‘Fun-sized spiritual gangsta, indian-persian princess’, Tara Priya, premieres this smart Benny Aves remix of ‘Fascinate Ya’, her modern-pop-soul pearl (out on December 9th). The perfect introduction to her radiant trip hop drenched offering. “Drop my heart at the door…Do I fascinate ya?”
Interestingly, the London based artist, was born in San Francisco to a Persian mother, niece of lauded poet and modernist painter Sohrab Sepehri and actor Reza Kianian, and an Indian father.
What were your influences and vibes whilst writing it?
I was listening to “Definition” by Black Star (Mos Def + Talib Kweli) when I wrote ‘Fascinate Ya’. Old school hip-hop has had a massive influence on me; even if it’s not always obvious, the beats, the rhythms and the lyrics – storytelling, wordplay, internal rhyme & rhythm – are informed by hip-hop.
Tell us how you got to this point, you’re from the States, you’ve had success in Japan, and now you’re living in the UK?
I was born in San Francisco, California and moved to LA after college to work on music. I was really into Motown, vintage R&B/soul and hip-hop. I wrote & recorded a “retro-soul” style EP and released it online right after moving to LA. A tiny record shop in Kobe, Japan heard the EP and emailed me about selling physical copies in the store; I sent them CDs, they put up a display, and a Japanese record label A&R happened to buy my EP. He liked it and reached out, and soon I had an album out there and toured a bit in Asia, Europe and Canada. It’s kind of crazy how it all happened. I didn’t really know what I was doing, I was on my own at the time; I just kept moving from one thing that felt right to another.
Having a bit of indie success gave me the opportunity to collaborate with some awesome people, a few of whom were based in the UK, so I was coming to London a lot. I fell in love with the city and its arts scene. In LA, there was a lot of pressure to write “a hit” and constant talk of “radio-friendliness”. There weren’t too many people taking the time to create a fresh sound and craft it, hone it. In London, the passion and love for music, all kinds of music, you could feel it. There was more creative air to breathe, more creative risks taken.
One night it hit me that I wanted to move, and I decided right then. Two months later I was in London and instantly felt at home. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.You’ve had Top 10’s in Japan. Has your sound changed since these releases?
Totally. After moving here, I took my time figuring out what I wanted to hear from myself. I stripped everything down and put back sounds one at a time. I met Jimmy Logic on the east London music scene, and we realised we were into a lot of the same stuff: Wu-Tang Clan and J Dilla, spaghetti western and samurai film soundtracks, old soul, but also newer sounds coming from FKA twigs, James Blake and Jungle. We worked on my last EP (2015) together.
The music I’ve worked on this year is still beat-heavy but is brighter, more electronic and with a bit of Eastern influence from the music I grew up listening to with my dad. Last year I wanted catharsis; this year, I want to dance!
Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration?
Experiences, poetry, wicked drums and basslines, any great work of art, regardless of medium or genre.
What is your usual songwriting process?
It usually starts with lyrics and a beat in my head. Often when I’m cycling somewhere and my mind takes off – I have to stop and write it down. Then I get into the studio with my producer and sing it out, and we build the track from there.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
It’d be dope to collab with UK rappers. Kate Tempest and Lady Leshurr are awesome, their word game is just so good. My introduction to the UK rap scene was through grime; I have a good friend here who worked in the grime scene and took me to their shows around east London. He introduced me to Kano, Ghetts, Stormzy, Skepta, Lethal B, DDark – it’s been so cool to see this year’s surge of love for grime worldwide. I’d def be down for a collab with a grime artist. On the producer front, I’m a big fan of Flume, Wallpaper, Kevin Parker, Mike Elizondo, Clean Bandit and Tiggs Da Author…wait, did you want me to pick just one?!
Are you planning any live shows and what will they be like?
Yeah definitely! Next one is probably in January and in east London, where I usually perform. My live setup is me, my drummer and a SPD-S. You can expect a lot of dancing – mostly from me, but hopefully from you, too!
What was the first album you purchased?
Never Say Never, by Brandy. I was nine years old and fell asleep to “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” every night. I’ve still never heard the Bryan Adams version!
Which artists are you listening to right now?
The new A Tribe Called Quest album. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!!! So good! The Avalanches are killing it too, such a vibe!
How would you describe your style, fashion wise?
Indian street princess.
Finally when can we expect your debut album?
Ooh that’s classified…but I can say you’ll hear new music from me all year long!
ICYMI check out her 2015’s impressive ‘Friends Like These’ EP .
Photography by Sean Afnan
Styling by Sahar Freemantle of UglyLovely