Score Indie Quickie- Avanti Nagral – Score Short Reads
Congratulations on your latest EP “Double Standards”. We love the tracks. How did you put this together?
Thank you so much, I’m so glad you like them!! I’d been releasing singles for a while, and was itching to put out a body of work, especially one that was representative of both my own personal growth and our community’s growth.
I’d describe the EP as coming-of-age empowerment pop, a record that explores themes that are important while growing up (namely, jealousy, gender equity, consent, body celebration, beauty standards), but that we might not always openly talk about.
I’m in my early 20s, whilst a lot of our audience is in their teenage years, and what’s been really gratifying is their response to it and the impact it’s had on them and their friends, mindsets and soundtracks of their daily lives.
I was pretty clear going in that I wanted to build a concept EP, and build it out right from the audio, to the aesthetics, to the music videos, to all the ancillary content and conversations around it.
You have collaborated with a couple of artists on this EP. What’s your process of picking who you want to collaborate with?
Yes, and they’re all incredible!! I wanted there to be some cohesion in the audio experience, so chose to go with the same writing and production team, and collaborated with Natania Lalwani and Austin Armstrong respectively.
Natania and Austin are friends and long time collaborators too, so it felt very seamless! I’d worked with both of them before on ‘The Long Way’, and had such a beautiful time working with them, that it made absolute sense to go with them for this project as well.
Natania and I wrote the songs via WhatsApp and voice notes, and Austin really brought them to life. Using Dhol and Tabla on Double Standards which was a bit out of his comfort zone, but I loved how he executed it. Natania and I are friends now and she really dug into the concepts that I wanted to write about and helped me give them shape in the pop world. Bhushan is my go-to mixing engineer because he really understands my voice.
We worked with Mehek Malhotra (Giggling Monkey) on the visuals, and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better; she brought all my colourful pop art dreams to life! Additionally, Kevin Fernando did a duet on the track ‘Imperfect’, which added so much to the meaning of the song and the record as a whole.
When it comes to picking collaborators, I pick folks whose work I respect, who I think will really be able to bring themselves to the project, and for whom it feels like a piece of themselves, and not just a work-for-hire or a favor. Everyone involved with this project reallllllly gave of themselves to it, had a sense of ownership, and were very invested in it.
What’s your take on collaborations and how important is it?
Collaboration >>> competition. I love collaborating – it makes the process more fun, allows you to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and challenges your own way of thinking. I collaborate with folks across a spectrum of art forms: musical, content-based, artistic, dance and more. Too often I feel like we think of those similar to us as competition, but in fact if we all collaborate, we’re only increasing the scope of the industry and the pie for everyone involved.
Music is also awesome because it can be paired with so many different art forms. I’ve loved seeing people “create” to the songs – things and concepts I could never have imagined! The other cool thing about collaboration is that you get to make so many new friends!!! And expose them to your audience and vice versa. It’s totally a win-win situation.
You are a classic example of having grown digitally from ground level. What are 3 things you did consistently to reach where you are now?
The first thing I did was shift my mindset from social media being a portfolio building tool to it being a community building tool. I used to use it as a place to share quick moments from my life, mostly shows I was performing at, random photos and music videos, but it very much felt like a one-way relationship.
And more importantly, it felt like a chore or an obligation. But when I started to think of it as this incredible community BUILDING tool, my mindset and approach to it immediately changed.
Not only was I interacting with the community daily via comments, messages and other content, but we were also building across social media (YouTube, Instagram, Discord) and attempting to create a safe space. I started having fun with it, and that’s the main thing.
The second thing I would recommend is doing research – really understanding your audience and analytics, beyond just the numbers. What do they care about? Who else do they watch or listen to? How old are they? What kinds of trends are they responding to? Sometimes it’s hit and miss, but much of the time it’s very intentional.
Think about what you can offer within the broader context of what people currently care about/are resonating with. Track the numbers, but don’t let them control or dictate your life.
