This soulful singer-songwriter from Delhi is quickly making a name for herself in one of the largest music hubs in the world, New York. Abhilasha Sinha is incredibly passionate about music and can’t remember a time without it. From lively road trips to jam sessions with her mother and her harmonica, music was part of her life growing up.
Currently pursuing her masters degree in Music Business from NYU, she leads a passionate life as a singer-songwriter. She recently finished her India tour and is producing more songs just around the bend. Let’s have a peek at what’s going on with her! Head over to the link in bio to read our conversation with this lively artist.
Hello Abhilasha! It’s so exciting to be able to have this conversation with you. Please do give us a brief snippet of your journey so far.
I’m a 25-year singer-songwriter from New Delhi, now living in New York. I’m a feminist, a food lover, body+skin positivity advocate, and an avid thrift-store shopper. I’ve been living in New York for the past year, pursuing my masters degree in Music Business from NYU. This year has been incredibly lively with the release of my debut singles. I’m actively writing, performing and recording a whole lot of new music, and I’m excited about putting them out in 2020.
Tell us a little more about your music.
I only became truly serious about music in the past couple of years. I was in bands all-through college and performed a lot, but I was working full time. First at a consulting firm (Bain & Company) and then at a ticketing platform, Insider.in (Paytm).
My time with my previous band, RIVER (with Kamakshi Khanna and Tarana Marwah), and my current band, No Honey (Keshav Dhar, Suyash Gabriel), were my first serious forays into music as a career.
Tell us how you began your journey as a songwriter?
I think I wrote one when I was 13 or 14. It must have been about a childhood crush, or something silly. I was listening to some very diverse artists growing up – Bollywood aside, it was a whole lot of Adele, Iron Maiden, Sum 41, Avril Lavigne, Beyonce, Slipknot – a very mixed bag. I think the song itself was a very confused, angsty teenage ballad. I still might have the crumpled up lyrics somewhere!
The process of writing alone as a solo artist was difficult for me. I had a lot of song ideas, but I was unable to mould them – because I didn’t play an instrument. One day on a random whim, Tarana (my friend and bandmate) bought me a ukulele and said, “Learn!”.
I think that was my true beginning into the songwriting world! I started learning this small instrument, putting pieces of music together with the help of some incredible musicians and collaborators and created the first body of work – which I put out this year. It’s still a learning experience, I’m still a very new songwriter.
Have you always been attached to music? Even as a child?
When I was about 1 or 2 years old, I remember, my mum and I would sing together. She would be playing the harmonium and I would just be clapping my hands and singing with her. Later in life, I realized how much of my musical development was shaped by “bhajans” and lullabies that my mom would sing for me.
I can still recall moments like when our family would take long road trips from Delhi to Manali and there would be two cassettes on loop – Vengaboys and Taal! A very unlikely combination, I know, but I and my mom would pretty much be singing and yelling our way through it all.
I also sang throughout school – mostly in choirs and in operas. But when I joined college, I finally transitioned to singing in bands.
How have your roots influenced your music?
I grew up in a hard-working, middle-class family who loved to travel, eat and listen to old Bollywood songs and ghazals from a cassette player. My first foray into “western” music was in primary school, and after that, I began collecting CDs of popular US/UK hits. I think 90s pop music and Bollywood ghazals have influenced my music the most – of course, all the different music I listen to now came much later.
A day in your life?
I wake up at 8 am, I get showered, and take the subway to get to work at my current internship at Warner Records in New York. I work till about 5:30 pm, then head over to NYU for my grad school classes. Classes usually end at 8:50 pm, after that, I walk home usually stopping by at Trader Joe’s to pick up some groceries or pick up dinner.
After dinner, the second half of my day begins – I get on the music I’ve been working on, talk to my manager about all the work for that night, plan out a release schedule, schedule my gigs, coordinate with musicians for those gigs and work on that for the next few hours. At 1 am or so, I catch up with some friends and family in India who are waking up and then I head to bed. I have a packed schedule but it keeps me driven.
What’s your work philosophy and who do you look up to as inspiration?
I’m trying to stay more organized, but it’s hard. I feel like I need to get a better work philosophy because handling so many things on the business/logistical side of my music takes away from actually creating it.
I really admire Sanaya Ardeshir (Sandunes), because she’s an incredibly gifted musician who’s constantly pushing the boundaries of live, cinematic, instrumental music in India. She’s also constantly practicing, refining her basics, her craft, always trying to be better – she’s an absolute inspiration. Internationally, I love M.I.A, Lianne La Havas, and Rihanna. They are all incredibly successful, incredibly talented, unapologetically badass women.
What do you hope people take away from your Music?
I just hope it speaks to them.
Share with us, the thought behind your most personal song.
The most personal song would be Mother. It’s incredibly close to my heart, as well as the musicians who have played on it. It goes back to a time when I was very young and my mom would take care of everything – work, home, her infant daughter. She was a young professional when she had me and it would break her heart to leave me every morning – I was always clinging onto her sari asking her not to go. The maternity leave at her workplace was pretty awful, she hardly got any time to be with her new baby. The song talks about how she never let me feel that absence, always sang me to sleep, comforted me, before saying goodbye to leave in the morning.
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it’s been a lovely yellow day with this one @kamakshikhannaofficial , and we wrote our first song together. 💛 big words love, i thought you’re the only one who could mend my heart but now, i found you’re the only one who could tear it all apart i know that you’re a mess love hurts your fragile self i can’t control the things you said i’m in over my head we said we’d share the weight of this world but promises are just big words.
If you have to pick one, which one? Playing in a band or solo?
Solo performances are great for very small, intimate venues – but I love getting a band on board when I have the chance. The songs sound different each time. There is so much energy with a dynamic live band that you simply can’t command solo, no matter how great of a performer you are. My favorite musicians to play with (and who have also played on my debut singles!) in Delhi and Bombay are Harshit Misra (bass), Suyash Gabriel (drums), Dhruv Bhola (everything), Pranay Parti (keys), Shantanu Sudarshan (drums), Apurv Isaac (guitar), Adil Kurwa (bass), Jehangir Jehangir and Karun Kanampilly (drums).
I also love collaborating with musicians I love, and Kamakshi Khanna, Tarana Marwah and I play on stage together a lot outside of our band, RIVER. Tarana even had me sing with her when she played at SXSW 2019, which was an amazing experience.
What do you think is a problem being faced by artists/musicians today?
There’s a difference between a 9-5 job and being an artist. I’m not saying that desk jobs are easy or don’t have their own struggles. However, with a desk job, you assume a role, finish that role and go back home. But an artist doesn’t have that liberty. They constantly have to put themselves out there. And that can really have an impact on their mental health. It really bums me out to see an amazing artist go unrecognized just because they’re bad at social media. We should actively try to create spaces that allow artists to be heard without the pressure of creating an online presence.
Tell us about what we can keep our eye out for! Any secret collaborations coming up?
I’m working on a new body of work, which is a little different from my previous releases. It’s a little darker and a little heavier. But that’s for later in 2020! I won’t say much about it except “trio!”
For now, I’m releasing a single early 2020 that’s been written by a dear friend and an incredible musician, Dhruv Bhola. Also, Ditty (Aditi Veena) and I have also spoken about writing music together, which I’m really excited about because she’s wonderful and I love her music.
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