Upcoming guitarist, singer and songwriter Ashley Sherlock recently toured Germany as part of a package tour for his label Ruf Records.
“It was beautiful,” he tells Classic Rock. “We were playing to clubs of 250-400 people a night, and what they were talking to me about was the songs, the songwriting. It’s been awesome to have that feedback from people whose first language isn’t necessarily English. They still understand, they still clap in the same parts.”
Affable Manchester lad Sherlock can belt out an emotional tune and wield a Gibson with the best of them. So many German gig goers told him his guitar style reminded them of Rory Gallagher that it became a running joke on the tour bus. But the bluesman couture’s a little misleading – for him it’s the songcraft, rather than the widdle, that is key.
After a two self-released EPs, Sherlock’s accessible, sensitive and song-centric debut LP Just A Name proves the point. Two pop-rock tunes in particular – I Think That She Knows and the rather Maroon 5-like Dear Elizabeth – hit the spot for audiences.
“When we started out in 2019, we kind of fell into the blues-rock scene,” he says. “I say this with all the love, but that’s an ageing demographic – you’re not playing to many teenagers. Even when I go to watch Gary Clark Jr. or Jason Isbell, their crowd is older than me. But we wanted to write songs that Adele or Lewis Capaldi could sing, but to make it rocky too, cos I’m a rocker at heart.
"I don’t mind us being a Nickelback, where someone will say: ‘This isn’t rock, it’s pop!’ All the songs come from a place of hurt or experience, so it’s a therapy thing. And everybody loves a catchy chorus.”
Aged just five, Sherlock would listen to his dad’s copy of Mark Knopfler’s Sailing To Philadelphia album. In time the penny dropped that these songs didn’t just exist, they were written. He adored Rod Stewart, The Stereophonics, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Stadium Arcadium. Watching their Live At Slane Castle DVD daily, Sherlock taught himself guitar in his teens, and later did doing open-mic gigs as a singer-songwriter – three of them on the bounce, some nights.
Completed by talented bassist Charlie Rachael Kay and seasoned drummer Danny Rigg, his band have played big shows with Kris Barras, The Quireboys and Liverpool blues artist Laurence Jones. Last winter the trio holed up in the freezing attic room of Manchester’s Hallam Mill and turned out their debut album in four intense days.
“[Label head] Thomas Ruf told us: ‘I don’t want a blues band, I want a British rock band,’” says Sherlock. “So we kept it simple, went for a good live-sounding record that wasn’t over-polished. We wanted to take you on a journey, to tell a story with it.” It’s a story well told, and a journey well worth making.
Just A Name is out now via Ruf Records