Central senior strives to become a Grammy-winning producer


Senior Ashton Norful in his studio at home. The Grammys that his father won are also displayed in the room. PHOTO COURTESY OF ASHTON NORFUL.

Nolan Shen, Staff Writer

Naperville Central senior Ashton Norful is ready to make his mark on the music industry. Norful is a record producer, sound engineer and songwriter who is already making big leaps in his music. 

As a producer, Norful creates instrumental tracks for various artists. As a sound engineer, he tweaks with the sounds in his tracks with different effects, often “messing with the vocals,” as Norful said, to create a sound that he likes. Finally, as a writer Norful collaborates with artists to write lyrics and melodies for songs. Norful often collaborates with his brother Tré when creating music. 

It seems as though Norful was destined to be a musician. His father is Grammy-award winning gospel singer Smokie Norful, so music has always been a part of his life. Smokie won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2005 for “Nothing Without You” and Best Gospel Performance/Song in 2015 for “No Greater Love.” 

“I was always around music, being backstage, going to concerts,” Norful said.”I kind of felt like I had a natural talent and it soon became a passion.” 

Even though he grew surrounded by successful musicians, it was purely Ashton’s choice to pursue it. 

“I never pressured Ashton or Tré to go into music,” Norful’s father Smokie said. “I wanted them to pursue their own paths and personal passions.” 

Norful picked up piano at age 3, and learned guitar shortly after. When he was in seventh grade, he began producing music. 

Even as a high school student, Norful’s music is already taking him places. He recently traveled to Los Angeles for a studio session and writing camp with Grammy-nominated rapper Saweetie. According to Norful, the creative process in the studio varies a ton, and a lot depends on the artist with whom he’s working. 

When working with new, developing artists that he’s close with, there is “more of a personal relationship,” Norful said. This differs a lot from studio sessions with bigger artists. 

“The Saweetie session we had in LA…wasn’t as personal, we just got the work done. It was kind of a business-focus.”

Like many musicians across the world, Norful has felt the heavy effects of the pandemic on music, both positively and negatively. 

“[It was] a time to grow as a musician and develop my craft a little bit, but it definitely hindered going to sessions because I couldn’t travel,” Norful said. 

Now that the world is more open, Norful finds better productivity in his work. 

“[In-person sessions] are way better. Just the atmosphere, the experience, just being in the room, meeting new people and networking,” Norful said. “Just being back in the studio is definitely better.” 

Being a musician has changed Norful’s life in many ways, even outside of music. 

“It’s taught me organization, time management, determination, and persistence for sure,” Norful said. “Going through so many genres or bouncing between studio sessions has shaped me to be more well rounded as an individual for sure.”

According to his father, “Music has tremendously influenced Ashton’s drive and focus. Being a musician, songwriter, and producer has opened up a passion and creativity that will serve him well in his future.” 

Norful was recently accepted into both Loyola Marymount University and the University of California, so he plans to move to Los Angeles and attend one of those schools to study business while still doing music on the side. 

“I can use that business degree to start a record label or publishing company, or even just understand that aspect of the [music] industry better,” Norful said. 

Once finished with college, Norful wants to do music full-time. 

“I want to be an extremely prominent presence within the music industry. Production, writing, film scoring, I want to do all of it,” Norful said. “If it has music, I want my hand in it.” 

Norful’s big goal for himself is to become a Grammy-winning producer. 

“I gotta get one for myself,” Norful said. “I see [my dad’s Grammys] every day in the house, and I always tell my dad, ‘I gotta double it,’ so I’m looking at four Grammys.” 

Norful has some advice for young musicians like himself.

 “Take your time,” he said. “Don’t try to rush it, the opportunity will have to present itself. So take your time and prepare because you never know when it’s gonna come.”