Artist Interview: “The Search” Shilpa Ananth

Q: Not only is this song musically complex, but the lyrics are steeped in such beautiful poeticism. What was the inspiration behind “The Search?”

SHILPA: I owe it all to the feeling of extreme uncertainty and panic that the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020 brought. 

It changed the course of my personal life and career path completely, and this song and the lyrics are a consequence of me trying to preserve my sanity and not lose myself through the process of navigating an endless period of darkness and facing my own fear of death.

To give you some context, I was visiting my parents in Dubai when we heard the news and experienced that collective feeling of the entire world going into lockdown. This of course meant that my flight back to New York was postponed and I had to stay on indefinitely with my family, consequently losing my home in Brooklyn, grieving over the loss of all my gigs, my livelihood, all my plans canceled, and also being back at my parents’ place after more than 10 years of being away and living on my own. It was the craziest, most overwhelming time, and I knew that the only way I could maintain my sanity is if I worked on writing new music and channeling my questions and uncertainty into my art.

This is how ‘The Search’ was born. 

Q: What has been one of the most significant moments of your musical journey so far?

SHILPA: There hasn’t been just one moment to be honest, because every significant milestone led to the next one, and through each step I had growing pains, difficulty with keeping a balance between all my worlds, letting go of parts of life that I had to sacrifice, and then finding a way to summon the strength within to keep moving forward through all of it.

 I’ve been working on my original music, blending all the languages I speak and all the genres of music that speak deeply to me into my own unique sound, and releasing an independent catalog of songs and music videos without any label support, working the role of management, booking agent, band leader, and performing artist all on my own, using personal resources to make my art come alive, since the past 7 years. There is nothing bigger than this for me, the fact that I am still in the game and only just getting started. 

 In short, the journey so far has been something like a Bollywood movie filled with drama, suspense, constant conflict, and joyous moments of resolution that make it all worth it and in turn prepare me for the next significant moment. 

Q: Walk us through your writing and production process in making “The Search.” 

SHILPA: I reached out to my dear friend and collaborator on the track, Mumbai-based artist/producer, RIATSU, and we talked about how we were feeling, and having the need to tell our side of the story. There was a lot of back and forth regarding the overall sound and mood of the track but beyond that, the lyrics, the melody, the structure, the harmonies, and the instrumentation, just flowed together and within a week, this song baby of ours was ready! It’s the fastest I’ve ever written, to be honest, it’s like the music was waiting to be released and I didn’t edit or second guess anything.

Q: Having watched the visually stunning music video that accompanies this song, I can’t help but wonder how image and style factor into your artistry? Is creating an image for yourself something you enjoy, or do you prefer focusing on your music?

 SHILPA:  Absolutely yes, though the music will always come first, and everything else related to visuals, style, image, etc then comes as a natural by-product afterward to support the story or emotion being conveyed in my song. I am intentional about every single detail of the overall process because it all represents me, and is an extension of my artistry and how I wish to be perceived, I enjoy diving into the psychology of my characters and showcasing new Avatars to express my own multidimensional existence. 

Part of this journey is also finding the right team, the right people who dream as fiercely as you do and can match your energy with their own, and for me, this was by finding my music video director Suruchi Sharma and her production company ‘Studio Ainak’ based in Jaipur, India.

Working with her is knowing and trusting that we speak the same language regarding the vision of the video, and there’s a lot of back and forth that happens between us regarding wardrobe choices, locations, props, storyboard of the shot, final make-up and hair looks, lighting and color mood boards, and numerous such pre-production details that get planned down to the last second so that we can go into the 17 hour/4 day shoot ready to flow. There’s so much labor and love and months of planning poured into what we see as a 3 or 4 min video, and as challenging and intense as it is each time, I love every aspect of creating all of it because I see it all as the many beautiful moving parts of my own baby. 

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take one song or album to listen to, what would it be?

SHILPA: This might sound strange since I’m going with one of my own but I’d take ‘The Search’ or else my previous album ‘Indian Soul’! 

Honestly, it’s cause I’d want to remember the struggle I went through to create them, as well as the challenges I faced while creating both, and how I only became stronger when I reached the other side. I think it would give me hope while being stranded, and make me believe that I would be okay in the end no matter what I go through. 

Q: What would you like to tell your supporters out there?

SHILPA: To keep dreaming and finding ways to make your secret wishes a reality, especially if it truly means something to you. It’s not easy whatsoever, especially when the rules are never constant and there are days you feel weary and like none of this risk or rush is worth it, but believe me, as someone who has stumbled through the darkness and is still trying to sustain any amount of light I find, there is nothing more profound in this life than finding your calling and then living it. 

Indian Soul, my first album took everything out of me and made me question the core of my purpose, I almost gave up making music by the time it was ready for release! 

But somehow music has always had my back, and I found myself writing again and again, and that’s led me to work on my next album ‘Reproduction’ which is now set to release in 2023 in the Fall. And as with every release all I pray for is that my best is yet to come, and I hope that my supporters will stay with me through my journey until the very last note. 

Interviewed by Alyce Lindberg





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