The last time I spoke with Ananya Birla, she had just released her fourth single “Circles”, launched Mpower, and was juggling her role as a mental health advocate and international pop sensation. Now, Birla is releasing her debut EP, Fingerprint and has big plans for the future.
On the first single of the EP, “Blackout”, Birla collaborated with rap and hip hop artists, Vector and WurlD. Together, the trio created an infectious and fiery song that’s a perfect example of the vibrant music Birla is praised for.
I sat down with the young and ambitious singer/songwriter to learn more about “Blackout” and what the past few months of music making have looked like.
Ariel Zedric: Tell me about the inspiration behind “Blackout”?
Ananya Birla: This song is about the need to disconnect from the modern world. It’s about chilling out, basically! We’re all living such fast-paced lives. Sometimes it’s important just to do nothing and savour the moment — which is actually harder than it sounds!
What was it like working with Vector and WurID?
I loved it! They’re awesome guys — we had a lot of fun together. I’ve always wanted to incorporate hip hop into one of my tracks, and it was so great to get to do that with ‘Blackout’.
I’m a big believer that music can connect people like nothing else — it’s the ultimate global language — and I feel so blessed to be able to collaborate with such talented artists from all over the world.
What can fans expect from your EP, Fingerprint? What are some of the themes you wanted to relay?
So Fingerprint is my first EP, and I called it that because it’s deeply personal to me and my identity. All the songs based on my own experiences, so it feels a little exposing, but in a good way! The tracks are mostly about love — the beautiful bits, but also the painful bits… I wanted this EP to explore the huge range of emotions we feel when we’re in love, so each song has a different take on what it is to be in a relationship.
You wrote “Disappear” with Angela Hunte, what was that like? About how long did it take?
Angela is amazing — I am in awe of her talent, and I’m so glad that she was able to be a part of Fingerprint. We had some great chats — she’s really supportive of other female artists and has a lot to say about the industry, and how it’s changing. I feel pretty blessed to have worked with her.
The track came together pretty quickly in the end. We really saw eye-to-eye and did most of the work in one session.
Tell me about a moment in your career that has left you all extremely proud.
There are two that spring to mind. The first time I went platinum in India was a life-changing moment for me. I felt like I had proved how excited people back home could be about embracing international sounds.
Also, I have been so humbled by the response from women to my single ‘Unstoppable’. I released it on International Women’s Day to celebrate females who are defying outdated stereotypes to show that gender is no barrier and that with enough determination, there is nothing we can’t achieve. I featured some amazing women who exemplify that in the video, including my mother. Nothing makes me happier than when someone tells me that one of my songs put a smile on their face or brought some positivity to their life — it’s why I got into music in the first place.
Explain the personal and professional struggles you’ve encountered in the music industry thus far. How have they moulded you?
When I first started out, I felt a lot of pressure to go in a direction that just wasn’t me. But now I’ve reached a point where I can say whether I’m comfortable with something. There’s also a massive pressure to look and behave a certain way if you’re a female artist — that you can only present this flawless version of yourself if you want to make it. And actually, this is something felt by young women everywhere, whether they are in the industry or not. I think our generation craves the opposite — we want authenticity, not an Instagram-filtered reality. I’m a strong believer that women should be able to live up to their potential as individuals, rather than what society says they should look like.
What’s it like being a female in the music industry?
In the beginning, I found it pretty tough to take criticism about my look, or my figure, or my ideas. I learned pretty quickly that you need a thick skin if you want to survive.
Unfortunately, this industry has a dark side, but it’s not something I’ve experienced personally. I have so much admiration the women who have spoken up as part of #MeToo — it takes a huge amount of bravery to bare your soul like that, especially if you’re in the public eye.
Have you ever doubted pursuing music? What inspired you to keep going?
I knew for a long time that I wanted to be a musician, but I wasn’t always convinced I could make a career of it. It wasn’t what was expected of me and there was a huge pressure, that I think a lot of people feel, to get a ‘proper job’. But I just knew that music was what made me happiest, and so I kept on going — I loved it too much not to try! Overcoming the fear, doubt and disapproval felt amazing. I am a big believer that life is too short not to pursue the thing which sparks a fire in your soul.
What’s one artist you would love to work with that you haven’t got the opportunity to yet?
Since I was a teenager, it’s been my dream to work with Eminem… Some people get surprised by that, but he’s a real hero of mine. I love the way he’s able to communicate these universal human experiences in a totally raw way. His music is able to touch anyone, and that’s something I aspire to.
Featured image courtesy of Ananya Birla