Ananya Birla has just released her much-anticipated debut EP ‘Fingerprint’ via UMG and Island Records UK this month. After the release of her recent hit singles, ‘Blackout‘ ft, WurlD, and Vector and ‘Unstoppable‘, the four-tracks long EP boasts an ebullient blend of pop, electro, and R&B, showcasing Ananya’s upbeat sound and dynamic vocals, just in time of summer.
The EP release marks the culmination of a ground-breaking 12 months for Ananya, in which the 24-year-old has firmly established herself as one of the most striking artists on the international pop scene. Since her debut single in 2016, this multi-platinum singer-songwriter has leaped from low-key gigs around London to hitting over 160 million streams, performing at some of Asia’s biggest music festivals like Global Citizen and Sunburn, and featuring on major playlists around the world including Apple’s Best of 2018.
Outside her music, Ananya advocates mental health and has founded ‘Mpower’, an organization working towards dispelling the stigma associated with mental health illnesses and providing care in India.
At CelebMix, we had a chance to catch up with Ananya and talk about her latest EP, music journey so far and much more. Check out below to know more.
Hey! Ananya, Welcome back to CelebMix. How have you been doing?
I’ve been really good, thank you! It’s great to chat with you guys again.
Well firstly, massive congratulations for the release of your EP ‘Fingerprint’. How’re you feeling about hitting the first milestone?
Thank you! It feels incredible. The past few weeks have been pretty nerve-wracking, but I’m so thrilled that it’s out in the world and that everyone has been enjoying it! It’s been an amazing, intense, journey with the help of some super-talented artists and friends along the way.
That sounds great. Tell us more about your EP. What inspired you to write and record this one? Is there any personal inspiration behind it?
It’s called ‘Fingerprint’ because I really feel like I am sharing a part of my identity with the world. It has its roots in personal experience – all my music does – and so putting it together has been painful at times, but totally cathartic. The tracks are mostly about love – the beautiful bits, but also the darker side too: ‘Love Suicide’, in particular, is about toxic romance, the kind that everyone experiences at some stage, but knows it’s not good for them.
How did you embark on a musical career? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
Music was my first love. I grew up in a very musical household, and it’s been an obsession for as long as I can remember. I picked up my first instrument when I was nine. I’d been enchanted by my mother playing the santoor since I was really young, and I was so excited to be able to learn it too. As a teenager, I taught myself the guitar on YouTube so I could compose on it, and my santoor training definitely helped with that.
By the time I got to university in the UK, I was writing my own music and performing whenever and wherever I could. In what was otherwise a pretty tough period of my life. I was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks at the time. Being on stage made me feel like I had a purpose. Music was a balm to my soul, and it became clear to me that I wanted to dedicate my life to it. Finding the confidence to turn my back on a “conventional” career took a while, but eventually, my passion for making music became bigger than my fear of putting myself out there. The rest is history!
Ananya, were there artists you idolized while growing up and have those influences since changed?
Growing up, Eminem was a hero to me, and he still is, in fact. His mixture of power, passion, and vulnerability – as well as that killer flow – makes him such a pure and raw artist. Currently, I am listening to a lot of Billie Eilish, Rita Ora, and Khalid. I’m enjoying a lot of the pop that has been coming out. They have great voices and an interesting play on lyrics. Most of my music is influenced by my own experiences.
In what ways has your personal music taste that you grew up on has inspired your current music style and creativity?
In so many different ways! I grew up listening to a lot of Western pop– and you can definitely hear that in my music. But I also listened to a TON of hip hop, and so I’ve always wanted to toy around with it a bit in my own music – and you can hear that in ‘Blackout’, which is on the EP. For that track, I teamed up with Vector and WurlD, who are these two awesome rappers from Nigeria. And then, of course, there was so much Indian music in my childhood – both classical, and more Bollywood type stuff. I’ve recently been experimenting with ways to bring sounds from back home to the forefront of my work – it’s been really fun.
If you have to describe your relationship with music in three words, what will you say?
Emotion, honesty, authenticity.
Do you have any special star struck moment which is memorable to you?
I’ve got to say sharing a stage with Coldplay was pretty amazing. I opened for them a while back for Global Citizen, when I was quite early on in my career, and it was such a trip. But honestly, the way my life is at the moment, I am constantly amazed! If you had told me 18 months ago that by now I would have gone platinum five times, signed with Island Records UK and performed at concerts like Sunburn, I would not have believed you.
Who is your current favorite artist from the industry you wish to work with? Can we hope for any collaborations in the near future?
Ooh good question! I’d love to collaborate with Khalid – everything he touches turns to gold at the moment! And well you certainly can! In July I’m releasing a track with Sean Kingston – he was touring India and I opened one of his shows. I’d been a fan since ‘Beautiful Girls’ so I was super excited about that. We stayed in touch and agreed to catch up when I was next in LA. So, on my next trip, we spent a couple of days in the studio, and it all came together really nicely. He was great to work with, such an awesome guy–and we really vibe together in the studio. We also have a fun music video coming out with the song.
What is the most favorite part of your job? Are you excited to hit the road and be able to perform your own music?
I’m so excited to hit the road! Being on stage, connecting emotionally with an audience, feeling the energy of a crowd – it just makes me feel so alive! I don’t mind if there are 10 people or ten thousand, there’s nothing like it in the world. The connection I have with my fans is the best part of the job, for sure.
Talking about your fans, they are crazy about your music. How do you feel about getting all this attention and their love and support?
It means so much to me – I can’t express how much. It’s not about numbers, or crowd-sizes, for me. It’s whenever a fan tells my music has helped them through something or made them feel less alone: that is why I do this. In the past, during my darkest times, I turned to music to find solace. The fact that some people turn to my music these days is so, so precious to me.
That’s so nice to hear. So where do you see yourself in the next five years Ananya?
I want to carry on doing what I love! Making music I believe in, working with my labels on some albums, plenty of collaborations and a ton of live shows. I can’t wait to find out what the future holds.
Apart from your music career, you actively participate in social causes. In fact, you’ve co-founded MPower and advocate for mental health. How do you think a big platform like yours can make an impact and bring a difference in society?
Mental health is a topic that’s still taboo around the world but especially in India. There’s a terrible stigma that means people are scared to reach out for help. This has to change – and it’s one of the things we’re committed to changing at Mpower. We need to spread the word, the louder the better: it’s okay not to be okay. I want to use my platform to change people’s perceptions of mental illness and to provide them with the same access to help that I was so lucky to have during my own struggles.
Before wrapping up, let’s have a quick rapid fire round.
Current song on your playlist – Bad by Billie Eilish
Favorite Artist – Eminem
Favorite Album– The Slim Shady LP
Favorite Venue– Anywhere and everywhere.
Favorite Holiday Destination– Rishikesh, India
Favorite Movie/Series – Forest Gump and Prison Break
Favorite Tattoo – A tattoo on my wrist which says ‘Conquer’
Favorite Food – Hummus always!
When not doing music – Writing Poetry
A habit you want to quit – Chewing gum
Tweet your thoughts on ‘Fingerprint’ by Anaya Birla at @Celebmix