tunesday – a little chat with ashwarya
The Melbourne singer-songwriter's dark pop songs twist and turn in unexpected ways.
If you haven't treated your earholes to the absolute tunes coming from Melbourne singer-songwriter Ashwarya, now's the time to do so. Fusing her Indian heritage with slick electro-pop sounds, Ashwarya dropped her first track "Psycho Hole" in the middle of 2020. Each song since has been a mini sonic rollercoaster that confidently switches tempo and keeps you on your toes. Ahead of her upcoming EP Nocturnal Hours (out this Thursday), we chatted to Ashwarya about making pop bangers and finding her sound.
How did you get into making music? I've always been into singing and performing. I was the kid running around dancing for family and friends, so it happened pretty much through their encouragement, and especially that of my grandparents. My grandma was very into dancing and music herself growing up. In school, I was always in choirs and doing little festivals and open mics in our local area. I was like, "I have to give this a shot. Because I know I’ll regret it if I don’t.”
Were you the kid who wanted to be a pop star? Literally, that was me. I remember being in year 3 or 4 and crying to my parents because I told them I wanted to perform on the Disney Channel. They had to explain to me that I needed to be more realistic.
How did you go about finding your sound? I worked for quite a long time with my producer Jarrad Rogers. My vocal coach gave me Jarrad's number and I called him, but thought he was never going to call back. He actually did, though. I emailed him my tracks and from then on we just started working together. We wrote a bunch of songs, and I really worked on myself and the music and figured out exactly where I wanted to be once I released my first track. “Psycho Hole” has these tempo changes and is hard for some people to categorise into a specific genre, but I personally felt so confident with it just because of the sheer amount of time I had put in.
What's your approach to songwriting? I need to start journaling! Someone told me that's really helpful, but I'm just the type of person who finds it difficult to write down my emotions. The best way for me is to just sing my emotions and record them on a voice memo. Whether I'm having a really good day or a really bad day, I'll do a little improv session and record something on GarageBand. I’ll build on that emotion and take it from there.
When do you feel most creative? At night-time – hence the title of my EP. I struggle to go to bed, but for the most part, I enjoy working at night and finding inspiration then. Something just switches on for me.
What made you decide to mix Hindi into your lyrics? For “Biryani”, it came about really naturally. It's not something that's super-calculated for me. There was a little tune in my head and I just thought, “Oh, why not do this in Hindi? It could sound really cool.” I’m really glad people responded well and that a lot people of colour related to it. I definitely want to do more bilingual songs in future.
Is it tricky matching the tones and rhythms of the Hindi language with your beats? It can be a bit tricky. I listened to a lot of Bollywood music growing up, and Indian music in general has a lot more scales in the vocals. There are multiple notes in one melody, so Bollywood music can be a lot more complex at times than conventional Western music. But I think it's really cool because sometimes I'll hear a Western song and hear elements of Bollywood in it. Then whenever I make my own songs, I'll be like, “On this melody, I could definitely sing something in Hindi.” It’s more of a subconscious thing for me.
You mentioned that your grandparents were a big influence growing up. What do they think of your music? They're honestly the coolest people ever – they've always supported me. I've showed my grandma all my songs. I'll FaceTime her and she's crying because I think she sees herself in me. She’s always wanted this for me and now that it's become a reality, she's really proud.
What do you get up to when you're not making music? I love frozen yoghurt. I get frozen yoghurt countless times a week, and would love to collaborate with the frozen yoghurt store Yo-Chi on my own flavour. It’d just be called Ashwarya. But I’d need to work out the taste first. I also love going out to art galleries and going op-shopping.
Catch Ashwarya live on July 10th at The Toff in Town in Melbourne for the launch of her EP.