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"I've had parents bring in their kids to record for fun but never anyone who was actually prepared to make a record, which is what she did," he continues. "Certainly no one with her potential doing her all her pre-production at home."
Technically, how good is she? "While the recording quality of what she's done on her own wasn't quite up to major label status, what she's accomplishing by herself with her ProTools rig is pretty mind-blowing," says Weddle, who's currently working on a full-length CD with Ashlee.
Of all the hats Ashlee has to wear, she concedes that "getting the right sound" has been the hardest. For Marcello, his biggest challenge is getting people to listen to that sound and come out to see Supa Nova Sta perform, whether it's a gig at Great Skate or a big show like the one coming up at Goodyear Airport. The proof is definitely in the pudding, but without a listen and a look-see, everything has a hollow "My child is an honor student" bumper sticker ring to it.
"I'll admit we were skeptical at first when we heard she was 13, because we don't work with children in that demographic," says Melissa Garten, the Director of Business for Static Management, which counts among its clients Top 5 recording artist Afroman.
"We normally deal with people who are a little bit older and have been touring for years, who have a little more experience under their belts. But as soon as we heard the music, we were hooked," says Garten, who finally broke down and took Ashlee on as a client. "What translates well with Supa Nova is that she hasn't been signed or dropped or had any of those experiences that would make her music contrived or jaded. She loves the music, has the passion for it, and she's very real. It's a sound that's very wholesome because that's who she is. She's 13; she hangs out with her friends."
"And as an added bonus, she's tapping into the youth culture in California," Garten adds. "If you go to an all-ages show in California, it's crazy. There's such a good all-ages scene there. It's on a different level than what we have in Arizona. I'm always envious of that underground scene down there, and as she grows here, I think she's gonna help bring that kind of vibe here."
The scene Garten is referring to as making waves in California, specifically the Bay area, is the hyphy movement, which has street credibility and appeals to younger kids who can't quite identify with the explicitness and glock 'n' spiel of most mainstream rap. The phrase "hyphy," credited to S.F. rapper Keak Da Sneak but popularized further by E-40, signifies hyper kids dancing or fidgeting in a manner that can be described as getting dumb, goofy, or riding the short bus. Although alcohol and marijuana are sometimes in the lyrical mix, kids can get behind hyphy without getting baked as a main component. Ashlee's single "Jus Looz It" is pay-dirt hyphy, as evidenced by the "Go Stupid!" refrain of her single, which can easily be misinterpreted as Ashlee just asking someone stupid to leave. Garten says Static Management's first order of business is to get the 2000 CDs the Byrds pressed into the right hands, handle Ashlee's promotion, generate some buzz, and reach out to a fan base that is not likely to hang out in bars or have access to wheels.
"Ashlee's fan base doesn't drive yet. At least, I hope not," Garten says. "Shows have to be well-organized for them to get to. But I think touring acts are going to start to seek Ashlee out because she's gonna have a legitimate fan base in that market."
And what does Garten think of the possibility that if or when Supa Nova takes ova, there could be a clothes line of some sort aimed directly at kids, à la the Olsen twins? This is the sort of forward thinking that Static is hoping for as it partners with Mateas Enterprises.
"The teenage fan base is where a lot of people focus because they have disposable income, they buy records. They buy tee shirts, they buy hoodies. And that's something everyone's trying to do," Garten says. "As she gets older, she's gonna be unstoppable. This girl does not stop. Marcello, his team, does not stop. And they push you as hard as they push themselves."
It's true. The second meeting at Claim Jumper is punctuated with several follow-up phone calls. In a week's time, Marcello's hooked up shows at Zia Record Exchange and he's gotten a few club DJs to spin the Supa Nova Sta single. When Marcello is asked about radio DJs, the love train grinds to a temporary halt.
Radio is really tricky. Mostly driven by advertising dollars to appeal to a demographic that buys car insurance and engagement rings, it reaches a young audience without ever directly acknowledging it, unless you're talking Radio Disney. And that's out of the question for hip-hop, as anyone who's ever heard rappin' Goofy knows.
"Radio? They don't want to hear about it," Marcello says. "Do you know anybody there that can make any decisions?"