Ananya Birla took time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her her career, both music and business. It takes a very special person to be able to do all of the wonderful things that she does and we get a bit of insight into her world.
Ananya Birla has a new gold certified single Meant to Be and DJ Afrojack remix with 14 million views! The international pop star and entrepreneur is building a female led empire and has emerged as a leading agent of social change and women’s rights in India and the world.
BSCKids: Ananya, how did you get involved in music?
Ananya Birla: As soon as I could walk and talk I was obsessed with anything to do with music. My family loves music so there was always singing and dancing around my house. I had learned the Santoor (a traditional Indian instrument) by the time I was nine, which helped me to teach myself the guitar and piano, with a little help from YouTube tutorials. By the time I was at university in the UK, I was writing my own music and performing on a regular basis.
I have a lot to thank music for, it’s been a constant companion through good and bad times. I hope people feel the same way about my songs.
BSCKids: How did the single Livin’ the Life with DJ Afrojack happen?
Ananya Birla: Afrojack was performing in India and he heard my first single“Livin’ the life”, which he liked and wanted to remix. It was awesome to work with him and see how he gave it his unique stamp. He is a really cool and humble guy. I would love to collaborate with him again.
BSCKids: How did you feel as you saw the YouTube views just climb and climb?
Ananya Birla: Being able to make a career out of what I love, and seeing people appreciate what I am doing is an amazing, uplifting feeling. The views on YouTube and the positive comments are a massive encouragement.
BSCKids: What other artists do you like to listen to yourself?
Ananya Birla: I listen to everything from Nirvana to Zayn Malik to Eminem. It totally depends on my mood. When I like a new song I will listen to it on repeat, which can really bug my friends.
BSCKids: If you could collaborate with someone you have not worked with before who would it be?
Ananya Birla: Collaborating is the best way to learn and develop as an artist. There are so many young, talented people popping up around the world who I would love to work with but the dream would be Zayn Malik or Selena Gomez.
BSCKids: Do you write all of your songs, and how do you get inspired?
Ananya Birla: I write all my songs, either on my own or as a co-writer.
For me, making music is about self-discovery and self-expression. My songs are based on my own experiences or experiences of people close to me, which I try to deliver in a way which is relatable. I recently started to do some “method writing”, where you imagine a particular situation and how you would feel, then write based on that.
I get inspired at the weirdest times and occasionally I wake up in the middle of the night, grab a pen and just start writing.
BSCKids: How supportive has your family been about your career?
Ananya Birla: I always wanted to be a musician but was scared about turning my passion into my career. I’m really thankful to have such a supportive family who have always encouraged me to follow my dreams.
BSCKids: What has been your favorite interaction with a fan?
Ananya Birla: When I launched Meant To Be, I brought some fans together to talk about the moments in their life that they felt were ‘meant to be’. The stories they told were way more sincere and meaningful than I had expected. It was so moving and special that they trusted me enough to share them.
BSCKids: How do you feel that social media is helping lead change for girls/women?
Ananya Birla: It gives us a chance to tell our own story, in our own words. Women and girls of different nationalities and ages can connect and share their passions and viewpoints; there’s so much we can learn from each other. I also think it’s really inspiring to see women who show their authentic self on social media, girls who love their body just the way it is and don’t try to be perfect or create an illusion.
BSCKids: If you had to pick your favorite social media post that you have posted which one would it be and why?
Ananya Birla: I love when people cover my songs and try to repost them, my favorite was this beautiful piano cover of Meant To be by an India-based musician: https://www.instagram.com/p/BZlunR7lYA9/?hl=en&taken-by=hasitnanda.
I recently put some of my music on Starmaker, the karaoke app, and loads of people did amazing covers which was really touching.
BSCKids: Tell us one thing we would be surprised to find out about you?
Ananya Birla: I love my dog Skai and spend as much time with her as possible, when I’m not travelling she’s always by my side.
BSCKids: What is the one thing that you don’t leave the house without?
Ananya Birla: My phone! I tend to lose anything else that I carry.
BSCKids: What are the downsides or traps in social media that you would caution kids about when they first start using it?
Ananya Birla: Although in a lot of ways it brings us closer together, social media can also be a bit isolating. Social media shouldn’t be the only way that you communicate with your family and friends; you miss out on so much that way! It’s important to me that I see and talk to people face to face, it stops me getting absorbed in the online world, which is essentially a carefully-edited highlight reel and not the whole story. It’s important to remember that whenever you feel a pang of jealousy or pressure to live up to someone else’s social media standards or behave in a certain way.
BSCKids: Tell us a bit about MPower, we think it is a great thing and more people should hear about it.
Ananya Birla: Thank you. Mental health is a cause which is really close to my heart. I set up MPower with my mom to stamp out the stigma around mental health by raising awareness, encouraging education, and providing support in our care center. This is a huge challenge around the world, particularly in developing countries like India.
Powerful progress is being made. MPower just hosted a concert in India which over 20,000 people attended, it was an amazing event. We used the show to spread the message that one person speaking out about mental health and breaking the stigma can make it more acceptable it and empower others to seek help.
BSCKids: What company that you have helped finance has been the most fun to work on?
Ananya Birla: There is a huge gap between rich and poor in India, I wanted to do something to address that so I set up a business called Svatantra (which means Freedom in Hindi) when I was 17. It helps women deep in the Indian countryside to grow their businesses. Life is often very difficult for these women, the strength, intelligence and perseverance I see in all of the women we help is inspirational.
BSCKids: What do you have coming up music wise that you can tell us about?
Ananya Birla: 2018 is going to be all about releasing new music and performing live. I’m drawing on all sorts of influences in my music and developing a sound which really feels like ‘me’. I have a few surprises in store so keep your ears peeled!
BSCKids: Where can we find you on social media?
Special thanks to Ananya for doing the interview with us.