Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Hold On”?
‘Hold On’ is about unconventional love and the social pressures that go with it. It is for those people who, in the face of adversity, manage to hold on to each other through faith , perseverance and the strength of their love. I enjoy writing about love – I think it is the strongest force there is.
From a sound perspective, it is in the same electro-pop soundscape as my previous single ‘Meant To Be’ but with a more stripped-back, ballad feel.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
The song is inspired not just by my experience, but the relationships of people close to me which have been challenged. Sometimes in life, we are faced with the question of whether to hold on to love or to let go of it. ‘Hold On’ explores that dilemma and ultimately encourages people to reject fear and confusion, and hold on to what they know is right for them.
No relationship is perfect and I think it’s important to talk about both sides of love: both the wonderful and the challenging aspects of it. I think that’s something we can all relate to. Authenticity and honesty are essential for a good song. Whether it is rap, heavy metal or pop. It allows you to connect with people and share an emotional experience on a much deeper level, regardless of nationality, gender, sexuality or social background. I hope people listen to my music, relate to the lyrics or emotion and feel a bit better about something they are going through.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Definitely, it comes out on the 9th of March. We had a great time working on it in LA. It is very different to my last videos, there is much more of a story and I get to do some acting and play a character which was really fun. I can’t wait to share it.
How was the recording and writing process?
I love to write music, I find the process incredibly cathartic. It has helped me to deal with some difficult times in my life by giving me the ability to express myself when I’m struggling to articulate and vocalize how I feel.
Recording was fantastic. I worked with Mood Melodies on this. We were introduced via my label and next thing I know I am flying out to Norway to record with him. It was so beautiful there!
Anders (Mood Melodies) has worked with superstars like Sia, Jessie J and Alan Walker so I was honoured he wanted to work with me. I vibed really well with him and he understood perfectly what I wanted to do with the song. I believe that surrounding yourself with good people in whatever you are doing is essential for success.
After the success from your previous single, were you any nervous while working on this new track?
My last song went platinum in India, which was so amazing but it created this pressure when I was working on the new song. I was constantly questioning whether it would be good enough.
It was a good lesson in using pressure in a positive way, to drive yourself forward. When I was younger my mother would always tell me to try my best and leave the rest to God. And I guess this was the same. All I could do was put in the hours and hope that people will respond well to it. The consequences are not always in your hands, you have to be optimistic and satisfied that you did the best you could.
Do You tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else than when you are writing in your own?
When I write, it is always authentic and emotionally driven. I then work out a way to deliver this personal story in a way that will connect with the people who listen to my music. I really enjoy collaborating, it’s what takes a project to the next level.
Working with other people is essential for making your message relatable, adding another person in to the mix gives you a better idea of how it will be received and whether the audience will connect with it. Sometimes when you’re working alone you can be too close to a project and lose perspective. Collaborating forces you to re-articulate what is it that you’re trying to achieve, it refocuses you and puts you back on track.
I also believe that collaborating with another musician can produce great creative results by taking you out of your comfort zone, introducing you to new musical processes, and encouraging you to up your game.
What role does India play in your music?
My first formal training was in Indian classical music when I learnt the Santoor (a traditional Indian instrument, like a guitar but with more strings and you play it on your lap). Understanding the complexities of Indian music has made writing songs now so much easier, particularly when it comes to developing a sound which will appeal both in India and internationally.
India is an inspiring place – the sounds, sights and smells are all totally unique. I think consciously and subconsciously that is reflected in my music. I want my music to connect with people around the world but I would never want to shake off my Indian roots. It is a huge part of who I am and, when I can, I try to keep elements of that in my music and my videos.
In the future I do plan to have a couple of songs with a more Indian vibe. We have unique and beautiful musical components from bhangra, to classical music, flute, and table that I am really keen to incorporate. There is so much amazing music in India and I think the rest of the world needs to hear more of it.
As an advocate for Mental Illness and other causes, how do you tend to blend these themes with your music or use your platform to promote this?
As a society, we are really bad about talking about mental illness in real life. I think music is a great way to express what is hard to say out loud. Demi Lovato, Sia, Florence and The Machine and Eminem, have all referenced the difficulties that they have battled, and I think that can be a source of great reassurance to their audiences. I am working on a project at the moment with that in mind.
I am incredibly fortunate to have this platform. I want to use it as positively as possible to hopefully spread the message of my mental health initiative MPower. I set up MPower a couple of years ago to stamp out the stigma around mental illness by campaigning and providing care. Often fans get in touch with me on social media about issues that they are having. Whenever I can, I respond to try to support them in finding the help that they need.
It’s really really touching when someone tells me that my music helped them to feel better about something difficult they might be experiencing.
How’s your other upcoming music coming along?
I have been in the studio non-stop working on creating an EP/Album, which I hope to release later in the year. The process of putting a track together is great, you learn a lot and understand yourself better. I have been between London, LA, Oslo and Dubai working with different people: producers, writers, topliners, including Mood Melodies. London is my favourite place to work. I went to university in the UK, so it is great to catch up with old friends and check out gigs around town whenever I am free.
Any tentative release date or title in mind ?
Hold on is out on the 1st of March post which another single will be releasing shortly after. We have spent way too much time thinking of titles, but at the moment nothing is set in regards to an EP/Album.
Recording the in 3-4 different cities, how has all these different cultures have influence the music on this record?
Totally. I think it is impossible not to be influenced by the places where you write and the people you record with. Recording in LA always puts me in a good mood, everyone is so happy there, I think it adds an upbeat feel to my music.When I was in Atlanta I was very inspired by the Hip-Hop scene there. In Oslo, it was more of a soulful vibe, and London is filled with pure music enthusiasts. It is great to have that diversity.
A big part of my mission with music is to prove that an Indian artist can be successful internationally, so I tried to incorporate all these global influences in the track so it’s accessible to a wide range of people.
Known for your EDM driven music – will you be exploring a wide range of sounds for this record or will you stay on the same lane?
Yeah, we incorporated some different sounds for Hold On . It is more pop than electro, and touches a little bit on a ballad. My next release after Hold On is a totally different vibe, it’s completely stripped back and acoustic. I really hope that people who have liked my previous songs will be open to something a bit different.
Any plans to hit the road?
I really enjoy live performances. It is how I fell in love with music – when I was at university at Oxford, I used to head to London every weekend and perform at these tiny gigs. It was the best feeling.
I am hitting the road in the next couple of months for a couple of shows, and hopefully I’ll get a tour date set at the end of the year.
What else is happening next in Ananya Birla’s world?
I am working a lot on my music. For various reasons, there was a long gap between Meant to Be and Hold On, I am going to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I am also doing more to keep in touch with my audiences online, like recording Vlogs to keep people up to date with where I am and what I’m doing.
Outside music, I am also working really hard to build up MPower and develop some more initiatives and fundraisers throughout the year. We did a great concert in Mumbai last year, about 20,000 people came along and we raised money for a great cause. I want to spread the message wherever I go that your mental health does not impact your ability to contribute to society, and that people should be talking more about these issues if we have any hope of being better.
Eventually, I would love for Mpower to become a worldwide movement that positively impacts millions of lives.