To simply call 23-year-old international pop singer/entrepreneur Ananya Birla (pronounced An-An-Ya) “up-and-coming” or “emerging” would be a major understatement.
Before pursuing a career in the music industry, Ananya studied economics at the University of Oxford in England, and just at 17-years-old established Svatantra, a microfinance institution that makes small loans to female entrepreneurs in India. By age 21, she began her second venture as the founder and CEO of CuroCarte, an inventory-based global luxury e-commerce platform.
Ananya’s passion for music developed while she was abroad, and soon she began writing songs of her own, one of which—”I Don’t Want To Love”—caught the attention of executives with Universal Music Group, who signed her to the label in 2016.
Her debut single, “Livin The Life” was co-written and produced by Jim Beanz—a Philadelphia-based vocal producer who has co-written and co-produced songs with such pop artists as Nelly Furtado, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, Duran Duran, Chris Cornell, Whitney Houston, and Timbaland. He is also credited with writing/producing several songs for the hit TV series, Empire.
The song was remixed by Dutch electronic DJ Afrojack, in November, and currently has upwards of 14 million views on YouTube. Here second electro-pop single, “Meant to Be” was released in July and has already achieved Gold certification by the Indian Music Industry.
Now, she is here in the U.S. to bring her charming voice and unique songwriting to the states, with her forthcoming single, “Hold On.” Salute Magazine recently caught up with Ananya Birla to talk more about the music scene in India, her inspirations and influences, and her upcoming studio debut—currently in the works.
SALUTE: How did you get your start in music?
ANANYA: I always wanted to have a career in music, I think I just didn’t have the courage to take that step and English music is not very big in India, so I didn’t see how I could do it at that stage. But then I went to University in Oxford where I was actually studying economics and management, which is funny because I started playing original music and covers around London. I used to go to pubs and clubs and played music for them and that’s when I realized this is what makes me happy. Life is too short and I must take it up as a career. I had to take a leap of faith… that’s basically what I did. And after a little bit of struggle and this and that, I got signed with Universal Music Group and the best is basically history, but it was a very interesting journey and I am so happy that I made that decision because I’m living my dream now and loving every day.
The basic idea is now to break through in America.
What triggered your transition from economics to music?
It was just a random set of events that took place. I don’t think there was any one particular moment. I like economics actually. It’s very interesting and I learned a lot at University, more than the academia. I learned more about life and how to live and just being independent. But I think when you move away from your parents and you’re living by yourself, I think there are various realizations that dawn upon you, and one of them is that music is my calling.
I want to connect with people through music and music is my form of self-expression. So, I think, moving away from my parents, even though I miss them terribly, it helped me realize that this is what I want to do in my life. It was a mix of different events, from really enjoying going to pubs and clubs, to people coming up to me and saying “we really like your voice.” To my parents for then supporting me, to then getting signed by Universal. So, eventually, you realize there is something going right here and I just have to keep going. Keep moving forward.
Artists you look up to defining sound? Look-up to today?
I think the most important thing for me as an artist is being authentic. I think that Eminem has the power to become vulnerable and he can connect with people… and I’ve always looked up to him as an artist. He is like “vaude” for me in the music world. But, you know, everyone is amazing. From Selena to Rihanna to Sia, to someone like Adele, who has an amazing voice and sort of proved that voice is all that’s important to a certain extent.
They’re very different people, but I would say Eminem is someone who has really stood out to me in many different ways. I’ve also been a huge admirer of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. Just something about him and how he sort of started the entire grunge vibe. I think it’s very very incredible at that age, at that time, without digital media and too much of print, they were able to start a cult of some sort. Obviously, he had some sort of power to attract people towards him.
Even Ed [Sheeran]. I love Ed as well. I think he’s just a great songwriter. I wish I could write like he does. Just absolutely amazing.
What was it like to work with Afrojack?
That was my first single. It was called “Living The Life.” [Afrojack] was in India. He was there for a concert, on the main stage and he heard the song, and he said that he loved the song, and said that he would love to remix it. And so it became the official remix of “Living the Life.”
I’ve always looked up to him and I’ve always been a big fan so it was a very surreal moment. I could almost not believe it. And then it turned out to be a song that everyone loved in India. And it was great to work with Nick [van de Wall]. I think he’s very open to ideas. He writes strategic as well, in terms of his sound and in terms of what he thinks the listeners will like. But I think more than anything else he’s a great artist. He’s a great DJ. And given that I was a brand new artist then, I think it’s incredible and admirable that he gave me that sort of creative freedom. It was absolutely great to work with him and I look forward to working with him again in the future.
What’s Next For Ananya?
My single, “Meant To Be,” just hit gold in India and we’re moving towards hitting Platinum. So in India, I have cultivated a great base for myself and I feel very grateful because I have so much love coming in. The next step is to break into the states and then, of course, the entire world. Sort of the same way I started to build my career in India, is the same way I am starting to build my career in the states as well.
My next song, which is called “Hold On,” is releasing in December after which there is going to be an EP. I’ve literally come to L.A. to shoot the music video for “Hold On” and also I’ve been in the studio just writing new songs, seeing where my sound is and seeing where it could possibly go. I want to stay in the pop realm, but sort of playing around a little bit with the sound. I’ve just been in songwriting sessions for my EP-slash-album. Let’s see how many songs I actually sort of really want to put out there in the world.
There’s an EP and hopefully, after that, I will tour. So there’s loads of interesting stuff coming up… especially, after “Meant to Be” going Platinum, I think I’ve gained credibility as an artist, at least in India. I think I did well for myself. But I can’t wait to see how the lovely American people take to my music. Hopefully, I’ll learn from my mistakes, if I happen to make some, and keep moving forward and hopefully, I’ll be able to reach that goal.
WATCH: ANANYA BIRLA – “MEANT TO BE”