Local Artist Spotlight / 23 November 2020

Coffee Talk @ SLSC: 17-year-old Singer-songwriter Advaitha on Starting Music Early, Her New Single, and Being Fearless

Billie Eilish released her debut single “Ocean Eyes” at a tender age of 13. A string of number ones and five Grammys later, she is still only just 18. History and other rising artists have proven age is nothing but a number, and local singer-songwriter Advaitha Venkat feels no differently.

“I feel like in this day and age with social media, we’ve seen so many rising artists who have made it so young,” the 17-year-old singer-songwriter reflects, “ it made me realise that I didn’t have to wait till I got older.”

And wait she did not. Advaitha wrote and produced her first single “Apologise” at age 16, and you’ll find her latest single “Come Through” featured in several Spotify playlists.

We caught up with Advaitha at Swee Lee Social Club at The Star Vista for a chat. Coffee in hand, we talked about her music journey, her new single, and her rise to success.

How your music journey began and what made you decide to start your music career at such a young age?

I started singing when I was three years old with South Indian classical singing and that’s what I did for the majority of my life. My older brother started learning before me so my parents just put me into lessons. Music has always been a big part of my life – my family and everyone around me loves music a lot.

As I grew older I started to love it a lot more and I started taking it more seriously in secondary school. At 8th grade I started to write music and as I’ve grown older I’ve realised it was such a passion for me. 

I feel like in this day and age with social media, we’ve seen so many rising artists who have made it so young, like Billie Eilish is only a year older than me. And it made me realise that I didn’t have to wait till I got older.

There used to be this traditional way, where you finished college then you can get into the music industry. But I realised that with social media, having a following on Instagram meant I didn’t have to wait.

I used to upload covers on Instagram and it got a little bit of attention that way and I realised I could ride on that wave and keep going. I was already very passionate about music and had song ideas and I could see myself being an artist at a young age which is something I’m grateful for because I’ve had that direction.

How did you learn to believe in yourself and your music?

I would say it’s encouragement from my friends and family. I went for my first ever songwriting camp in the summer before 9th grade and that’s when I really got into writing music. I felt that I started conveying my own emotions into my music, because up until that point I was singing other people’s songs. Because I started writing from my own experience and my own life, I found the passion to spread that out across the world. Being on social media, I saw so many other young artists who are not only releasing music but just making their name in the industry by posting actively on social media, and I thought to myself, why can’t I try that. 

There used to be this traditional way, where you finished college then you can get into the music industry. But I realised that with social media, having a following on Instagram meant I didn’t have to wait.

What’s your songwriting process like?

For me, it goes two different ways. The first is when there’s a stimulus, something happens in my life. A lot of times music is what I turn to – listening to music to help me come to terms with my feelings, or writing things. I’ll use inspiration from this experience and it’s really helpful when I’m in that state of mind because I feel like the lyrics that I write are quite raw. I try to be very real with my music.

The other way that’s actually more common, is I kind of place myself in a character when I write my music. That’s why I won’t always write about things that have happened to me. Sometimes I create a character. I’ll even give the character a name, I’ll soak myself into that character and think about a scenario and see how the character will react to that and write based on that. I think that being 17 years old, there’s only so many things that I’ve experienced in life, so I don’t want to have that limit about what I can write about. It’s like my own take on things that can happen. 

I’ll even give the character a name, I’ll soak myself into that character and think about a scenario and see how the character will react to that and write based on that. I think that being 17 years old, there’s only so many things that I’ve experienced in life, so I don’t want to have that limit about what I can write about.

Tell us about your latest single “Come Through”.

It’s quite descriptive in its title. It says would you “Come Through” for me so I guess it’s a kind of song that’s happy/sad. It’s asking this person, whether it’s a significant other or friend, even asking yourself to be there and support you. It came from a part of my life when I was looking at people around me and deciding which relationships in my life I prioritise, and making sure that they were there for me and I was there for them as well. And looking at myself, I also need to be there to support myself because at the end of the day I’m the only person that I have. I’m asking myself “will I come through for myself”. 

It’s been open up to interpretation as well. I’ve heard from my friends who have interpreted it as them asking someone else or someone else asking them. Some people say that it sounds like they’re asking themselves “will they be there to support themselves?”

What do you want people to think of you as an artist?

I want people to think of me as someone who is very real. Because I feel like with songwriting in the past, it’s quite a traditional thing to kind of have these beautiful metaphors and all these layers of meaning. But then with some artists in the industry, like Summer Walker, for example, their lyrics are so straight up. You listen to them, and you know what she means. In essence, that’s what I want to be like, as well. Sometimes beautiful metaphors are great, obviously. But sometimes being clear and a hundred percent about what you’re saying is just what you need.

I envision my audience listening to my music, and just feel that raw emotion. They don’t have all these different different layers that they have to peel apart. They can just listen to my music and connect with it in such a raw way. 

How would you describe yourself?

Fearless. I’ve always taught myself to be fearless. For example, don’t be scared about what other people think of you or your music. At the end of the day, you want to get better, you know what you want to accomplish. Being someone who’s young, I’ve always had that question, “oh, shouldn’t you be focusing on school?”, or like, “why are you doing this kind of stuff?” 

Because I want to. That’s what I want my life to be. So yeah, I guess fearless kind of comes from less of me, as a musician, but more of me as a person and as an artist.

I’ve always had that question, “oh, shouldn’t you be focusing on school?”, or like, “why are you doing this kind of stuff?”  Because I want to. That’s what I want my life to be.

Who are some of your musical inspirations?

Summer Walker, she’s been one of my favourite artists for a while now. People have mentioned that there are some similarities in our voice, but I feel like that’s mainly because she just really inspires me as an R&B artist. And as I mentioned, her songwriting style is so upfront. That’s something that I’ve always appreciated because the way their songs make me feel are very different to those of other artists. 

Tame Impala is another artist. He had a very new approach to music that not a lot of people had experience before. And that’s, again, got to do with being fearless – to not be scared to try something completely new and see if it fails.

A lot of people get surprised when I mention Thundercat as one of my favourites, but I really do love some good psychedelic pop and rock music.

Has there been a silver lining to a 2020?

Initially I was quite upset about not being able to go out and perform. I had all these performances in my mind that I wanted to participate in. But being an individual artist stuck at home gave me a lot of opportunities to work on my music. I’ve recorded and produced everything in my own room. And in early 2020, having nowhere else I could go, it was perfect, because I could just devote so much time towards writing music working on my music as well.

And in early 2020, having nowhere else I could go, it was perfect, because I could just devote so much time towards writing music working on my music as well.

Have you always been producing and recording your music at home?

Yeah! All three songs that I have out, “Apologise” and “Others Do”, I recorded and produced them at home. For “Come Through”, I recorded it at home then sent it to a friend of mine, Jklmn. and he produced it.

One of the tough things about “Come Through” is that we weren’t able to meet in person to work on it. But in this day and age, we can just text messages back and forth and I’d give my feedback and he’d give his feedback. So yeah, it’s definitely a different experience but I’m really happy with how it came out. 

What’s next for you?

I’m working on some upcoming songs for the next couple months. I’ve also started working with local artists. I was a little bit nervous to approach artists and things like that, but ever since the Youth Music Awards I started to build relationships with other local artists and work on projects with them which I’m excited about. Just focusing on getting myself out as an artist and preparing myself for the upcoming releases!

Listen to Advaitha’s new single “Come Through” here.

Read more: Coffee Talk @ SLSC: Dru Chen


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