A Q&A with Ananya Birla
Driven by a passion to create authentic music, here’s Ananya Birla
What’s the title of your latest release, and what does it mean to you?
My latest release ‘Caught Up’ is me taking ownership for my side of things in life, wanting to be better every day. Like most of us have at some point, I went through a series of toxic relationships that really made me introspect. ‘Caught Up’ came about after the very last one that I had. Having now broken that cycle of toxic relationships, I learnt that I must take ownership for everything, not just in a relationship, but in life in general, my career, friendships, etc.
It’s easy to blame. It is easy to say you’ve been bad for me, but here I am saying I was bad too. This song is also a very important milestone in my musical journey because it is the beginning of a new sound for me. It’s a sound that finally feels like it’s good enough both for the international and Indian audiences. That’s the balance I have been trying to find for a while now.
What was the hardest part about putting this release together, and why?
When the pandemic hit, I was stuck in the USA due to the flying restrictions. Being away from home and family, made me grow fonder and appreciate home even more. I fell in love with my culture again. I wanted to find a way to bring that taste of India into my sound in a non-stereotypical but unconventional way. I knew what I wanted my sound to be; a mix of Pop, R&B and my roots, but as much as I knew what it needed to be, it took me a while to figure how to get there. Finding that sound that felt right, was fresh and wasn’t cliché was quite challenging. After 2 years of experimentation, when we finally got it, I just knew it felt right! ‘Caught Up’, is the first song in this new soundscape and I absolutely cannot wait for everything that’s to come.
“Music has always been my best friend”
Who produced the release – what did they bring to it? If you produced it yourselves what do enjoy most about producing your own material?
The song is produced by M.A.R.S. They’re a duo; Trevor Muzzy and Brandon Riester. Brandon is also my manager. They brought everything to it. They helped me craft this sound every step of the way, and bring my vision into reality.
What do you want the listener to take away from listening to your music?
I like referring to my songs as time capsules. If you go back into my catalogue and hear all the music, every song captures a period of my life and rings true to something I or someone I was close to had experienced. As an example, if I listen back to ‘Meant to Be’, I may not be able to relate to everything right now. But, at that time when I wrote the song, it was what I was experiencing.
I think human emotions are universal, we just feel them in different contexts depending on what we are going through and music is a means whereby we can all have a shared emotion through individual experiences. I want listeners to relate and leave with a feeling that they are not alone. Music has always been my best friend while growing up, I never felt alone because of it and I hope that my music can do that for others as well.
How does a track normally come together? Can you tell us something about the process?
There is no specific formula or method. I feel like it really depends on the energy of everyone in the room, and what everyone is feeling inspired by. Generally I go into a writing session with something in mind, that I want to express and sing about. I share that concept with the producer and co-writer. Sometimes it’s like baring my soul to strangers. We all find different ways we relate with the concept. If the producer has a beat then sometimes, we write to that, or other times we just start off with lyrics or a melody. I like starting with cracking the hook of the song and then moving on to other sections. Sometimes we may work on multiple hooks before we decide which song to really flesh out further.
“A real glimpse”
What band/artists have influenced you the most since you started this project, and why?
I think I really had a nice eclectic mix of influences. I was and still am a huge fan of Bollywood music. I also grew up listening to and loving mainstream pop, R&B and rap; whether that was Eminem, Elton John, ABBA, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, or Katy Perry, all of them, were on the top of my list. I think it’s been a good mix of Indian, Eastern, and Western sounds as well as different genres – coming together.
What countries would you like to tour? Are there any standout venues you’d like to play in?
Madison Square Garden and Wembley are at the absolute top of my ultimate bucket list!
If you could pick one track for our readers to listen to in order to get a taste of your music, what would you pick, and why?
I would pick ‘Caught Up’ because it is so different from the music I have released before it so it’s the only one that gives a real glimpse into the sound that’s to come.
What ambitions do you have for the band/your career?
I want to continue to write authentic music that people relate with. I am training more every day with my Santoor (a classical Indian string instrument that you play on your lap) and working to expand my knowledge of Hindustani classical music. This knowledge really helps to incorporate the Indianness into my music in innovative ways, whether that is in the form of melodies or production. The idea is for my music to reach as many people as possible. It’s about bringing people together. Especially those who have felt like misfits from society, because I always felt like misfit while growing up.
Finally, as you leave the stage, what are your parting words?
You make the world a better place just by being you! Thank you for your love and support.