Exclusive Interview: Zoya Discusses ‘Bad Girls Dream’ And Music Plans!

Indian-American pop persona Zoya is back with her latest sweet-sounding summery single ‘Bad Girls Dream’ featuring Kentucky rapper Jack Harlow. This dreamy collaboration features sultry vocals from the pop vocalist and remarkably illustrates the unity of both artists’ vision. Engulfed by Zoya’s shining, sweet vocals and lyrics detailing a rebellious love story, ‘Bad Girls Dream’ is an emotionally rich track that reveals the artist’s burning desires. The track is met with an apathetic flow from rapper Jack Harlow, emphasizing his detachment from the relationship.

Born in New Delhi, India, Zoya is a transatlantic artist who embraces her cultural roots through her music and philanthropic work within her community. Later moving to sunny Newport Beach as a child, Zoya began writing and performing original material in local bars and coffeehouses up and down the California coast. Zoya attended the Berklee College of Music to master her skills as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

Image: Zoya

With the release of her hit full-length album ’The Girl Who Used to Live In My Room’ in 2015, Zoya quickly followed with the electronic remix album ‘Zoya: Plugged In’. After the success of her debut album, Zoya toured throughout India and caught the eyes of industry heavyweights including director AR Rahman and producers such as The Chainsmokers, Martin Garrix, Clean Bandit, Natty, Lucie Rose, Madame Gandhi among others whilst also securing brand partnerships with H&M and Vans.

At CelebMix, we had a chance to sit down and talk to Zoya about her latest single, music journey, upcoming projects, philanthropic activities, and much more. Read the interview below to know more!

Hi Zoya! Welcome to CelebMix. Where does this interview find you today?

Hey guys! I am currently home in Venice Beach. Had a long few days celebrating the release so finally at home relaxing!

You have recently released a new single ‘Bad Girls Dream’ feat. Jack Harlow. How did this collaboration come up?

“Bad Girls Dream” was the first song I wrote with Mark Nilan Jr. We had a session early last October and the skeleton of the song had been sitting on my laptop for a few years actually. We flushed it out and a few days later the entire concept of ‘Bad Girls Dream’ came to me. About a few weeks after that my manager hit me up saying Jack was going to cut something. It just fit so perfectly when Jack added his verse.

Growing up, how important was music for you? Was music something you were always drawn to and wanted to pursue as a profession?

In my family, there was always music in the house. My parents used to throw these lavish Indian parties and perform for their guests. They would spend months coming up with songs, choreographed dances, and comedy skits. There is a lot of talent in the entire family and all the kids were always encouraged to perform too. Growing up, I would always sing around the house so my dad bought me a guitar when I was around 11 and I started putting music to the lyrics I was writing. In high school I used to perform at bars and coffee shops all around Southern California but it wasn’t until I got to Orange County High School of the Arts and then later got into Berklee College of Music that it really became what I wanted to do for a career.

You are a graduate from renowned Berklee College of Music. Generally, these days artists opt for the non- traditional route and enter the industry without any serious study of the field. What made you decide to attend college and actually spend time to learn more about the business? How much has it helped you in building your career today?

If it wasn’t for my choice to study music business at Berklee, I truly think I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have today in my career. I was studying music business at such an interesting time too. It was right when streaming took over the music industry and we were learning about how the industry was changing in the digital age in real time. Because of Berklee and my education in record company operations, music publishing, artist management and so much more, I actually started managing bands in college and working for a booking agency in Boston. That really gave me the experience to be able to implement everything I learned from these experiences into my own career. I would book my own tours, handle my own PR, and that really shaped me to even be able to tackle moving to India and building a name for myself there.

Who are your major musical inspirations- dead or alive? Do you think your music style is inspired by the kind of music that you grew up on?

My main inspirations have been Ani DiFranco and Fiona Apple. Hands down those two really shaped my songwriting and inspired me to pursue being a songwriter. My brother and I are first- generation here in America, so it was up to me to kind of find the music that I wanted to make.

How do you feel that you have evolved as an artist since you first begin your career? If you meet your 8-year-old self today, do you want to give any advice to her?

I would tell her, “Don’t be afraid to be yourself.” Musically and personally, I have evolved exponentially in terms of really finding my sound and being honest with myself about what I want to achieve in my career. I think living and touring in India for almost four years really gave me the experience I needed to understand how to handle big stages and being on TV and things
like that.

