ASHWARYA certainly isn’t the only artist representing South Asian music on a global scale right now – there’s ASHY, for one – but she’s definitely one of the most exciting. 

With a sound equally indebted to Billie Eilish and Bollywood, ASHWARYA’s star has been on the rise for a few years now, enhanced by the release of her second EP, Why’s It Gotta Hurt, last month.

The Melbourne-based singer-songwriter took her pop-meets-R&B gems to SXSW Sydney last week, showing industry insiders why big brands like TikTok and adidas want to work with her.

After her appearance at the festival, Tone Deaf caught up with ASHWARYA to discuss representing South Asia in her music, the reaction to her new EP, and much more.

Tone Deaf: Was it a proud moment to represent South Asia at SXSW Sydney?

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ASHWARYA: Definitely. We have such a diverse demographic of people in Australia consuming South Asian art and music. As much as I do find myself being one of very few South Asians represented in the scene, I think it’s a great step towards shining a light on the South Asian diaspora in Australia, and an exciting time to see music crossing over globally and bringing in various communities in Australia to celebrate that. 

Are you happy to have Why’s It Gotta Hurt out in the world? How have fans reacted to the record?

I’m really stoked to have it out in the world. It feels like I’ve been holding onto it like my baby for a minute, so it’s been quite cathartic having it finally be out alongside the world that has been created around it. The best type of response I received for the EP was during my tour – there’s really nothing better than hearing a crowd of people sing your lyrics back to you. 

What themes did you try to explore on the EP?

I explored my past and present experiences and played with darkness and hope. The EP shifts from themes of longing and desire to resentment and chaos, and finally the realisation and acceptance that sometimes letting go of the things you love will give you peace. But at the end of the day, that action of letting things go still leaves you with the feeling of “why’s it gotta hurt?” I think it was important for me to highlight that sentiment because with pain comes growth and more space to love the people in your life that deserve your love. 

How would you describe your music to a potential new fan?

My music is hard-hitting, eclectic, and emotive at its core. It ties in a lot of different influences but I think it’s subjective, so I tend to keep it open-ended for people to interpret my sound. I like to explore interesting textures and sounds that may not sound conventionally pop but have it against more poppier melodies. I think it creates a unique and interesting blend.

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Your sound is so genre-hopping! What music did you grow up listening to in your house?

I grew up listening to a lot of Bollywood music through watching the movies and also early 2000’s pop and R&B music. I think it all helps me subconsciously when I write because it gives me different perspectives in terms of language and melodic/production crossovers between Bollywood and Western music. 

You’ve worked with some cool artists in your career so far. Who’s next up on your dream collaboration list?!

Labrinth and Rosalía.

Congrats on being chosen for TikTok’s LIVE Sunset Sessions! How was that experience?

It’s always so great being able to interact with your audience in a live format. I find it really wholesome and special to speak and perform to my audience in a very intimate setting!

How important is a platform like TikTok to your music and career?

I think it’s a great tool to have in order to connect with your audience and I think the best part about it is that you can utilise the platform in any way that you wish and whatever feels most authentic to you. 

Your career’s been on such an upward trajectory over the last couple of years. What do you want to achieve in music in the future?

I wanna tour the world and work with more creatives and artists! I can’t wait to see where my future takes me.

And what’s coming up for you after SXSW Sydney? 

I’m gonna be writing and spending a lot of time in the studio working on music now that the EP is out. It’s my favourite place to be.

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