Christmas came early for students at Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) when JLS’s Aston Merrygold visited for an exclusive masterclass. Ran in partnership with Music Gateway, Aston spoke to students about his involvement in the NextGen competition - an exciting new initiative which allows you to submit your music to Aston and 25 additional high level industry experts for a chance to win a recording package, equipment and top industry introductions.
“For me to be a judge for the NextGen competition is a big deal, I just think that it’s a beautiful thing and for me to not be a part of it, I was just like - no that’s not happening, this opportunity couldn’t pass me by - to see what could be the next MJ, the next Beatles - you never know what this next generation is going to bring. The fact that I’m here and I could be seeing some stars in the making - it’s a big thing! Aston also spoke about his career and offered advice before giving an intimate acoustic performance and speaking about his upcoming tour.
Presented by Ace, the Academy’s Head of Creative Industry Development (also the guitarist in Skunk Anansie), Aston kicked off the class by explaining his route into music. Sharing that a foot injury caused him to choose a music career over football, Aston said how his Mum tricked him into doing ‘Stars In Their Eyes Kids’ where he performed as Michael Jackson and it was this that made him fall in love with music.
Aston spoke about the hard work JLS did in the year before their X Factor audition, saying “you need a thick skin and to realise it’s not you it’s just the wrong time”. They were told by a lot of people that “boy bands don’t work” and then those same people were queuing up to work with them after their X Factor experience. Discussing his JLS career, Aston noted winning at the Brits and performing at Michael Jackson’s memorial concert as his personal highlights. When asked about the chance of a JLS reunion, Aston replied “there’s no plans, but never say never”, he also shared that the split was as they wanted to go out on top and the timing was right for them to try something new in their careers.
During the Q & A section of the class Aston said that he first started writing songs at just 14 and that he’d love to collaborate with Justin Timberlake. When asked about his future plans, he revealed that he would be opening a new dance studio called “BASE” soon and is really looking forward to playing at KOKO Camden whilst on tour. Giving students a taste of what to expect on the tour, Aston shared that his live set up was him alongside two backing vocalists, a DJ and a drummer before giving an exclusive performance alongside a guitarist to the excited crowd.
The class wrapped up with Aston answering more questions and meeting the students. Aston was clearly impressed with his ACM visit saying: “I’m really impressed. The rooms they’ve got here are just so well kitted out and I’ve seen a lot of people around to help I suppose if there’s any questions that students have - they’ve got some great guidance. It seems like the energy here is very chilled, it doesn’t feel like there’s any stress. When I was back in education it felt like there was a workload on your shoulders but here it feels very chilled which is nice, there’s a lovely little vibe at ACM so yeah I’m liking it so far.”