Exclusive Ashleigh Ball Interview
Darma from Rock Dog 2: Rock Around The Park
The animated family film from Lionsgate Studios, Rock Dog 2: Rock Around the Park, is available on digital Friday, June 11, and on Blu-Ray/DVD Tuesday, June 15th. Ahead of the film, we were able to chat with Ashleigh Ball and talk about all things Rock Dog 2.
If you're not familiar with the name Ashleigh Ball (she's the voice of “Darma” in the Rock Dog franchise), you're likely at least familiar with her voice—or should I say voices. Ball has voiced many popular animated characters in numerous franchises over her career, including more Ponies and Equestria Girls than I can name in the My Little Pony franchise, “Jet” in TV’s “Ready Jet Go!,” “Bob the Builder,” “Volton Force,” “Lego Elves,” “Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures,” “Littlest Pet Shop,” “Dinotrux,” “The Deep,” “The Dinosaur Train,” “The Hollow,” “Rev & Roll,” and many, many more. This post contains affiliate links.
Meet Ashleigh Ball—the Voice of Darma
Rock Dog 2: Rock Around The Park is a story about staying true to yourself. Have you ever experienced anything like that?
Ashleigh: Yes, absolutely. I've played in a band for years. There have been lots of instances where reps in the music industry, people in general, have kind of tried to pull me and my band in different directions. And yeah, it's always been one of those things where you have to listen kind of, to what, what feels right to you. And yeah, that inner voice or that, just that that musical path that you're on? So? Yeah, I've definitely had experiences with all kinds of, I don't know that in that world anyway.
So how much of your voice recording was actually done during the pandemic? And did that affect the way that you typically work when you're doing recording for voiceover work?
Ashleigh: Luckily, we did this all before the pandemic thing. So it was so nice. It's so lovely to remember being in a studio with everybody working together and like, sweat, and tears, and smells, you know, all those things? That you kind of forget about? We haven't done that in over a year. So yeah, it was all done pre-pandemic. And we didn't know what was coming for us. It was a total treat. And yeah, I definitely look back on those days very fondly, as we obviously haven't been able to do that, and a year and a bit. We'll get back to back to sharing that energy that's in that space.
Darma loves to rock out. Did being in a band help prepare you to play this role? Is that what attracted you to her and her energy?
Ashleigh: It was so cool to kind of have those worlds collide. I've been pursuing music for most of my adult life, as well as voiceover work, so they've always sort of flowed together. And it was really cool to kind of have an opportunity to bring my experiences as a musician and a touring musician into the voice world, so it's not every day you kind of have a script that sort of parallels your life. Those scenes where they're in the bus together, with junk food all over them? I've lived that, like, I've been there. I've craved a healthy meal and had to stop at a gas station for dinner.
I think that was a was really, really neat to be able to have that background and know exactly where Darma was coming from, and also just the interpersonal relationships with her and Bodie and Gerber. The band is like a second family. I really I have that in my life.
I had read that you studied flute, at your music conservatory. I played the flute so it stuck in my memory, but I also noticed that you played glockenspiel.
Ashleigh: The glockenspiel, yes! I dabble in a lot of different things. I kind of just like to create music with whatever I can get my hands on. Recently, though, on my table right now, this is a kalimba. I've been writing some songs on this, which is really fun—there are no limitations. I'm not really good at any instrument. And obviously, flute as my first instrument doesn't really make sense for me as a songwriter. It was a bit of a, “I should have taken piano as a kid, when I took flute for some reason.”
There are songs in here. I just feel like there are so many instruments that you can kind of like, get into. And if you have some sort of musical capability, like you can bring a song out of anything. So I dabble in a lot of stuff. I've been playing a lot of ukuleles recently, just because it's easy to transport. I haven't played the glockenspiel in a little bit. But I should, I should bring out my mallets and go to town pretty soon. It's a very cute instrument. I think I had a child's glockenspiel for a while but I updated it to an adult one. So to get back into it.
I never expected to see a kalimba on the Zoom call because it is unique. Is there anything that you haven't played that you want to play? Anything you want to learn?
Ashleigh: I mean, there are so many cool instruments, like the harp, I love the harp. I'm a big fan of Joanna Newsome, who's like an incredible heart player.
