Our interview with talented international pop star Ananya Birla.
With nearly 7 million YouTube views of her new gold certified single “Meant to Be” and DJ Afrojack remix with almost 15 million views.
In addition to selling millions of records and gracing international magazine covers, Ananya is a thriving entrepreneur who creates companies based upon giving power and support to women from her home country of India and around the world and she has emerged as a leading agent of social change and women’s rights in India and the world.
Who was your role model as a child?
I am incredibly close with my family. My role model was (and still is) my mother because of her compassion and strength. She has always been devoted to having a lasting and profound effect on the world. As well as being a full-time mum to me, my brother and sister, she has set up schools for underprivileged and special needs children and works with charities like Make-A-Wish.
What inspires you?
Travelling is a great source of inspiration. I am really lucky that my music allows me to experience some of the most exciting places on earth. In the last few months I have gone from rural India, where I have a company which helps women to grow their businesses, to recording in Dubai, Norway, London and Los Angeles.
I get to meet so many people from difficult cultures. Seeing the diversity of humankind, the different views that people hold, and the adversities they have overcome is what inspires me most.
Describe your sound in 3 words?
Authentic, emotional and (hopefully) relatable.
Tell us about your single “Meant to Be”?
I think I found my sound with “Meant to Be” which is an amazing feeling.
The song is very close to my heart because it’s based on my own experience. It is about two people who have an amazing connection and are convinced that they’re meant to be with each other, but life drags them in different directions. In spite of time passing and other relationships, that one always feels different and special.
“Meant to Be” is about those things in life that feel like they were written in the stars. I believe certain twists and turns in our life story are more than “just” coincidences. They feel magical and meaningful, like they’re part of a bigger plan, driven by a higher purpose.
And tell us about the Afrojack remix of “Livin’ The Life”?
Universal Music linked us up to collaborate last year after Nick (Afrojack) said that he liked the original song. We worked together to develop an EDM vibe, which would elevate the music to another level. It was a bit surreal because I have always been a huge fan of his. The guy has worked with superstars like Nicki Minaj, Ne-Yo and Madonna, so it was amazing that he wanted to work with me. He’s super cool, confident and loves making music more than anything. I learnt so much from working with him and would love to do it again.
Livin' The Life (Afrojak remix)
What is the feeling on having so many millions of video views on YouTube?
It feels great. I like that music enables me to connect with and share an emotional experience with a huge audience. Knowing that people are identifying with my songs and enjoying them is a huge encouragement for me to continue making music.
Do you still get nervous?
I don’t get nervous in the way that I used to when I started gigging in bars and clubs around London. I am more confident now when I’m performing. What I feel the weight of now is internal pressure to meet my own expectations and the expectations of the people who enjoy my music. Music is my passion and what drives my soul, a combination of caring too much, and being a bit of a perfectionist means that sometimes it can be really hard to finish a song.
What’s the magic formula for success?
There’s no magic formula for success.
I want to encourage people to realise that they can break down barriers and stereotypes to do the thing that sparks a fire in their soul. That is step one. Beyond that you have to work hard, put in the hours, surround yourself with good people and believe in yourself and what you’re creating.
What was the last book you read?
It is taking some time, but recently I have been reading the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu Epic, which explores the spiritual foundation of human existence and the grander purpose of the universe. It’s a humbling read, but not the easiest to get into! I balance those heavy reads out with something a bit more gentle. At the moment I am really enjoying The Choice by Nicholas Sparks.
Who are your favorite designers?
I am usually super casual, a baggy t-shirt, jeans and a pair of sneakers is my uniform. I love Rihanna’s new Fenty collaboration with Puma. I also really like Alexander Wang, Iro and Unravel Project.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
My definition of success is constantly evolving as I grow. I want to continue to release music. I want to tour around the world, and show that India can produce a successful, global musician.
I am also a big believer that everyone can, and should aim to, leave the world a better place than they find it. I would like my mental health initiative Mpower Minds, which works to stamp out the stigma around mental health in India, to become a worldwide movement and impact millions of lives.
3 things you can’t leave your house without?
I can’t leave my house without my phone and a pack of gum. I tend to misplace anything else that I carry!
Your idea of a perfect Sunday is?
Having a lie in with my dog Skai, making some music and hanging out with friends and family.
Best advice ever given?
“Try your best and leave the rest to God”
What do you like to watch on tv?
I am a bit of a documentary junkie, everything from Making a Murderer to anything by David Attenborough.
Who is your favorite actor/actress?
Ryan Gosling and Jennifer Lawrence
What do you think about Social Media?
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It can be an incredibly powerful and positive force for creative self-expression, inspiration and motivation.
However, so much of what we see on social media platforms is not an accurate representation of reality. It’s a highlight reel of people’s lives, and often it lacks authenticity, which is really important to me. We live in an age where it’s so easy to compare ourselves to others, it’s almost impossible to go on to social media for more than a minute and not feel envious of someone or something.
Social media is not reality, but trolling and negative comments can be so harmful in the real world. For me, constructive criticism is appreciated, but some of the things I see in my comment sections or in other people’s feeds are totally unacceptable. I think more needs to be done to neutralise vicious and hate-filled posts.
Social media has brought people together in the digital world, but it has also allowed us to drift further away from real life human connection, which is what really matters.
Do you support any charities?
Mental health is a cause that’s very close to my heart. My Mom and I recently set up an initiative together called MPower Minds, which supports individuals and families dealing with mental illness in India. One in four young people are affected by mental health issues, so this is an important issue in India and internationally. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent people getting the help they need and this is what we’re changing.
Where we can follow you?
Quote: “At the end of our time here, we are all just stories and I would like to make mine an interesting read.”
Song: At the moment it’s Rockstar by Post Malone.
Holiday destination: Florence, for the rich history, beautiful views, amazing food and passionate people.
Food: Sushi or Hummus
Music: Anything and everything!
Drink: Virgin Mojito
Movie: I really like Life of Pi, they captured the magic of the book really well with a combination of metaphor and adventure. It brought to life what many of us go through internally and as a society; the exploration of faith, science and equality, culminated in the overarching lesson that you can conquer anything with love and courage.
Sports Team: I recently went to my first American football game and saw the Atlanta Falcons. Now I am hooked. I also am a big Manchester United soccer fan.
Photo Credit: Tim Rowland Music 1