Ashley Manteca, A.K.A. Aach Manteca, is an up and coming solo artist from the south suburbs of Chicago. Surrounded by music and performing arts all her life, she took a leap and decided to pursue her career in music full time — and with a few songs out, she’s already made some sweet, captivating tracks. Her influences come from many R&B artists, including Aalyiyah, the inspiration for her own stage name. We had the chance to talk with Aach Manteca and get to hear about her experiences as a newer artist and how she’s learning one day at a time alongside a team of close friends and family. 

[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]

My first question for you is, how did you get into music? I’ve seen from your Instagram that you’ve previously pursued modeling. Did that lead you toward music?

I actually grew up performing! I was in all kinds of groups: show choir and elementary school choir, but I also pursued dance teams, cheerleading, and even marching band. I didn’t decide to focus seriously on music as a career until about two years ago though. I was in college for about five years, and through it I had lots of different jobs and bounced through different careers. I took a step into modeling and from there I was introduced to acting. However, I realized that nothing else [besides music] fulfilled me. Nothing else made me happy. I felt like I was living someone else’s dream or just doing what others in my life wanted me to do.

What was your experience in modeling and acting like?

It was really nice and fun. I had about a year of experience in acting, and during that time I was able to participate in a short film that got selected in an LA film festival. I also got to guest star in an episode of “Chicago PD.” It was so much fun and it was a world I wanted to be a part of, I just didn’t feel the strongest as an actress. While I love anything that has to do with performance, especially modeling and acting, I didn’t feel right until I came back home to music. 

You’re very new to the music scene, would you say you’re learning on the go? 

Definitely. Everything has been a learning experience. I think one of the most important things I learned was not giving dates until I was 100% sure I’d get it in. I really learned that the hard way when I was trying to get my song “Heaven” out. I had given a date for it to be released, and it just wasn’t ready by then. You don’t want to get people all excited and then not be able to follow through. 

What’s your team like? You work closely with them, are they your friends and family?

I have a home producer and a new manager I’ve been working with for the last few weeks. I have some really great friends that help me with my projects too. They always step in and help, whether it’s a photo or video shoot, they even help me do mock interviews and anything I really need. I have a really close knit team of friends and family. Even my grandmother let me shoot some video in her home for “Waiting for U.” They’ve supported me through a lot. 

Do you think your support system is part of the reason why you’re actively pursuing your musical career?

Yes and no. I did have to make a decision on my own to pursue it. Once my family and friends saw how serious I was, they were like, okay, what can we do to make this happen? Pursuing music, it’s like trying to win the lottery. Trying to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, some people aren’t going to see the vision when you see it. But when they see you working towards it, they see what your actions and your hard work is reaping, the real ones are going to truly want to help you get there. They’ll be there for you, whether it’s something as simple as just helping you handle some work or getting things off your mind. To that extent, yes, they help for sure. But, again, I did have to make the decision myself. I had to take a break from school and really show them that I was serious. I couldn’t focus on school and music at the same time. I had to make a sacrifice. I told myself I’ll come back to school, but I’m gonna try to give this a chance first. I had to make this big life step first and truly evaluate it. 

What artists have influenced your music? What kind of genre would you label yourself as?

Okay, so I really love alternative styles of R&B. When I say that, the best way I can describe it is by describing the different artists that I like. I bounced back and forth from Tinashe, Chloe x Halle, from Solange to Beyonce. Jhene Aiko too, and a smaller artist GIVEON. I feel like they are all R&B at heart, but they’re almost alternative versions to that and I love it. They might throw some soft rock in there like Solange. They might throw some pop in here like Chloe x Halle and Beyonce, or it might be more jazzy, but kind of soulful like Jhene Aiko. They all have these different versions of R&B, and I definitely feel like my music fits under that umbrella. 

Do you have any advice for others trying to follow this path? Any shout outs or new things to look forward to?

Honestly, like I said before, everything is a learning experience. Take all the good you can out of the day and move forward. Sometimes you’ll freak out and ask yourself if you made the right choice. I’ll start getting anxious and frustrated, but you have to talk to yourself and say, you’re doing okay. It’s not easy, but it’s what you want and you’ll be okay. It’s a journey, just keep yourself grounded. Try your best to embrace every opportunity that you have being alive. Aside from that, I just want to give a special shout out to GIVEON and Sā Les, some other smaller artists I really like. And just stay on the lookout for my music! I’ve got videos and other fun things coming soon.