My sister actually plays bass in a band in Toronto. And I think that's so badass. I would love to be able to hold down a really good bassline; I'm not good at bass at all. Like, I don't have that kind of capability. I think maybe I'll get my sister to teach me some bass licks in the future. But yeah, I think bass, especially a female playing bass, like holding down a bassline is just awesome. Harp and bass, I guess are my answers.
What messages do you want kids to take away from Rock Dog 2?
Ashleigh: I think there are just some really beautiful messages of staying true to yourself and really listening to the people that you love, and that love you the most in your life. That just seems to be the thing that hit me the most like listening to your parents. I've always had very supportive parents in my musical upbringing and really amazing friends. When there's some industry person who's telling you to be a certain way, it doesn't feel right.
I think listening to the people that you've grown up with, and also just listening to that person inside of you, that inner truth that always tends to come up, I think just having that as a base and really trusting your gut. Just follow your own truth, because I think we all know what that is. Sometimes hard to turn down the noise from the outside and really turn that up. So yeah, I think that seems to be the message that I that I've connected with the most.
It looks like there are already plans for Rock Dog 3 in the works, which is exciting and awesome. It looks like you're cast to be Darma again. When did you find out? We were surprised because this one is just coming out.
Ashleigh: I think nothing's officially official, as far as I know. But there definitely are rumors, and I feel like there's something floating around on IMDB, maybe some eager beavers that are a little Trigger Happy on that. We haven't started recording anything yet. I think obviously it's been a very hard year for a lot of production stuff to come together. So hopefully, there'll be some information on that in the future. It excites me. I'm just I'm ready to jump into Darma's roll again. So let's see. Fingers crossed.
So if it's not Darma and Rock Dog 3, or if it is Darma and Rock Dog 3, what else is next for you? Where will your fans be able to hear you next or see you play?
Ashleigh: I've got a lot of exciting things that I can't talk about in the animation world. There's a really exciting project that I've been recording over the pandemic, not in the same room as any of the actors, but that should be coming out soon. I wish I could say what it is.
But I'm a musician, as I mentioned, and I have a solo album coming out at the end of June. It's called “Before all the Magic's Gone.” And it's a solo album from me. I've been releasing singles over the pandemic; obviously, it's been a tricky time to release music, but also, I think, a really important time for people to kind of sit with their music and remember the good old days of live shows, and I know they're coming back soon.
But, that's kind of the next thing. On my big list of events is really soon an album, June 25. You can find it on all the streaming platforms.
Here's a link to Ashleigh's current album, “Gold In You.”
“Before all the Magic's Gone” is available for pre-order now.
My daughter is a big fan of you as Applejack and My Little Pony. She was super excited. She's like, “Oh, I love her. I love the voice.” So she actually wanted me to ask, “Is there any advice you have for a young person who might want to get into voice acting?”
Ashleigh: Yeah, I feel like the industry has changed so much since I started. I was really lucky and kind of got scooped up by an agent and kind of pulled out of performing arts school, and Tik Tok was not a thing, social media wasn't a thing. It was very different back then. I feel like a lot of people that I know—I have a good friend that's been thriving in the voice industry. And he just does do videos on Tik Tok, and he's getting all kinds of recognition. He's got signed in Atlanta with some agent and he is doing really well. So I feel like even just putting yourself out there on social platforms right now, that's something immediate that you can do for yourself.
I would suggest recording a demo and just doing as much as you can, like, fooling around with voices is like the best advice I could give you like, imitating your favorite voices. I was obsessed with the Simpsons, I still kind of am like trying to try to do those like the Bart Simpson the Marge Simpson, any of your favorite animated characters kind of try to imitate them, or I've played a lot of little boys in animation and just listening to kids. So like I imitated like a lot of little, little, little kids that I know in my friends' kids, or my niece and nephew or whoever it is. So yeah, I think just kind of paying attention to the weird and wonderful voices that are all around you. And just putting yourself out there, I guess as much as you can.
And then we were treated to a special voice demonstration of Rainbow Dash and Apple Jack.
Watch the Trailer for Rock Dog 2: Rock Around The Park
Rock Dog 2: Rock Around The Park arrives on Digital Friday, June 11th, and on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital) and DVD Tuesday, June 15th from Lionsgate.