A recent graduate from the Antigua Girls’ High School, Asher Otto, was in the studios of local TV station ABS for a solo performance late last year when Itchy Feet manager Paddy Prendergast first approached her to “sing a few songs” with the local band.
Fast-forward to today and 18-year-old Asher is preparing to mark her first year singing full-time as one of the band’s two lead singers alongside front man Kenne Blessin.
Asher recalls that she jumped at the opportunity when, after a few practice sessions, Prendergast offered her the chance to join the band full-time.
“The decision wasn’t hard because I know that’s what I want to do,” Asher said. “What’s hard is people, they ask, ‘aren’t you going to college? Aren’t you working? How are you going to make a living?’
“It’s pressure from everyone but I knew that was what I was going to do all the time,” she added.
Prendergast said he saw something unique in the young talent and believes he has discovered a future global star.
“I felt Asher had something very unique, a fantastic voice…” recalled her band manager, Prendergast. “I worked 20 years in the music business in the UK, New York and Dublin and Asher is the only one I have seen in Antigua that I think has a real shot internationally.”
New Year’s Eve 2011 and a nervous, inexperienced Asher was “thrown into the deep end” for her first performance at Nelson’s Dockyard in front of a 1,000 strong crowd.
“I don’t think we have ever asked her to do anything that I didn’t think she would absolutely succeed in doing and I think when she is under pressure she can dig deeper than she knows herself,” Prendergast said.
Asher revealed that it’s been a year of learning for her and believes she has grown immensely in her short time in the industry.
“There is no one saying let me teach you how to do this and that; you just have to watch and pick up on everything you can. There are things about Kenne I take and some I don’t, but you learn from everyone you see,” Asher said.
And Prendergast said what he has seen of Asher in a year has convinced him that she has found her true calling.
“I think there are some people who couldn’t do anything else if they tried,” Prendergast said.
“I don’t think Kenne could ever be anything else other than a singer for instance. Some people were born for this job and it was in their soul…There is nothing she was ever going to be other than a singer,” he added.
The young songbird believes in the coming New Year she will be able to use that experience and make a step up to the international level.
“People say, ‘oh you want to be the next Rihanna,’ and I tell them no, I am going to be the next Asher.
“I’m not doing this for myself alone. I am doing this for Antigua and the Caribbean, I want to put us on the map, but not for soca,” she added.
The young singer points to R&B or pop as her likely path but said she refuses to tie herself down to a genre just yet. But Prendergast said he believes they will find a home for Asher in a more international genre.
“It’s a very dangerous business trying to stick a label on something and then push it into that corner,” Prendergast said.
“Itchy Feet has never taken part as a band in Carnival, even though we play soca and I have a high regard for soca; it doesn’t play a big part in our set for the audience we are playing to.
“I believe over the next few years Antigua will have a genuine international star, not someone who just does a few songs at Carnival in Trinidad,” he added.
On Monday night, a more experienced, stronger and confident Asher will take the stage once again with Itchy Feet, this time to ring in the New Year at Sugar Ridge. She hopes it will be the start of greater things to come in 2013.
“We have a deal on the table already to make a record in the UK so whether or not we go down that road; I think the plan would be to start putting some of the elements in place,” Prendergast said.
“With Itchy Feet, we have various commitments until the end of the season, but after that, I would think we would be out of here,” he added.