Rising Star Ashe Curates a Livestream Salute to ‘Pet Sounds’ with Finneas, Ryan Tedder, Bishop Briggs and More

The "Moral of the Story" singer has pulled together an 11-artist tribute to her favorite album, the Beach Boys' 1966 classic, to air on YouTube Saturday.

ashe beach boys brian wilson pet sounds
Dana Trippe

The moral of the story, such as it is, is that it’s never too early in a burgeoning career to go ahead and salute your heroes. Ashe certainly thinks so, at least. The L.A.-based singer/songwriter’s song “Moral of the Story” continues to crest a year after its release, and before she’s even released her first full-length album, Ashe is taking that attention and paying it forward — or back, actually — by curating a multi-artist tribute to her favorite album, the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds.”

Among the artists she’s brought in is Finneas, a frequent co-writer and the executive producer of her two EPs and upcoming debut album. Also on board to give Brian Wilson his due are friends Ryan Tedder, Bishop Briggs, Jacob Collier, AJR, Charlie Burg, Alexander 23, Maro, Max and Blake Rose. The show, “In My Room: Celebrating 54 Year of Pet Sounds,” streams on YouTube Saturday at 5 p.m. ET/2 PT.

Ashe sees some points of comparison between Wilson, the Beach Boys’ maestro, and her producer/booster/pal, Finneas. “The only person I’ve met that comes at all close to Brian’s genius is Finneas,” says the 27-year-old singer. “I’ll say that over and over again. I think he’s one of the most genius humans I know.”

Does Finneas share her “Pet Sounds” love? “I believe so,” she says, before clarifying that. “I don’t think he’s on my level, because I don’t know if anyone’s on my level. I’m pretty extreme with my love for this album. I’ve definitely done a lot of passing it around to my fellow songwriters. It needs to be heard. It’s one of those albums that, when it first came out, it wasn’t widely popular and accepted, and then it was the slow burn. Now I think it’s the number two-rated album of all time by Rolling Stone — but the number one album of all time for me.”

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Artwork for Ashe’s 54th anniversary “Pet Sounds” livestream salute

With the livestream, “I think it’s going to be really cool to introduce all of our fan bases to an album that maybe they haven’t heard before,” she says. “That seems crazy to me because it’s always been my favorite album since I was a little kid. But I know that my high schooler and age 12-to-16 fans don’t know what ‘Pet Sounds’ is. They don’t know who Brian Wilson himself is. So this is going to be really legendary.”

For this full-length cover version, “we have 11 total artists, including myself, performing each song of the album in the order of the album,” says Ashe. “The only song we don’t have is one of the instrumentals, which is ‘Let’s Go Away for Awhile,’ although we do have the other instrumental, the title track, covered.” Most of the singers were already friends of hers, but either way, she knew she had good bait, even for those who aren’t on as serious a level of devotee as she is: “Once I snagged my guy Finneas, a lot of artists were like, ‘Oh, cool. Yeah, I’d love to be a part of it.'”

Matching the songs to the singers was “the hardest thing. Of course people at first want ‘God Only Knows,'” as sung ethereally by Brian’s brother Carl back in 1966. Tedder, of OneRepublic and “Songland” fame, won that assignment. Meanwhile, “I started getting videos in yesterday, and I watched the first one, from Bishop Briggs, and I just started crying halfway through, it’s so beautiful. I know her as just this powerhouse of vocals, but the performance that she does of ‘Put Your Head on My Shoulders’ is really intimate and stripped down, and her voice is the quietest and softest I’ve never heard it. I just totally broke into tears.”

As of this conversation, Ashe admitted, “I am the only one who still has to deliver my video, which is ‘I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,’ which is the one I sort of relate to the most. I didn’t have every lyric memorized until I had to start rehearsing it for this show. And I was thinking about the words: ‘Sometimes I get very sad,’ and it just repeats that over and over. And ‘I keep looking for people that I can hold onto and I don’t have to let go.’ It’s both super beautiful and also kind of melancholy, which I think we’re all feeling a lot of in this crazy time right now. “

As anyone who has ever tried to interpret the work of Brian Wilson has found, it’s more challenging than it might at first appear. “It was important to me to pick not only musicians that were friends and that I respected a lot, but could be up to the task of covering these songs,” she says. “I was learning the chord progressions for ‘I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times’ yesterday, and I was like, ‘Holy s—, this thing is complicated.’ I kind of feel really accomplished for learning it. But I’m definitely doing my best and I know everyone is doing their best to honor every one of the songs on the album.”

Ashe is not a naif in the woods when it comes to music with complications beyond the standard or simpler realms of pop. She studied at the Berklee College of Music, and is bringing some of that experience to bear as she prepares her full-length debut, which she says will draw both upon that training and, yes, “Pet Sounds.” “At Berklee, I majored in writing and production, and the writing portion was big band or orchestral writing. For my senior project I had to compose an entire piece for an orchestra and conduct it myself, and it was a very massive task. So in doing my debut album, I feel like I’m sort of reverting back to some of that stuff I learned in college. But Brian, of course, didn’t even have that kind of training — he’s just a complete genius.”

Of the nearly finished debut album (which will follow two EPs on the Mom + Pop label, “Moral of the Story: Chapters 1 and 2”), Ashe says, “Obviously it’s very inspired by ‘Pet Sounds.’ I wanted to originally put out either a single or my album on May 16, in ode to (the anniversary of) ‘Pet Sounds.’ Then when ‘Moral of the Story’ started having its moment,  we had to start pushing back my album and the next single. So I was like, ‘Well, I have to do something for May 16. It’s too important to me. So this livestream feels like the perfect way to salute this incredible album, right before putting out a whole album, my debut album, that’s completely inspired by it. So,” she laughs, humbly, “I hope it’s good.”

Although the show is free, it’s a benefit to solicit donations for MusiCares and Support + Feed (a plant-based organization recently profiled in Variety). “That’s Billie EIlish’s and Finneas’ mom Maggie Baird’s team relief initiative, and she has just been making a massive impact on so many people’s lives, bringing food to shelters and food pantries. Finneas is one of my best friends and we started really wanted to support our family as well, doing this.”