These days, it feels like artists are reluctant to experiment and due to fierce competition, everyone just wants to churn out a chart-busting hit. How do you feel about it?

I think all artists, including myself, need to keep reminding ourselves of why we are making music in the first place. Music and writing songs is the art of emotion and if you have nothing you are trying to emote or say – what are you really doing?

Who are your current favorite artists from the industry? If given a chance today, who would you like to collaborate with?

Burna Boy and Bad Bunny are my top two wish-list to collaborate with right now. Being a girl of color from India it would be so dope to be one of the first Indian-Americans to do a Latin or African collab. My wish-list for collaborations is pretty long though! I feel like my voice and writing can cross over a lot of genres so there are people like Jon Bellion, Jidenna, Russ, Marc E Bassy, Ty Dolla Sign and so many more on the list.

You create the sound, write the lyrics, play instruments, record and perform your music. What is the most challenging aspect of each, and what do you find comes most naturally?

They are all fun to me. In writing, sometimes a challenge comes from the re-writing process and a lot of songs get thrown out at that stage. Again, it’s easy when you get to a point where you can craft a good song but when you lose focus of what you were originally trying to say or emote that’s when songs get lost and lose it’s power. The opposite happens a lot too. Through re-writing, a song gets stronger than what you originally had.

Recording is my favorite and I have always had a set up in my bedroom. It’s so much fun having the ability to write something and record it right then and there. Performing and touring is the most fun though. It’s like the ultimate exchange of energy. I love it.

You were born in New Delhi. How frequently do you get a chance to visit here? What do you like the most about India?

India happened to me about five years ago. I would go once a year to visit family as a kid but this time was different. Five years ago, A.R. Rahman shared about me on Facebook and my whole world changed. India opened its doors to me and Rolling Stone, MTV and more started writing about me and I was like “What the f*** is this?!”. So I decided to just go and check it out. A one month trip turned into almost four years being over there and touring. It was crazy. The millennial kids there want to wear what they want to wear and say what they want to say and kind of move away from tradition and Bollywood. For the first time there are now India-based rock bands, metal bands, hip-hop acts and singer-songwriters. The scene there is kind of a mini-revolution and I was so lucky to have been a part of it.

What do you feel is the biggest difference between the Western music industry and Hindi music industry? What do you think about the pace of growth of the music industry in Bollywood as most of the songs created here are restricted to commercial films only?

That is what the “Indie scene” in India is doing for the culture. It is moving the music industry away from just music for film. The Indie Scene is growing and it was a truly special thing to have been a part of as a female and as a singer-songwriter.

Do you have any plans in the future to sing in Bollywood industry if gets the opportunity?

Like I said, I spent almost four years living and touring in India. In terms of Bollywood, I haven’t wanted to get into it as a playback singer but I would love for Bollywood or indie movies in India to use my music someday. I do have plans to go back and tour in India but right now we are focusing on America for the time being.

Do you want to give any piece of advice to struggling individuals who want to break the mold in music?

Educate yourself on the industry we are in. You need to know the moving parts of the industry to rise above the clutter. Learn about branding, music management, music publishing and what roles you can take care of yourself instead of just waiting to get signed. The internet is a powerful tool and this generation of artists are so lucky to have it. So, my advice is – use it!

So what’s next on Zoya’s career bucket list, music-wise? Any exciting upcoming projects that you want to share with us?

More singles are set to release in the next two months and ah! Just more music and touring soon. Lot’s of things are in the works.

Lastly, we have heard about your philanthropic activities like the involvement in helping to provide clean water to children and families in India. Shed some light on it.

Yeah! So when I first moved to India I did a project called “Zoya: Plugged In”. I had a bunch of producer friends from Berklee remix one of my songs and all the proceeds went to install electricity, fans and lights in various under-privledged schools in Udaipur, India. It was a beautiful project. Since then, I have become an avid supporter of organizations like Charity: Water for their efforts in providing clean water in areas of the world that don’t have access to it. Charity: Water is my biggest inspiration in terms of philanthropy and I hope to work closely with them one day on a bigger scale and especially for India.

Listen to ‘Bad Girls Dream’ by Zoya here on Spotify and Apple Music!

Well we had a fantastic chat session with Zoya about the latest single, music and future plans. What do you feel about this latest offering ‘Bad Girls Dream’ ft, Jack Harlow? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter at @celebmix.

Written by Khushboo Malhotra

Autodidactic Ambivert!
Music gives wings to my mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.
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Twitter: @KhushMalhotra
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