Growing up in today’s diverse, musical atmosphere, one can find inspiration and influence in many musical forms and genres. For 17-year-old Aaron Hinton-Marshall, better known as recording artist Aaron Fresh, that inspiration, with the additional influence of his Trinidadian background, provides the basis of his soon-to-be-released debut album, Fresh N Up.
Taking a few diligent cues from some of the world’s most talented performers including Chris Brown, Usher, and the late Michael Jackson, Fresh hopes to provide a “fresh” twist to music that inspires listening ears as he embarks on his world debut in entertainment.
Check out what he has to say about coming into the music industry, being signed by Nick Cannon, and why he promises fans he won’t get “big-headed” in this Limelight Spotlight Q&A.
Tell me a little bit about where you are from and how you became involved in the music industry at such a young age?
I’m actually from Trinidad and Tobago, and I got introduced to the music business since I was born basically, having all the influences from Michael Jackson and Usher, and being surrounded by music from my brother and my moms. She definitely kept me in the whole music and entertainment business thing. She didn’t know she was doing that at the time, though, and when I turned 12, that’s when I really understood that this is what I wanted to do.
You knew for sure that this is what you wanted to do at 12?
How did you connect your talent and what you aspired to do professionally to actually making it happen with Def Jam and getting signed to a label?
Actually, like my vision was always to actually be another Usher, or another Michael Jackson, or Stevie Wonder. You know, all those big acts. That’s what I first intended to do, but as I grew up when I was like 15 and 16, I realized I have the whole Trinidadian and American side to me so I wanted to mix the Pop/R&B with the whole Trinidadian Dancehall stuff.
When I was 16, I was actually rehearsing for a school talent show and my producer Reo Mitchell was walking by, and he heard me practicing through my friend’s window. He walked upstairs, knocked on the door and asked me to come to the studio once in a while. I went to the studio, did some songs, and he knew Nick Cannon. So Nick came through and in five minutes he was like “Yo, lets do it!” He signed me to his label, Ncredible.
This was in school in Trinidad?
No this was here. When I was fourteen, I moved to America.
And where were you living, in LA?
When I first moved here, I moved to San Francisco first. I lived there for a year, and then I came to LA.
Tell me about your sound and why it’s “Fresh?” I noticed the “fresh” in your name, so I’m assuming you feel that you’re bringing something new to the industry. How do you make it different? How do you make it fresh?
Thank you, I appreciate that you actually caught on to that. That’s why I named the whole album “Fresh N Up,” because that’s what I believe… the entertainment business needs to freshen up.
How do you want to bring the artists who inspire you to your music, but also flip it a little bit and make sure you stand out?
What I’ve picked up from the Ushers and Stevie Wonders and Michael Jacksons and all that is that their lifestyle—as in the way they treat their fans, how they interview in public and all that… I watch the way they perform with all their heart in giving the people what they want. Whether it’s dance moves and just bringing something new to the table every time, and you know, being in the spotlight. That’s what I took from them as artists, and just doing your best at anything that you want to do. Artist wise, I thought I’ll just take a piece of their R&B… the way they sing, the way they would have certain notes and stuff, and I would mix it with the more familiar stuff that I’m familiar with, the dancehall and dub and all of that.
How do you feel that you stand out as an artist amongst the new breed of young talent?
Yeah, the whole crew is like Lil’ Twist, and Diggy, and Khalil, and Justin Bieber and all of that. I think that I stand out because of where I’m from, having the best of both worlds with the Trinidadian and American vibe, and also incorporating that into my music. I want to be as versatile as I can be. If I can do it, I’m definitely going to try my best and I’mma do it. Like rapping, singing, doing the reggae, dancehall, writing music, everything.
Have you been in the studio writing your own music? What are you taking away from the industry in terms of being able to write and produce your music? How much input do you have being that you’re so young and this is your first album?
For the first album, I think, this album I was just sitting back and watching how everything was being done with writing and producing. I watched how Nick operated and how Reo and the Jam operated with the music and how they went about writing, instead of me. I used to write just off the top, freestyling, and it’s not really like that. There’s actually a strategy in which to write and a strategy in which to produce. So I watched it for this first album. I still had some input where I would write. I wrote like two or three songs on the album. But for the next album, I definitely want to put me in it and show people what I can do.
Are there any other types of music from different genres that influence your sound in addition to R&B, Reggae/Dancehall?
Music, in general, influences me and gives me inspiration. In the mornings, my mom wakes up at 6 o’clock to go to work. I wake up, too, so I could let her out the door and lock the door behind her. I usually don’t go back to sleep because I’m watching MTV Hits or something until I fall asleep. I see a lot of rock bands, I see a lot of R&B, a lot of hip hop. I see a whole lot of genres of music that people might not think I’m accustomed to, but I just love the sound of music, period. I love “Just Say Yes” by Snow Patrol and “Uprising” by Muse. I love all of that kind of stuff, Train’s “Soul Sister.” I wouldn’t say that I’m a diehard fan for all of those bands, because I’m not. But when they come out with hot singles and music, I listen to it.
Do you play any instruments?
No, but I’m learning how to play the piano and the guitar. I’m in training.
Tell me about your dance skills and how you picked those up? You seem to have some natural talent.
To be completely honest, I’ve never taken a dance class in my life before. What I used to do was watch Chris Brown and Usher and Michael Jackson and watch how they operate. Watch their stage presence and how they really give a performance that people can remember. Like the smallest moves, people remember. I would watch those guys do their thing and really try to perfect it, and also have a natural way in dancing. I just watched them, and my dancers came in. I have two dancers that put me in training for a month, and I just did it. It just happens. I’m not really a dance fanatic where I just go out in the middle of a dance floor, but I can do it. If there’s anything I can do to show people what I can do, I try to be as versatile as possible.
What can fans expect to hear about on your upcoming album?
Fans can expect fun, like “Dirty Girl.” It’s just a fun song where people can go to a party, a club for the grown-ups and everybody can relate to the song. We have songs like “Spending All My Time” where it makes you feel good, like you feel like going to the beach when you hear that song. We have songs that can make you break down and cry because it reminds you of somebody, your ex or something. We just have a whole bunch of feel-good songs that make sense and hit the heart.
What do you hope people and your fans will take away from your music?
I hope that people take away a good feeling and an inspiration whether it’s the way I sing or whatever I do. I want people to really feel inspired and see me for who I am. And I want them to know that I’m not going to get big-headed. I want them to know that my music is something that you can put in your iPod and just put on repeat. That’s what I want people to get from it. And ten years from now, they can listen to “Spending All My Time” again and be like, “oh yeah, I remember this song when it came out, I love this song.” I want to have longevity inside this business.
NeonLimelight.com Exclusive: Aaron Fresh at Def Jam Live