Ashley Raines to play Steve’s Guitars
If You Go...
Who: Ashley Raines and the New West Revue
When: 8:30 p.m. on Saturday
Where: Steve’s Guitars
Admission: Cash at door
When asked what led him to run away from his Kansas home at 14, blues/folk singer-songwriter Ashley Raines says “fight or flight.”
“It just was the thing that made sense to me,” he said. “I had always been hard to keep under wraps for my folks, even from a young age. Society doesn’t want you to act like you’re 30 when you’re 14, but I feel fortunate that by 14 I knew what I was built to do.”
That’s an interesting way of putting it: He knew what he was built to do, not simply what he wanted to do.
This absolutist way of talking about music crops up more than once in a conversation with Raines. He said, “I think I always was a musician,” as if the persona means more than the ability to play an instrument, which came later.
And given all he’s been through just to play his songs to a captive audience at Steve’s Guitars on Saturday, it’s hard to believe music was anything less than his destiny.
Raines hasn’t always performed in venues; when he started his vagabond career as a teenager, street corners served as his stage. And performing on sidewalks comes with hardship.
“I stood out of the bounds of society, and those are the things that stick with me,” he said. “I would be threatened with arrest for playing my music on the street corner. But I was also met with a great deal of generosity.”
Depending on the moment of any given day, passersby could throw cash in Raines’ guitar case — or garbage from the ice cream shop they just walked out of.
“I was one of those people who had to learn things the hard way,” he said. “At the time, I just wanted to write poems, and I realized real early on that nobody wants to listen to that. So I learned how to wrap music around what my words were. I didn’t know anything. But it was just what I had to do.”
Over the past 20 years, Raines has gone from street corners to studios and venues. He became essentially a hired hand for Dan Navarro, who has worked with Pat Benetar and the Bangles. The two performed at Steve’s Guitars together about four years ago, Raines said, but this is his first proper concert with his own music at Steve’s.
He’s supporting his latest album, “After the Bruising,” which was released last Thanksgiving. His 13th recording has been described as his most autobiographical album yet, which Raines said has to do with his ability to be honest with himself about certain things he’s gone through.
“I had a couple of experiences that almost took me out of the world — Jim Morrison would call them near-life experiences,” he said. “I was getting older, and I could finally be honest with myself and sing about some of those things. My songwriting is based on the question: Am I in a space where I’m prepared to be truthful and honest with myself?”
Raines may not be playing street corners anymore, but his itch to keep moving hasn’t yet been scratched.
“The idea wasn’t ever to stay where I was,” he said. “Do we ever settle down? I think I’ll settle down when they settle me down in that hole.”
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