Aaradhna talks 'Treble & Reverb', Honesty & Authenticity, crossing into America..
From a record-breaking number of nominations and music awards in her home country, to signing a five-album deal with Universal/Republic Records and touring the U.S., 2013 has been a triumphant return to the limelight for the Queen of New Zealand R&B/soul music, Aaradhna, and her latest album, 'Treble & Reverb'. With her carefully crafted 'retro/metro' throwback sound, soulful voice and deeply personal songwriting, Aaradhna has conquered the New Zealand music scene, receiving more nominations at the recent Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards than fellow New Zealander and world-wide chart-topper Lorde, and, following her deal with Universal/Republic, is now setting her sights on establishing herself farther afield. Currently touring the U.S., she is set to make her second appearance this year at our Sol Village showcase in New York, this time as the headlining act, and we caught up with her to talk about 'Treble & Reverb', old-school influences and her time away from music.
Your latest album, 'Treble & Reverb', has been a great success, both in N.Z., with a record number of award wins and nominations, and in the U.S., where you have been signed to Universal/Republic - what are your thoughts about how well the album has been received? Why do you think people have responded so well to the album?
I'm pretty happy about how its being received. For myself it was more of a therapy thing, I just wanted to let it all out because I had been sitting on these songs for awhile and to finally put it out was a real relief for me and for it to get a good response was a plus! I think the fact that these songs are about real situations that I've been through helps others to appreciate it and I know alot of people can relate to some of the stuff that I sing about.
We are glad to have you back again to perform at our Sol Village showcase in N.Y. this month, and you have been recently touring around the U.S., including supporting the likes of J Boog and Charles Bradley. How has the on the road experience been in the U.S., and how have you found the reception by the audience to your music in a live setting?
I've been really enjoying it, every bit of it. The new towns I get to visit, the people I get to meet, finding new ways to do things on stage. Its definitely giving me new stories to tell my future kids, grand kids and what nots. im loving the experience, i have my days where I'd get so drained but I definitely wouldn't wanna do anything else I would not change a damn thing. I reckon the audience that ive performed to have been really good to me, its good vibes from what I've experienced so far.
You had some early success in New Zealand in the mid-2000's with local urban record label Dawn Raid Entertainment and songs like 'Down Time'- what was that initial experience like for you in terms of suddenly being in the spotlight? How did you deal with the newly found attention?
I found it super duper exciting and daunting at the same time. I was young and still trying to find myself and I wasnt proper prepared for the whole spotlight thing. But family & time helped.
After that early local success, you looked to try and take your music to the U.S. in 2007, but, unfortunately, things didn't work out at the time. What were your expectations at the start of that process, the expectations that you had about how your music would be received in the U.S., and what was that like as a learning experience about the complex realities of the music business?
Well I came to the U.S in hopes that I could put my music on the shelves, but promises were being made and broken and I realized that it wasnt gonna pop off with the folks I was with.. plus at the same time I was going through a depression so my mind wasn't in the right place. I learnt that I need to be wise about who i trust, it could be all smoke and mirrors with some & that I need to do my proper hard yards in order to get my music out in the U.S. It aint easy most definitely aint easy!
You address some quite personal topics on 'Treble & Reverb', like depression, while also displaying a more self-aware, confident side as well. Was the writing process a cathartic one for you after your time away from music? Why was it so important for you to write with such honesty and authenticity about your deepest thoughts and feelings? What do you hope people will feel, and take away, after listening to the album?
Writing the music came easily when I was writing about what I knew about and that's why it was really personal. It just rolled out the way it rolled out. Im kind of a quiet person so I dont talk too much, I dont really say everything that goes on in my head to someone and I know the only way I can proper express myself is through the songs I write so this is just me conversating with you. This is my way of staying sane. I only want to be heard and be able to tell you how I feel and whats on my mind and for you to understand me.
The sonic idea for 'Treble & Reverb' was actually born during this period away from music, when you intensely listened to 'Back To Black' by Amy Winehouse, and then subsequently became interested in, and educated yourself about, classic soul and doo-wop acts. What attracted you so strongly to that particular musical aesthetic, why do you think it resonated with you so much? How did it shape your vision for the sonic soundscape of the album?
I just love how sincere the music was, it feels magical when I listen to this kind of music. It's a time machine that takes me to a place I've never been but want to go. I've always wanted to put out something old school influenced and eventually after a bit of time and soul searching we had something.
You wrote a lot of demos with this new 'retro/metro' sound in mind, and, after reconnecting with Dawn Raid, you teamed up with N.Z. producers P-Money and Evan Short to bring this sonic aesthetic to life. What was that collaborative process like, in terms of working with them to create the musical soundscape that you wanted for 'Treble & Reverb'? What was the in-studio process like?
Well when I demo'd these song I had already planned the whole music for it so when P-Money and Evan Short got it they had a solid idea of what I wanted and replayed everything and added in some magic sprinkles to give it that ting! I recorded this album in 3 weeks, I'd drive to Evans home studio everyday 9am record till 5.30pm and listen back to it at the end of each session. That was my fav part, listening back. Working with P-Money and Evan was easy and fun, we were all on the same page and knew exactly what we wanted to achieve so it made working with each other so breezy!