Last year, during the height of the pandemic when the country was in a lockdown mode and life for many had quietened, Ashwarya was busy with her iPhone and other gadgets making music and creating her videos in the confines of her home. The result: three widely acclaimed singles (more on that later).
For this Indian born Melbourne native, singing is something she has always loved. In fact, she wanted to be a part of the entertainment industry from a very young age. “I would ask my parents to take me to auditions for roles in TV series. But I was always told, ‘You can do anything once you’ve educated yourself’.”
But by the end of high school, Ashwarya knew singing was her calling. “I knew this is definitely something I had to take up as a career.” She dropped out of university to pursue a full-time career in music.
Over the course of 2020, Ashwarya released her first three singles—“Psycho Hole”, “Biryani” and “Comin@Me”. Upon release, Psycho Hole was universally acclaimed with critics lauding its spine-tingling, ultramodern fusion sound.
Triple j added the song to full rotation. Richard Kingsmill, in a four-and-a-half star review, admitted that he didn’t see the song’s twist coming, while DSP support included a cover spot on Pop N Fresh, and additions to over 20 New Music Fridays.
“It was a bit of a shock because when I was launching my career, I didn’t expect the pandemic to hit, so it was a bit like, should I be releasing music now when no one can meet me or watch me live,” says Ashwarya. However, it just felt right, she says, as she had put in a lot of work on the songs.
She modestly says she didn’t expect Psycho Hole to receive the kind of raving reviews it did. “It was insane. It felt like a risk at the time when I made it but now it feels like I just followed what my gut instinct was – that it is a sick song and I should put it out.”
In terms of the songs, Ashwarya says Psycho Hole was a catalyst for the EP that has come out. All the songs that followed on from there have been in the same realm but sonically different. “I just wanted to make sure that the EP is a flashed-out projection of who I am as an artiste and shows different facets of me as well.”
Interestingly, Biryani the second song is an ode to her Indian culture and ‘upbringing’. When she was writing the song, Ashwarya immediately thought of the biryani as something that represents warmth, love and connection. “When I come home and there is biryani on the table, there is nothing better than that. So that’s how the name came about and it was a fun song to make as well.”
Moving to more intricate sounds and nuanced feeling, her first single of 2010 “To The Night” rides the same kind of shapeshifting beat that typifies songs like Psycho Hole. Featuring cult American rapper Vic Mensa, To The Night sees Ashwarya’s “heady internal world clash with the chaotic realities of our lives inthe 2020s, resulting in an impassioned, empathetic song that speaks to our moment.”
2021 sees the release of Ashwarya’s debut EP Nocturnal Hours, a glamorous and insightful look into the mind of a young pop auteur.
The 21-year-old says, the music goes hand in hand with her goal as an artiste. “It’s a reflection of who I want to be and where I want to head. I hope it gives people the opportunity to see the different sides of who I am as an artiste. Because it is quite a diverse EP, it keeps people on their toes. I like to put out music that people don’t expect.”
Talking about the kind of music that has influenced her, Ashwarya reveals her grandparents who often visited from India got her oriented to Bollywood movies and music of the ‘80s. She mentions Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi as also A R Rahman and Pritam from the newer lot whose music she quite enjoys.
That having said, she also listens to Rihanna, Black Eyed Peas, Jason Derulo and countless other new and old artists of Australia and the world. “That helps me meld different sounds together to create something that is an expression of all the crazy inspirational artistes that I have heard growing up.”
In Ashwarya’s views, pop music as a genre is moving in more embracing times. “These days anything that is catchy and popular is pop, so it’s an exciting time to be in.”
Her music does bring a depth to her work. By her own telling, her songs are hard hitting, edgy and icy but at the core of it is emotive and aims to connect with people and their experiences. “I hope that people can hear my EP Nocturnal Hours and have at least a song that they can relate with because it has different genres and shows different facets of who I am.”
With her parents as “amazing rocks”, they have inherently shared her kind of music. “They are not into music but they get it, it speaks to me about other people out there from Indian background who could also relate to it because they didn’t grow up with this type of music.”
Looking ahead, Ashwarya is starting on her next project which will mostly likely be an album, but she is also working on collaborating with a bunch of different artistes down the line this year.
The singer has also blossomed into a keen-eyed appreciator of fashion, and has in turn been embraced by the fashion industry as a star having been profiled in fashion bibles such as PAPER, Oyster, The Face, ACCLAIM and COMPLEX, among others. She wants to extend her creativity to owning her own fashion brand one day.
With her charisma and tenacity, Ashwarya does display a steadfast determination to transmute hard work to success.
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