve enjoyed working on the forthcoming project titled “Black Wool” by Phil Swish. Crazy records. Super crazy. It ain’t came out yet, but this shit is fucking nuts. And there’s another project I’m working called “The Wordless Diary” which will be my first joint.
What projects are you currently working on and what can we expect from the CMC family in 2016?
The way I been looking at things as of lately is like, I don’t want to be the consumer anymore, I want to the product, with that being said, Black Nix - Weirdo's Dialect II, Phil Swish – Black Wool, Ashton Woods – The Wordless Diary, and Ace Pearl has her project coming… Nix, Ace, and myself are going crazy with her project, and as for what to expect…greatness, and a solid collab with my Good On Paper brothas. The Collation is also releasing a compilation project in the first quarter of next year.