'There's been no looking back'

'There's been no looking back'
If you’ve been anywhere near YouTube the past couple of years, the name Vidya Iyer shouldn’t be hard to recognise.

Known for her catchy mash-ups and interesting collaborations, the singer (who goes by the name VidyaVox) has belted out some beautiful melodies that touch her roots in India while keeping alive her life in the US.

Her mash-up of Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space’ and AR Rahman’s ‘Mental Manadhil’ from ‘O Kadhal Kanmani’ has found many listeners, while her rendition of Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ and ‘Kandukondain Kandukondain’ is flying around the internet space. Talking about her journey into music, she says...

When did you decide to make music your profession?

Music is something I’ve always been passionate about. My mum put me in Carnatic music class when I was five and I’ve been singing (almost) all my life. In university, I met Shankar (Tucker) and we collaborated for a video which got a lot of attention. I never dreamed that music would be a career (only in my wildest dreams, maybe). But after I university, I thought I’d give it a shot. YouTube was new to me then, in terms of putting out music, but I thought ‘why not?’.

It was a long shot to take, wasn’t it?

My mum kind of stared at me when I told her I wanted to take up singing as a profession. I had studied psychology and biology in university and was preparing for my MCATs. I loved science and wanted to do it for a while but music is my passion and this was my one chance. I thought I could do it. I moved to India for a year and learnt Hindustani classical music and now, I’m training in Western vocals. I released my first video and April and there’s been no looking back since then!

Why do you like mash-ups so much?

I was born in Chennai but raised in the US. It has always been two different worlds — at home, I’d sing Carnatic song and talk to my mum in Tamil but when I’d go to school, it was completely different. I wondered how I could marry these two worlds, even if it was for just two minutes. I wanted to find a happy, middle ground and mash-ups were the perfect way to express myself. This is my way of holding on to my roots and being a part of both cultures.

Will mash-ups give way to original tracks?

I’m definitely going to keep doing mash-ups but I’m also working on an original EP which will release next year. It will also have flavours of a mash-up because I’ve trained in Carnatic music forever and I feel like I can’t let it go. I need to be able to incorporate that in my original compositions.

Any songs you couldn’t mash-up?

Yes, tonnes of them! Western and Indian music are similar in some ways but different in others. For a song to work, they need to have the same scale and rhythm. Sometimes you have to make a compromise — speed up or slow down a song to make it work. It’s like solving a puzzle.  
Any plans to enter Bollywood?

(Laughing) If the right opportunity comes, why not?

What song(s) are you playing on loop right now?

Coldplay and Adele’s new album. I also really enjoy listening to ‘Gerua’ from ‘Dilwale’.

The people who inspire you...

In Indian music, it’s AR Rahman, Shankar Mahadevan, Hariharan, Chitra, Nithyashree and more. In Western music, I like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Beyonce, Adele, Coldplay, Ellie Goulding and many more. It changes every day!

When you aren’t making music, you...

I really like to sleep (I know it sounds boring but I don’t get to sleep very often). I also like to play tennis (badly), go for walks and read. I love to read; I just finished ‘After You’ by Jojo Moyes and I started on ‘Boys On The Boat’ by Daniel James Brown.

This is aside from your journey into music... Any particular reason you chose to dye your hair blue?

Actually, a lot of people ask me that. I just found the colour attractive, there’s nothing deep about it. I have always been experimental with my hair — last year, it was ombre, a sort of blonde brownish. My mum thinks I’m having  a mental breakdown! It took me six months to convince her (yes, I still ask my mum for permission). But once I got it, she was okay with it. Now it’s green.

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