Whether he’s on stage earning his BFA or the studio recording under the name Ashton Chase, Chase Pittman keeps busy.
After the pandemic forced him to continue his acting studies at Ohio’s Otterbein University virtually, the Jacksonville rapper returned to his hometown. He’s since spent the last year and a half launching his career with a handful of singles, a full-length album and live shows up and down the state. Now, he has a flurry of new projects in his back pocket, ready for release just as summer rolls around.
Q: You’ve blown up in a relatively short period of time. What do you think it is about your music that caught so many people?
AC: I have great friends and people that are down to hear what I have to say. I try to make it a point to be as positive as I can, spread a decent vibe. The whole point of my music is to unify, to bring people together. We have so many things that are dividing us right now — politics, the color of each other’s skin, who you like to have sex with. Just about anything you can fight about, we’re fighting about right now. I’m trying to unite us the best I can. If people bond over the songs I make or whatever the case may be, I just like to tell stories and express myself through creative means.
Q: Who are your influences?
AC: Donald Glover [Childish Gambino] is kind of dad. He’s easily my biggest influence. I grew up the same as him — middle class, suburbia, Black kid. I really related to him from a young age, since “Royalty.” Tyler, The Creator has a lot of influence on me, Kota the Friend, Dominic Fike. Those are the ones I really love. I’m really inspired by East Coast-style music, kind of like badass boom-bap. But a lot of West Coast too, like Jaden Smith.
Q: How’d you get involved with theater, and how have you incorporated it into your music?
AC: We had to take drama in middle school, and I took it in seventh grade and loved it. I kept doing it, and then my friend Nick, a huge theater guy, really got me into theater. My freshman year, we did Hairspray, and he was like, “You should do it.” I didn’t want to do it, didn’t want to sing, and then I did it and just fell in love with being onstage and expressing myself.
Especially with my visuals, I feel like I try to make them as story-based as possible, as narrative as possible, as cinematic as possible. My favorite part about doing music is visually expressing it, that’s what I’m really passionate about.
Q: You said you want to leave a footprint with your music. What does that look like?
AC: I’ve been taking voice lessons since eighth or ninth grade, so I’m classically trained. I can use my voice as an instrument in a pretty unique way, so I’m really trying to explore as many different styles as I can. I’m not trying to get boxed in with the concept of genre or anything. I’m definitely trying to stay genre-fluid. I want to dabble. I want to leave my mark. I want to make hits, classics. I’m really just trying to unite, spread love. It’s the age of the independent artist — if you want to create, you can do it.
Q: Which of your songs represents you best?
AC: “Over 9000.” I open with it. I love anime. I love Goku. I want to feel good. I want people who listen to my music to feel good. I feel like that’s kind of a basic answer, though. A non-basic answer is “Paper Planes,” one of the first songs I put out. It just means a lot to me.
Q: Three albums you can’t live without?
AC: I hate you…I have a list, do you mind if I reference it before I give you my answer? Oh my god, this is so hard! Ok, “Blonde” by Frank Ocean — I’m doing five — “Because the Internet” [by Childish Gambino], “Flower Boy” [by Tyler the Creator], “Acid Rap” [by Chance the Rapper], “SATURATION II” [by BROCKHAMPTON].
Q: Who’s “up next” to you?
AC: There are so many crazy people in the Jax scene. I’ll shout out Roachifer, DJ Santana, Young Preach, Dev the Goon in North Carolina, and Shane Malone.