Interview With Singer Songwriter Avanti Nagral Of thank u (pls)
Interview With Singer-Songwriter Avanti Nagral Of thank u (pls). Avanti’s music is influenced by her background in Indian Classical, Broadway, Church/Gospel, and Devotional music. She is the first in the world to pursue a dual degree at both Harvard University and Berklee College of Music, making her a trailblazer for creators everywhere. A youth icon, a symbol for powerful women, and a veteran live performer, Avanti has performed at venues across India, the United States, and Southeast Asia, and captures the hearts of her audiences wherever she goes. Avanti runs performance workshops at schools across India and the US to share her artist story, connecting passion and purpose and how to balance being a full-time student, musician, and entrepreneur. She has spoken at TEDx conferences and worked with educational organizations, nonprofits, and academic institutions, as a motivational speaker, artist, songwriter, and advocate.
Beautiful Voice Avanti. How long have you been singing for? Please tell us about yourself and your journey of your singing career.
Thank u (pls) so much! I often joke that I’ve been musical since I was in-utero because I grew up around it. My dad plays the tabla (along with being a tech entrepreneur), and used to teach it on the side to help put himself through grad school. My mom is very spiritual, so I grew up doing a lot of devotional music. When I moved to Bombay, I started training in Hindustani Classical music. I also have a background in Church music, as I went to a Christian high school. My own music is very “global pop” oriented, and blends my traditional background with modernity, and my dual East-West upbringing.
How challenging it was to get your first assignment as a singer? Tell us more.
My foray into the music world professionally was actually through theatre! I was the featured singer in a few Broadway and Off-Broadway show reproductions in India (such as The Vagina Monologues) while I was still in high school, and upon graduation, I got the opportunity to play Agnes in Agnes of God, which was both an acting and singing role. One moment I was screaming and being hypnotized, and the next, I’d break out into “Ave Maria”. That opportunity led to several other events, and I channeled my theatre stage experience into the pop world, through festivals and other opportunities.
If one thing you could change in life, what that would be?
Nothing – I’m grateful for my life the way it is! There is much more left to see, do and learn.
When did you found your passion for singing? And what was the reaction did you received from family and friends?
When I was 16, I lost my eyesight due to a viral brain infection that affected my optic nerve. It progressively returned – but the recovery process transformed my vision of music’s place in my world. It helped me find my voice. I decided to take a year off between high school and college (luckily Harvard allowed me to defer my admission by a year when they heard about some of the opportunities I had), and “do music” – even though I didn’t know what that meant at the time, I think it was an affirmation to the family of my commitment to it. The independent music scene in India was supremely nascent at the time, so the opportunities were few and far between, so I carved out my own. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, so people were used to that, but I think the professional pursuit surprised many because it’s an unusual choice and because many folks probably thought that I was going to go down a more “traditionally” academic or professional path.
Did you take any formal training and how many hours do you practice in a day?
My formal training is in Hindustani Classical Music, under the tutelage of Dr. Prabha Atre. She is 86, an absolute living legend, and has been extremely supportive of my journey in spite of the fact that it is not in the traditional art form. I honestly wish I practiced more when I was a teenager, but I try and get 1-2 hours in at the moment daily. That number increases significantly during show and rehearsal preparation, and on days that I can’t get that much in, I still make sure I do basic exercises in the shower or anything that is vocal health-oriented. I’m a big vocal health nerd, and I share some tips on social media in a property called #avanTIPS weekly, because I think it’s important to know how to keep your voice in good condition, whether or not you’re a singer. We all use our voices every day!
Tell us about your regular day…
My life (and by extension, days) is governed by duality or dual living. I’m currently pursuing a dual degree at both Harvard and the Berklee College of Music, studying Psychology/Global Health at Harvard, and Voice/Music Business at Berklee. In addition to splitting my time between two schools, I also split my time between the US and India, for projects, shows, and business deals. As such, there is no regular day, but most days involve some combination of calls/WhatsApp with teams in each country, emails, class, (hopefully) exercise, practice/rehearsal, meetings, and a ridiculous amount of time on public transport!
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I believe in the power of the voice – and so long as I am using it intentionally, I know I will be happy. In the next few years, I hope to be touring internationally, creating and scaling digital content/initiatives, collaborating with some dream collaborators, and continuing to meet awesome people. I hope, more than anything, never to lose the passion for the voice – the singular, the multiple, and the metaphorical.
What track have you been listening recently?
“Likes” by Yuna and KYLE – I love how honest it is!
If you were not a singer?
I used to want to be a doctor, and work in global health policy, but the way I continue to keep that passion alive is by doing a lot of work at the intersection of art and social impact, through initiatives, conferences, and digital content!
Tell us about your upcoming projects…
I have a single coming out in the fall, with some very exciting collaborators, and a video concept that has totally pushed me outside of my comfort zone, which I am very excited about. I received a grant from Harvard to work with traditional artists from across South Asia, and spent part of the summer recording and interviewing with them. It was important for me to capture some of these “lost sounds” and provide a platform, as well as integrate them into my music to make these sounds accessible in a mainstream capacity I’m currently working on an EP, slated for release early next year, which will incorporate some of these sounds, and focuses on some coming-of-age themes all through the Fall. I’ll be releasing a new season of Song On The Spot, a musical improv series on Facebook, which combines storytelling, music, comedy, and songwriting! Season 1 has episodes from live shows, but for Season 2, I’ve worked with creators across different industries in a new experimental format! I’ll be touring across India in the winter, and performing across the Northeast in the US over the fall I’m co-founding a conference, titled ‘Narratives for Change’, focusing on a conversation at the intersection of responsible storytelling and social change, bringing together folks in entertainment/media, global health, storytelling and social policy.