Who can forget the Pop music scene at the turn of the 21st century? Artists such as *NSync, The BackStreet Boys and Britney Spears dominated MTV, and there was a slue of boy bands popping up at every turn. If you paid attention to pop music at that time, or you were a 16 year old girl, you might remember the original group from ABC’s “The Making Of The Band”, O-Town and if you remember O-Town then you might remember Ashley Parker Angel.
A lot has changed since the O-Town days and we chat with Ashley!
HIP: What surprised me the most was how much you had to struggle. I don’t think it was something the average person would expect.
ASHLEY: You mean having been in a group before?
If you have a record deal and you sell a couple million albums like O-Town people think you are wealthy. I think it is pretty shocking for people. I can’t speak for all artists but sometimes you sign a bad contract and that is what happened to us. Everybody had a piece of a pie. Even the television was cut in the deal, ABC who had the show first and they even got paid, so when it came down to the band we didn’t get much.
People don’t realize that publishing rights is where artists make the most money and you didn’t have any publishing rights—right?
Yeah. The publishing situation with O-Town was that it came together so quickly we didn’t have time to be part of the writing process. I grew up a songwriter, my mom was a piano teacher, and I always wanted to be a part of that. I didn’t get a chance to write a song until the second album. And then after that we mutually called it quits.
With MTV filming the show did they come in and want to film all of your struggles with money and so on—because my assumption is they paid you for the show and…
…Well what happened with the show… When I met with them I wasn’t pursuing TV. I had a record contract on the table and I hooked up with these producers and the minute the budget came on the table I had problems getting an advance. I told MTV that I had no place to live, no money, and my girlfriend was having a baby and they asked how I’d feel if they followed me around with camera. At that point there was no guarantee that MTV was going to pick it up or it would get green-lighted. They filmed me for a couple of months before we knew what was going to happen. I signed an agreement that doesn’t allow me to discuss what the payment was.
I wasn’t interested in the payment per se. I was more interested in the fact that you needed to borrow money because you had none in the bank and so on.
Well the show didn’t get picked up for a couple of months after filming so the majority of the struggling started then. The way they edit all shows is that they take footage from all over the place and splice it together. Sometimes things don’t even happen in chronological order. So if something is happening in the seventh or eighth episode it was filmed early when we started filming. They take things that happen in April and match it with something that happened in June. Most of that stuff happened early on in the show when I was going on job interviews. I can also say that I can’t discuss specifically what they paid but they have deep pockets but they don’t pay much. MTV is cheap. Honestly I would have done it for free—I wouldn’t have told them that. But I wanted to show them the side of me that didn’t get to come through when I was with O-Town.
The exposure is priceless.
Yeah, you can’t put a price on it. It was a win-win situation. They get a chance to follow a compelling story and I get the most unbelievable second chance to show what kind of artist I am. I told MTV when I met them that I was going for credibility and respect which is what didn’t happen with O-Town. MTV really helped to bring those things to light. That is the reason I did the show.
It had to drive you crazy that all of those years no one saw you as a musician.
Yeah. We fought, a couple of the guys did, to make it organic. The problem was that we were fighting to make something organic within manipulated circumstances. So every once in a while I’d play guitar and piano. I tried to put that out as much as possible but O-Town wasn’t about that. It was about dancing and it was what it was.
If you were never on Making The Band would you have tried to go on a show like American Idol?
Yeah, I probably would. Because I was from a small town and I always wanted to break into the music industry. What shows like American Idol does is give people in small places a chance. What if you don’t have a star mom or dad? You try to find an outlet and this is an opportunity for kids to get their faces out there. The only downside, I can’t speak for the American Idol kids, is that the contracts are for the corporate side. It’s for them to make money. We have nothing left to show for it. About a year and a half after O-Town I was basically broke.
What is interesting is that Simon will get a million dollars but you see these artists that have a lot of talent and get nothing.
Yeah. For me it was just about getting my foot in the door. It was a crash course into the music industry. Look at Kelly Clarkson. She wouldn’t be where she is if it weren’t for American Idol. She just wanted to get her foot in the door like me.
I listened to some of your songs and I have to ask—did you ever listen to pop or was O-Town just a compromise?
I didn’t really listen to pop music. I grew up listening to different kinds of music. My dad had a sixties and seventies album collection. I discovered music listening to Elton John and older music. When I got older in high-school I was into Oasis and Third Eye Blind. I was more into rock and live band driven. I love Queen and the Doors. When I got into O-Town I had some talent in terms of singing but it wasn’t the music I listened to but I had a great time performing because I had a passion to do it.
How insane was the stress to write the album?
With being a new dad it has been the biggest challenge in my life but it has also been very fulfilling and rewarding. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I was able to pull from Tiffany and I being new parents. It inspired me. It was really tough because people don’t realize how psychological it can be to have cameras filming you. It can be really stressful. Even though you are being yourself you constantly know in the back of your mind people are watching you.
I can imagine. Wait, no I can’t imagine. (We both laugh) Does stress help or hinder you as a songwriter?
For me it helps. I write better under stress. I’ve always been like that. I don’t know why. I think it’s my personality. I really rose to the occasion. I tried to put success out of my mind and put my heart into what I was doing.
A benefit for you is that the girls who liked O-Town has probably graduated to rock.
I’m excited by that because music has changed since then. But you are totally right. Those girls are probably freshman in college. But I want to find a new audience too. I think everyone is excited to see a familiar face. I think if I came out sounding like O-Town it would be a disaster but that isn’t how I write.
What I like about the show is that it shows that not all popular artists are rich. That is something I’ve known being a part of the industry but not a lot of fans know.
That story needs to be told me. There are a lot of rock stars that are rich but there is another side of the coin and that is what MTV liked about my story. It’s not that far away and people are shocked to see how back at square one that I am.
It was a surprise to me too. I’ve talked to bands that have sold millions of records and they said they were still in debt.
Exactly. There was an episode where I confront the producers that I was working with. I got a recording budget and most people thought I got a record deal and people thought I must have been rolling in it. But when I got my record deal I couldn’t get my recording advance because the producers I was working with were in charge of the recording budget and in control of my recording advance and they wouldn’t talk to my lawyer or me. I know they did that to other artists but I had MTV cameras with me and I went in there and stood up for myself and told them I couldn’t work with people like that. I hope I helped artists that have been taken advantage of in the past.
I think what is sad about your situation is that people in the industry saw you guys as disposable.
Yeah. That is how I felt O-Town was treated. Of course when you go into it… I can remember Clive Davis saying he doesn’t sign one-hit-wonders and its about developing artists but the second album comes out and the boy band trend changes and there was no love there anymore.
+ Charlie Craine