American Idol Contestant Rhea Raj Talks New Music, Feminism, and More!
Rhea Raj a NYC based singer and songwriter who competed in American Idols farewell season in 2016. Rhea has grown as an artist and 2017 definitely was a memorable year for her as MTV featured two of her covers, “New Rules” by Dua Lipa and “I Got You”. A young and talented individual, she has worked with producers and labels around the world.
Urban Asian caught up with Rhea in a candid interview recently and here’s what we asked her.
1.Who is Rhea Raj in a Nutshell?
Rhea Raj is an American-born singer, songwriter, actress and dancer of Indian origin, and rising international pop star!
2. Tell us about your experience on American Idol, how did it sculpt you as an artist?
American Idol was life-changing. Getting the golden ticket was so exciting and watching my audition air on TV was surreal. But during the intense Hollywood Week round, I ended up with a terrible throat infection, through which I sang anyway. That experience was really difficult to deal with as a 15-year-old. But the response and encouragement I received from my fans were inspiring; I realized that my journey as a musician had just begun. As an artist, I always remember that there’s gonna be unexpected struggles, but it’s so important to keep moving on. I look at every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow, regardless of the outcome.
3. You’re quite successful at such a young age, what are the pressures that come with it?
I’ve been on social media since I was a pre-teen, and while those platforms are great for sharing my music and connecting with fans, I used to feel pressured to maintain a pre-planned image. But I’m learning that authenticity is far more important and relatable, so now I have fun with it!
4. Everyone needs to chill every now and again, what do you do in your downtime?
Songwriting is most therapeutic for me, but when I’m not doing that, I’m taking a dance class, catching up on Game of Thrones, or restaurant-hopping in Soho!
5. Where does your inspiration for music come from and how did your journey as a musician begin?
When I was 10, I sang in front of an audience for the first time at my school talent show, and after that, I begged my mom to sign me up for voice lessons. I started performing at different venues like the House of Blues and Hard Rock Cafe and fell in love with the stage.
My mom was a dance teacher for 20 years, so growing up, my house was always filled with music from around the world. I decided that I wanted to write my own music and create unique songs like the ones I was exposed to at home. I use those memories to shape my music and experiment with tropical, urban, and dance sounds.
6. Both MTV and BeBe Rexha recognized your cover of I GOT YOU, eventually, you became MTV’s cover of the month. How did you feel when that happened?
I felt incredibly honored and lucky to have been given that opportunity! Much love to MTV for the feature and for always sharing my covers and original music. It opened up doors to work with so many producers I had been wanting to collaborate with. I remember waking up one morning and my phone was blowing up because Bebe Rexha shared my cover on her Twitter and Instagram. I’m a huge fan of hers, so I was on a high the rest of that day!
7. The world prides themselves on criticizing youngsters, how do you deal with criticism?
I know the difference between people who are trying to give me constructive feedback and people that just wanna hate. The first, I appreciate and use to improve my craft. The second, I find humor in and move on from!
8. What is your favorite album, and an album that inspires you?
Anti by Rihanna. It’s a badass record with fresh, experimental sounds.
9. Tell us about your family life, I take it you’re ethnically Indian, what do your parents and family say about your career in music?
When I told them I wanted to be a singer, they were super supportive. They raised me to believe in myself and always put 1000% of my energy into whatever I’m passionate about.
10. Every artist has this way of finding their groove and finding their sound. What’s your process and how would you define your sound or are you still experimenting with your sound?
My favorite thing about being a musician is the freedom to evolve. I am a pop artist but have been influenced by so many different genres over the years. Right now, I’m working on a lot of dance/electronic collabs, which has given me the opportunity to explore new sounds. Boundaries in pop music are expanding every day and the rules are changing. I love experimenting with global sounds and fusing them into my songs. It’s an exciting time for me as an artist of international descent in America!
11. What can we expect from you in the coming months? I’ve seen some of your covers I love the way your breakdown songs and show us a different perspective, is this difficult?
First, thank you so much! I love YouTube and the opportunity it gives new artists to share content. I put out new covers on my channel every couple of weeks which allows me to play around with the production aspect of music, as I develop my own sound and brand. I’m also super excited for my first original album, and the creative journey starts this year! I’ll be working with songwriters and producers in New York and LA, writing tons of music and will share little teasers towards the end of 2018!
12. The word feminist and feminism is used a lot today in the music industry, are you a feminist and how do you portray that in your music?
Yes! I will always use my voice and platform to uplift and empower women. As a female in the music industry, I often question my beauty and body image. I recently released a single called “Insecurities” which is a song I wrote to myself and anyone who struggles with self-doubt. The song is about embracing your flaws and loving unconditionally! I hope when little girls listen to my music, they feel strong and beautiful in their own skin.
13. I was pretty excited to be interviewing you, after doing my research I sent some of your songs to one of my best friends. He loved every song and cover. Though there is one question he asked and I’m sure a lot of people want to know. Are you single?
I’m actually in a deeply committed relationship with Leonardo Dicaprio. We just keep it really lowkey, you know?