Sound and Driven: Singer-Songwriter Ashe and Producer Manny Marroquin Reflect on Their Music and Test It Out in a Porsche Taycan
WORDS by ALEX FRANK
PHOTOGRAPHY by JESSE LIROLA
There is an old but timeless idea in the music industry, that when working on new music you never know if you’ve got a hit on your hands until you hear how it sounds blasting from a car stereo. That’s the truest, most American test of how a song sounds, particularly in California, the land of the freeway, when it’s bumping at fifty miles per hour. “The car test is so vital to finish- ing a song; that’s where people are going to listen to it, that’s when the music shines. It’s a really important part of the puzzle,” says Ashlyn Rae Wilson, the singer-songwriter known as Ashe. “That’s where you know.”
The car test is the impetus behind Sound and Driven, a brand new series brought to you by MARVIN magazine and Porsche. We bring together collaborators—producers, mixers, singers, songwriters—to listen to their own songs from the comfort of a brand new exhilarating Porsche Taycan. We film them driving around LA, hearing the music and discussing the processes and intricacies of creating the sounds. Our second episode is based out of Larrabee Sound Studios and features Ashe and the legendary mix- ing engineer Manny Marroquin, who’s worked with everyone from 2Pac to Kanye West to Mariah Carey to Rihanna. “You get in the car, and it sounds different. You may pick up a thing or two about what you want to do,” he says of using the car test in his own storied work. “It helps get a different perspective.”
Ashe, whose 2021 debut album, Ashlyn was mixed by Marroquin, was humbled by the opportunity to work with an engineer so talented and accomplished.
“When I first started working with Manny, I was in a state of shock because I felt very undeserving. He can’t say yes to everyone and everyone wants to work with him. When we first sent him a song, he said, ‘listen- ing to this, this reminds me why I started doing music,’” she says. “He’s just the best at what he does. This guy cares. You know it’s not just it’s about a paycheck and it’s not about being an award-winning mixer or the best of the best. He cares about what he’s creating and what he’s working on. Whatever you get back is going to sound just immaculate. It’s going to be perfect. It’s just the coolest ever.”
Though mixing eludes the average listener—“they don’t go through the process,” Ashe says—it can make all the difference according to the singer, and Marroquin puts everything he’s got into the music. “He comes from a place of emotion. It’s probably why songwriters love to have Manny work on their stuff. You just have a conversation with him and he makes you feel loved, welcomed and appreciated and that comes through in what he makes,” she explains. “It’s not just about the way it sounds but it’s the way it makes you feel. He mixes with his eyes closed because it’s going off how the music’s making him feel and how it’s making his ears perk up in certain ways. There’s not that many soulful mixers out there.”
Marroquin concurs with the idea that feeling is as important as technical focus. “I’m not necessarily technical. I know the technical side of things but I choose not to focus on that. We’re not here for the equipment. That 19-year-old girl who listens and likes it doesn’t care what compressor we use and shouldn’t,” he says laughing. “I just want to be creative. I want my gut to make those decisions for me. When I close my eyes and I’m EQing things on the deck, I just want emotion. I don’t want to see the frequencies. I’d rather ignore the technicality. No one cares about that at the end of the day. Those are just tools. I always just say ‘does it sound good or not?’”
His gut, too, led him to want to work with Ashe. When he first heard her music, a song called “Save Myself,” he was blown away. “I remember thinking, ‘wow, what is this? Who the hell is this?’ To me, this is perfection as a song. Classic songwriting,” he says. “It was emotion- al. I was like, this is one of the best things I’ve heard. I remember feeling a certain way. I just connected with her. I wanted to know more.” He was so impressed that he ended up working on her full debut album. “Classic songs that just kinda mix themselves. You just go with it. You’re not second guessing everything,” he says.
“She’s special. She’s very special. There’s always those artists you really, really connect with. There’s no words to describe why or how.”
After all that, the magic and mystery of mixing, what matters more than anything to Ashe is the simplest trial of all, the one that inspires Sound & Driven with Porsche: the classic car test. “When I really feel music, I’m on a road trip and I’m in the zone. I’m driving through the canyon. Driving for me is such a therapy. If I need to let off steam, I get in my car and I drive. And that’s when I put on my favorite songs by my favorite artists. It’s just me, my thoughts and my favorite record,” she says.
“That’s when the mix shines.”