South African singer and song-writing sensation Roan Ash believes that there is always a story to tell. “To complete it from every angle, as best I can, is what drives me. I want to leave a legacy,” says Roan. “Nothing beats having a crowd sing along to your original songs,” he adds. Christened Roan van As and born in Pretoria, this home-grown music maestro matriculated from Hoërskool Hendrik Verwoerd. After spending much of his life in the capital city, he moved to George in the Western Cape shortly before moving to Nashville last spring – a fitting time given the potential for growth and regeneration that being transplanted to the ‘Country Music Capital of the World’ offers. “I was fortunate to sign a record deal with Warner Music and a publishing deal with Warner Chappell, which – in a combined effort with Sloane Logue [from talent agency WME] – helped further my musical journey in the US,” he says.
The extremely talented country-pop star grew up in a house full of music. “I fell in love with how it made me feel and think; that’s where my interest in music was born. I never wanted to do anything else.” He has come a long way since his first gig, which he describes as ‘me and a couple of guys who had a band’.
“We weren’t any good, but we loved playing. We played our first show at a school fair.”
After finishing high school, Roan studied music at the Campus of Performing Arts for two years. He released his debut album, The Traveller, independently in 2015. The next year, he co-wrote and recorded the theme song of the feature film Sy Klink Soos Lente with Bouwer Bosch and Dawie de Jager. He also co-wrote some songs for Jo Black’s album Skepe. Also in 2016, he appeared as a contestant in season one of The Voice SA. His performance was loved by the audience – but not the judges, with not one chair being turned during the blind audition stage. Outraged comments from fans peppered social media afterwards, but for Roan, the exposure opened many doors. Two seasons later, he was one of the guest artists who performed in the grand finale of season 3.
Although The Traveller was not the hit he had hoped, that changed when he released the seven-track platinum-selling Whiskey to My Soul album in 2018. Roan’s fan base grew as his hauntingly beautiful voice was introduced to the world. In 2019, Whiskey to My Soul was nominated for Best Adult Contemporary Album at the South African Music Awards.
He also won the 2019 Bokkie Award for National Artist of the Year. His first three singles – If I Ever Saw Heaven, Whiskey to My Soul and Little Things – all climbed SA’s national charts to number one. During his career, he has shared the stage with various artists, including Dan Patlansky, Matthew Mole, Jo Black, Jan Blohm, Koos Kombuis, Arno Carstens, Vusi Mahlasela, Glaskas, Klopjag, Robin Auld and Albert Frost.
Speaking about SA, Roan says he misses the people, the food, the culture, speaking Afrikaans and the soil. “There is just something about SA that will forever be rooted in who you are.”
His last SA performance was at his ‘local’ Café Barcelona, just before he left for the US, and, when being interviewed by Saffa Mag, he was looking forward to performing on the Maui Jim Stage at the Country Music Association Fest in Nashville on June 9, in support of the association and music education.
“I enjoy the simple things in life. Time with friends, family, good food and making music,” says Roan, who cites his greatest personal milestones as having ‘a good wife and a couple of close friends’.
He met his wife Zonika through a mutual friend at a live Dewald Wasserfal show in Pretoria, and the couple got married in 2019. Of all of his songs, Whiskey to My Soul is still his favourite. “I love every song I have ever written, but Whiskey to My Soul feels like a rags to riches story, having victory over a struggle,” he says. As for the future, Roan says he has been working hard to craft new songs and is hoping for a 2023 release.