Whether singing one of her originals for an intimate audience, or a Hall & Oates song for a wedding crowd, Atlanta-based singer Ansley Stewart has been turning heads everywhere she goes and is poised to turn many more. Until recently, she was a part-time musician and a full-time academic advisor for The University of Georgia’s Music Business Program in her hometown of Athens. She had been singing semi-professionally in her free time for over a decade but her love of music, her ambitions, and her voice were just too big for her old life to hold. The turning point from weekend warrior to full-time singer/songwriter came in 2015 and she isn’t looking back. A stack of original songs, a head full of influences like Aretha Franklin, Susan Tedeschi and Bonnie Raitt (“no shrinking violets”), and hundreds of donations to a successful Kickstarter campaign have culminated in her debut at Eddie’s Attic and the recording of her first EP this fall.
Although singing is not new to Ansley, the desire to write her own songs is a recent development. “It’s all pretty personal right now,” she says. “There are some really big stories and moments in my life that I feel like I need to get out through songwriting. But I still want to make it universal enough that someone else could say ‘Wow, I’ve been through that’ or ‘Damn, that’s catchy as hell.’”
Ansley had been involved in music since her late teens, singing in cover bands and doing session work for her friends’ original projects. She loved making music and felt an urge to do more, but was in the middle of a secure career and was hesitant to change course. In 2014, the Atlanta-based Emerald Empire Band began throwing gigs her way. The Emerald crew was taken by her savvy professionalism, positivity to spare, and voice to be reckoned with, and they soon began imploring her to move to Atlanta. Life in Athens wasn’t bad for Ansley; she had a good job and owned a house. But she knew music was her greatest joy and on her 30th birthday, made the decision to follow that path. She quit her job, sold her house, moved to Atlanta, and has been singing nonstop ever since.
The career change has resulted in a happier Ansley than ever before. The music she makes every day and especially the people she makes it with are fulfilling her in ways she only dreamed of. In addition to finding her voice as an original artist and her footing as a professional, she has found a supportive, creative and generous musical family in her new home. “I’ve always wanted to be around creative people—in the treehouse, as I say—and that’s what Atlanta has been. I didn’t even have to knock on the door. It was just open and everyone inside was like ‘Yo girl, c’mon in! We got cake!’”