Crowdfunding her debut album, collaborating with Chloe and Uber through social media and building an 18-foot anatomical heart with Dubai-based artists is how social songstress Gaya spread the love to a growing international fan base. Her latest single Fake it till you Make It reveals how empowering a millennial business nous can be.
To be one of the most successful unsigned artists in the world, singer-songwriter Gaya has subverted the traditional route taken by musicians and forged her own path.
“What I realised on my recent trip to New York is that I don’t need a record deal,” she says. “What I’ve done is try to empower myself in as many ways as possible, to make that money myself, to put it into my music, align with brands that understand my journey and what I want to do, and have complete creative control and a vision for myself.”
What I’ve done is try to empower myself in as many ways as possible, to make that money myself, to put it into my music
Confident, sharp, and fiercely independent, Gaya supports her vibrant music with her films, an interior design shop, and other self-made artistic projects. Whilst certainly bold, her apathy for a commercial record deal is not unheard of. She joins the likes of Lebanese superstars Mashrou’ Leila, who gained worldwide exposure despite having never signed a contract. Even Palestinian futuristic dabke group 47SOUL crowdfunded their first album, Shamstep, which shot them into a global spotlight.
Like Gaya, these independent artists are set on reinventing the role of the modern musician, gaining a global fan base entirely on their own.
“The goal is to really break onto the international scene, whether that’s in the States or whether that’s Europe,” says Gaya, “to have as many people in the world hear the music and understand the world that I’m trying to create.”
That will be no easy task, but the intense three-month experience of recording her upcoming album is the kind of challenge she thrives on.
“Once you decide to do something there’s really no point fixating on how difficult it will be, because you’ve obviously considered it and decided that you want to do it anyway. What I realised over time is it’s really about connecting with people and building on that, whether in terms of creativity and putting out work that people can connect with, or in terms of the business end of things.
But I feel so good about what I’ve done and I feel so good about the people that I’ve worked with, and how much hard work and love has gone into it, that, for me I already feel great. The process is what makes me happy.”
It was in New York where Gaya shot the soon-to-be-released music video for Fake it Till you Make It, the first song from her eponymously-named three-track EP released digitally via Bandcamp in June last year. The new video follows relatively quickly on the heels of another for Boys Who Cried Love – also off the same EP – but Gaya’s attention is now turning towards the writing and producing of her second album.
Born in Chennai, Gaya’s music is often deeply personal, with Fake it Till you Make It a letter to her 15-year-old self. She also draws closely on personal experience and on the experiences of those she describes as having a certain kinship with.
“I do think that I have a style of writing, and that remains the same, but the things around it will change,” says Gaya of her upcoming album. “One of the things that I do is draw from my Indian influences, but not in a way that I feel is slapped on. It has to be essential to telling the story. It cannot be just a gimmick. And I really want to explore that side and bring that to life in a way that people have never heard before.
“My plan is to go back to the south of India where I was born and lived for the first seven years of my life and sample a lot of the traditional instruments that I grew up listening to, work with native choirs and orchestras, and then bring that back to the studio, go to New York, and transform those traditional elements into something very modern and contemporary that is accessible to all, even though it has a sense of otherworldliness. I want to really challenge myself to write things that marry all my influences and create something new and exciting. That’s what I’m working towards.”
The recording process will be an international affair, taking Gaya from Dubai to India and on to New York, where it is hoped the album (her second after 2013’s The Unknown) will be finalised early next year. “I want it to be a process of discovery, because that’s the whole point of creativity.”