Ashley was born in New Jersey but wound up moving back to Brazil to live with her parents. From the age of seven, until she moved home at 17, she was bullied, fell victim to a mugging and assault, and was constantly unsure of her safety in the Brasilia neighborhood where she lived. She longed for the promise of the American Dream and eventually found her way back to New Jersey. Her parents followed, but were not as lucky. Ashley’s mother made it across the Mexican border on a conditional visa; her father was detained and deported soon after his arrival.
Ashley’s mother and aunts cleaned houses for a living. In one house, they routinely dusted the frames of several gold and platinum records on the wall and eventually found the courage to ask the homeowner about them. The homeowner’s son, Marc Swersky, cowrote ‘Trust in Me’, Joe Cocker’s contribution to the blockbuster soundtrack to The Bodyguard. The two-time Grammy winner also wrote and produced for Hillary Duff, Kesha, and Roger Daltrey. The ladies told Marc’s mom about Ashley; she pitched it to her son and Marc agreed to take a listen. “The qualities that stuck out were her charisma, her passion, the fire in her eyes, and her incredible talent when she finally sang for me,” Swersky said.
Delima collaborated with Swersky and his songwriter wife, Brielle Brown, to create a track that combines authentic Brazilian guitars and elements of Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music. Swersky opened his black book to invite a dream roster of veteran musicians to bring the song to life, including percussionist Daniel Sadownick (Taylor Swift, Maxwell, Al Green), Demi Lovato’s touring guitarist Vin Landolfi, pianist Alan Markley (Maggie Rogers), and drummer Adam Jackson (Ciara, Destiny’s Child, Bilal). The band cut 80 percent of the music live in studio.
The song has a passionate message, directed at Trump, Congress, and anyone who thinks it’s better to build walls instead of tear them down, “Our beauty is diversity; no labels will define us. We will stand up for our worth, see – your walls will not divide us.” For Delima, the only way the song could truly work is to be as entertaining as it is politically charged. This is where her passionate delivery fuels the chorus to become an earworm hook, instantly memorable and easy to sing along to on the first listen.
POPDOSE: What inspired you to write ‘Stay in America’?
ASHLEY DELIMA: I see so much fear and pain everyday in my community and even in my own family. I’m fed up with all the hate and I believe most people are too. I wanted to write a song to spread a message of unity, hope and understanding. So many people don’t know what’s really going on. I wanted to be a voice for people who don’t feel like they have one. I had a lot of mixed emotions when I sat down to write this song but in the end I knew it needed to be a positive message because although walls may divide us, love will unite us.
Are you a Dreamer yourself?
ASHLEY: I am lucky enough to have dual citizenship since I was born here but a lot of my friends and family are not that lucky. In my community and in the country there are people who want to do the right thing and want to contribute to society. These are doctors, students, engineers; people who pay taxes and love this country. For some, it’s the only country they’ve ever known. These are the people who are in jeopardy of losing their DACA status. They might have to go back to a country they don’t even remember. There has to be a better way. I want to tell these people that they are not the enemy. They, you, we are America. People want to be united not divided.
Ashley’s family pooled their money to pay for the studio and compensate the musicians for their talent. The video, directed by Kristian Kruz, dramatizes both the moment a family is torn apart, and the determination of Dreamers to remain in the only place they know as home. Ashley is releasing the track on all digital platforms today with hopes it will inspire people and, if possible, earn enough money to fund some more songs and attract label interest. For now, she’s bypassing the televised singing contest route to stardom and focusing on building a career the old fashioned way: one song, one concert and one interview at a time. Next up, she is playing a series of showcases in New York City and Ashbury Park, NJ.
Photos by: Jesse Lizotte.