School of hard knocks

Pop artist Asher Knight told David Hennessy how he overcame bullying and mental health issues to now talk to children suffering from these issues in schools around the UK and touring with Boyzone. 

22-year-old Bradford pop star Asher Knight has supported massive acts like Boyzone, Steps and The Vamps. His first single of the year Without Us was received positively and boasted the sort of catchy chorus that would be perfect for festivals if there were any on. He has returned with the follow-up single Oxygen that which is all about those people that you love no matter what which is a prescient theme with many people still unable to see family as they would like.

Asher told The Irish World: “It’s all about unconditional love and being there for people when they’re struggling and going through hard times. I would really encourage people to listen to it and also take on board the message, especially during this time when we’re all struggling through mental health, being stuck inside all day and not being able to do the things we want to do in life. It’s difficult and the thing we’ve got to remember is we are all there for each other. It might not be face to face, it might not be on a night out. It might not be at school with friends but we’re all there for each other still. I really encourage people to listen to it and remember to love one another.”

Asher joined the Power Of Muzik collective, which works to spread the message of empowerment, in 2018 and has visited a lot of schools to talk about his personal experience of bullying and mental health aiming to be an inspirational voice for those who are struggling.

“It’s about encouraging students to talk out about things like bullying and mental health and through that, they can build confidence. I talk about my life experience struggling with mental health, struggling with bullying and how I was able to build my confidence. It goes from talking about bullying and mental health to how to also build up your confidence and be who you are as a person, being the best that you can be. 

“I think it’s so important to talk about mental health and a lot of the time it does go unsaid. I wasn’t vocal about it at all and I suffered for that. I was scared to talk about the bullying. I didn’t understand it fully. I thought it was my fault and I tried to solve it myself by locking myself away. At break-time in school, I would be inside hiding. 

“At one point at school we had this massive cupboard and I was just sitting in there by myself on my phone because I was scared of what people would say to me and what they would do so that I couldn’t speak out and I suffered for that and that further impacted my mental health.

“I had to start talking about it and it wasn’t until I felt like I was really suffering that I was able to talk about it but the sooner you are able to talk about it, the better. It’s like anything else with the body. The earlier you catch something the easier it is to handle it. It can take years to deal with mental health but it’s always worthwhile.”

Asher is glad to make such appearances and finds it rewarding. 

“The reality is I don’t necessarily know what goes on after I’ve left that school. I don’t know if those kids have gone and spoken to a teacher or a parent or anyone. I don’t know. On the odd occasion I get lovely messages, ‘You encouraged me to talk out and I’m getting help now’. And that’s always inspiring. I might be stood in front of 1,000 kids but as long as one person is able to receive that message and do something about it, I know I’ve done my job. I know I’ve been able to go in there and help someone which is important.

“Not everyone goes through mental health issues. We all go through difficult situations but not all of us go through mental health issues and not all of us suffer from bullying so for a lot of people, it’s not going to resonate but that one person, it could be them right now, it could be them in a year, two years’ time or it could have been them when they were younger. That’s important, to get that message across and also to the people that are not struggling with mental health issues and have not gone through bullying, they’re able to recognise it in other people when it’s going on so they can help them.”

Something that Asher gained confidence from was singing but this was all coincidental. Asher was focused on being a dancer until a horrible injury put a stop to that and even then, he was too terrified to sing.

“Going into music was accidental. I was always a performer but I was dancing and acting. They were my loves in life and I suddenly got injured so my dance career was over very quickly and what ended up happening was I was forced into doing a bit of singing at school.

“For a couple of months I would sit in the back of the classroom whilst everyone’s singing, pretending I’m singing, and one day everyone had to do individual songs and my teacher said, ‘Okay, it’s your turn’. And I was like, ‘No, I can’t do that’. I got forced into it. I was told, ‘You can either get kicked out of the class or you can sing’. I suffered the pain of having to sing and I literally fell in love with music from that moment onwards, just the release and the enjoyment of it was incredible.

“I’m thankful for that injury because it’s led me to where I am now.” 

Has he gained confidence from songwriting? “I have recently, yes. Songwriting has always been a quite scary thing for me. Even when I had been in music for a couple of years, songwriting could be intimidating because a lot of the producers I work with have worked with incredible artists and they write incredible songs. To get put in a room with them writing songs was incredibly scary but over lockdown and over the last year or so the writing has really come through. I’m enjoying it more.”

Asher toured the UK with Boyzone when he joined as support on their Thank You and Goodnight tour last year. He has also supported The Vamps and Steps.

“I loved performing with Boyzone, literally one of the best experiences in my life. We did so many venues. It was a massive tour and they are some of the most incredible and kindest people. They encouraged me to carry on with what I’m doing, were supportive. Their whole team are wonderful and the fans are beyond incredible. 

“I remember people crying in the audience on the first show in Dublin, the energy was just incredible.

“I was able to perform at venues I’ve always dreamed of performing at and Boyzone helped that dream come true.” 

If he had been born earlier, could Asher have been in the famous Irish boyband himself? Well, funnily enough, although Asher didn’t know he had any Irish blood himself, he has recently been told her has.

“Apparently a large percentage of me is Irish which I didn’t know which was amazing because I thought I was very boring. I just thought I was 100% Yorkshire.”

Oxygen is out now. 

For more information, click here.

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