The third? Try, fail and try again. Not everything you put out is going to work or resonate. Unlike a traditional music release where you work on it for a few months and plan out a full campaign around the release, digital content involves more frequent output (or at least, it should).
The cool thing is that you get instant feedback! The hard thing is that you’re literally growing in front of people’s eyes (or not), with them watching your every move, and with so many more opportunities for them to criticise you.
Unless you experiment though, you won’t have enough data points to see what is working with your current audience and how to expand to a new one.
As an artist, you constantly put out interesting content on your digital space. How has that been received by your audiences so far?
I thought for the longest time that I’d have to be a more “established” musician for people to care about my voice beyond my singing voice, but I was definitely wrong. Once I started diversifying my content, still keeping music and social impact at the core, I started to attract newer audiences who might have come for a specific vertical, but stayed for the music.
Or at the very least, stayed for me and my holistic brand. I’ve realised that because I keep songs, stories and conversations at the forefront of what I do, folks feel comfortable engaging with all of them as well in all those forms.
I’ve had to strike a balance of course, but I see other types of content as an extension of who I am, what I care about, and the people I care about, so it all feels very organic and fun.
How do you ensure you are updated with the latest trends on social media given the constant change and algorithms?
You can’t be a proficient musician unless you spend a lot of time practicing music. Similarly you can’t be updated with what is working on social media unless you spend time on the platform.
Create on the platform, follow people who inspire you, save things you see and you like, create a storyboard or mood board. There are several ways you can “keep up” with what’s going on, it does take a lot of work though.
Find accounts that are generalised in the areas you care about, save trending sounds, see if you can put your spin on what’s trending, while still maintaining your own voice. Log and keep track of things digitally or old-school on paper.
You also talk about a lot of social issues prevailing in our society on your digital platforms. What drives you to create content that is of importance?
It’s always been at the heart of what I do and care about. I’ve done a lot of work in the spaces of health and education even as a teenager, because I realised that you didn’t have to be a professional to care and start creating impact.
I think it’s really important to have a sense of purpose in life, and whatever that might be for you, not wait until you’re old or have “made it” to work toward it. You can engage with that sense of purpose as you keep building, and that’s always been my intention.
Each of us has a voice and story that matters, and no matter how big or small, we have access to platforms to talk about them. I also recognise that a lot of my openness to experience and ability to talk about taboo topics comes from privilege, exposure and opportunity, so it almost feels like a sense of duty or responsibility to be able to share that with the world, and if it helps even one person, that’s incredible for me.
I also truly believe that music has such a huge capacity to spark change, start conversations, and serve as a vehicle beyond just the audio experience, and that’s what I hope to do with my music and content for as long as I can!
Talk to us about your upcoming project
The EP is not the end point, but merely the starting point of what is to come. My work doesn’t end on release day – it begins. We’re staggering the release of all the music videos for the EP so that we have Whether that is through a lot of ancillary conversations, workshops, and events we are creating for our community to engage with on the themes and topics, other collaborations, resource partnerships, we are trying to build out a world around this experience.
I have tons of musical and other content collaborations coming up that I’m so excited to share! We’re also building a physical studio space that will serve as a multipurpose creative space, fostering community among music, videography, photography, dance, art and much more that I’m excited to announce soon.
An artist you would like to collaborate with
Indian space: Armaan Malik, Anuv Jain, Vishal Mishra
Absolute dream: Shawn Mendes, Taylor Swift
If not music, what?
The reverse of what I am doing right now – I’d probably be working in the global health/social impact space and figuring out how to combine the arts with it through media messaging or advising on content and communications on how to use psychology to subliminally affect change.
A song of yours you wish you could re-write
I Like (because it was my first), or Sneaking Around and make it in Hindi, or more Hinglish than it currently is
Reels or Stories on Instagram
Both.. I guess reels have more discoverability, so probably those, but stories are really fun too.
A song of another Indian Indie artist you would love to recreate
Oo, probably Choo Lo by The Local Train
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/avantinagral/?hl=en