Ashanti stars in the Lifetime movie "A Christmas Winter Song." Photo by Peter Foley/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Ashanti stars in the Lifetime holiday movie A Christmas Winter Song, one of over 30 new movies the cable network is airing this season. Though it airs Saturday, Ashanti thinks its message works all year.
"What I like about it is it transcends through Christmas, and I feel like the message can live on," Ashanti told UPI. "It's not just designated only for Christmas."
Ashanti plays Clio, owner of a Christmas shop who meets Fred (Stan Shaw), an out-of-work jazz singer. Fred comes into Clio's life just when she needs him the most.
"Unfortunately, I lose my dad," Ashanti said. "Me and my dad have an amazing relationship and we do this thing for the community every Christmas. I'm just so down and depressed, I kind of shy away from it. A stranger whom I meet reminds me so much of my dad and he kinda brings that spirit back to me."
Even with the community Christmas event that reminds Clio of her late father, and the fact that she's running a Christmas business, the film still would be relevant at other times of the year, Ashanti said.
"I could still see this playing on Lifetime in July," she said. "That's what I like about it."
The 39-year-old performer said the grief Clio feels makes A Christmas Winter Song more universal than other Christmas movies.
"She's definitely dealing with grief and learning how to get over that and just to accept it," Ashanti said. "Sometimes you don't know how long something will affect you. It may be a year. It may be 10 years. It may be two months. So everyone's different."
Clio is married, so her film is not one of Lifetime's holiday romances. But in the plot, Fred is able to bring her out of her shell.
"We all know not to judge a book by its cover," Ashanti said. "In this film, two strangers meet each other and fill a void for each other. They help to make each other better without even trying, without even knowing, so I think that was really cool."
Since the title refers to a winter song and Ashanti is a recording artist, fans may expect her to sing in the film. But Ashanti was coy about that.
"You're going to have to tune in on Dec. 14 to find out," she said.
Christmas songs would be in Ashanti's wheelhouse. She released the album, Ashanti's Christmas, in 2003 and the EP, A Wonderful Christmas with Ashanti, in 2013. Her covers include "Let It Snow," "Silent Night," "Joy to the World" and "Winter Wonderland."
"Definitely some classics, a couple of originals and a couple of Ashanti spins on some of the classics," she said.
Ashanti began singing in her teens and released her first music in her early 20s. Two of her Christmas Winter Song co-stars, Poet and Kaydence Houston, brought her back to her early days.
"There are two little girls that are Stan's grandkids and they're sisters," Ashanti said. "They're so cute and so funny. It kind of reminds me of how my mom used to take me on these auditions and interviews, and the same with my sister."
In the modern music industry, Ashanti is exploring the world of streaming as an avenue to expand her sound.
"I sat with Apple Music not too long ago, maybe a couple of weeks ago here in L.A., and I played them some music," Ashanti said. "They were like, 'Oh my gosh, this is what we've been missing. This is what we've been waiting for.'"
Listeners can find Ashanti's music on Spotify, Pandora, Tidal and Apple. Streaming platforms are a reality of the music industry now, and artists sometimes struggle with them.
"It's definitely just a part of the industry," Ashanti said. "That's cool but at the end of the day, we do this for a living. We have bills, too, so we want people to purchase and we want people to just enjoy it and have a good time, have fun with music."
Balancing her music with her acting career is also an art Ashanti perfected with experience.
"I'm a Libra, so I kind of have to balance things out," Ashanti said. "I think just growing and understanding time management and being able to say, 'OK, this amount of time is going to go to that so that way we're all good and covered.' I've had to learn that along the way."
Ashanti hopes to conquer still more creative worlds, including more executive producing and perhaps writing the score for a film.
"I executive produced this film," Ashanti said. "I have a bunch of concepts, a bunch of ideas. I want to work with a company to bring some stuff to life. Obviously [I'm] still with music, intertwining the two, being able to do a score and continuing to build the brand."