‘I love it when the crowd sings along with me’

‘I love it when the crowd sings along with me’

By Bulbul Sharma | | 16 December, 2017
Shirley Setia.
YouTube star and the voice behind “Disco Disco” (from A Gentleman), Shirley Setia, who is all set to perform at the Enchanted Valley Carnival in Mumbai this Sunday, speaks to Guardian 20 about her experience in the film music industry and her upcoming projects. The New Zealand-based singer also gets candid about how her multicultural upbringing influenced her music.
Q. How important do you think music festivals, like Enchanted Valley Carnival (EVC), are for promoting multiple genres of music?

A. Today’s youth don’t just listen to Bollywood songs but they listen to all genres of music. Even in my shows, I perform some English songs and the audiences here know all of them. I recently attended the Ed Sheeran concert in Mumbai and people there were singing all his songs with him. It is only when you attend concerts and festivals like EVC, you as an audience get to explore a little more and you get to understand what all genres of music you enjoy. Recently, I attended a Vidya Vox show in Europe and it had EDM music. I wasn’t sure what am I going to connect to there because I do sing English songs but my focus is Hindi tracks. Hindi songs weren’t a part of the show, so what was I doing there?! But I had an amazing time there, I discovered my love for new forms of music and realised that I love techno music too. I feel that these kinds of fests help people to know themselves a bit better. It is nice to welcome other forms of music in India and not just listen to Bollywood songs. I also feel that Bollywood music is very much influenced by a lot by EDM. There are a lot of similarities. Festivals like EVC bring all of the differences together.

Q. What can we expect from your performance at EVC on Sunday?

A. A lot of dancing for sure. I love it when the crowd sings with me. I will be performing a lot of songs that people know and I know that people are going to sing with me. And also, I will be performing a couple of my original tracks and my playback songs. My performance last year was different and I would like to step up from my last year’s performance and give the audience a little more and just have fun. I think everyone should have fun, no matter whose performance it is. The crowd should go back home without their voices after singing their heart out.

Q. You are a YouTuber yourself and you also have a strong social media presence. So do you think the digital medium should have some sort of a filter to prevent people from publishing bad content?

A. Just like everything, social media also has its pros and cons.  Just as for me moving to India, my pro is I can work towards my dream and I can do things that I really love, but the con is I am far away from my family and friends. Everyone is equal in the digital medium and everyone can post whatever they want. I myself had uploaded my video from my home wearing pajamas [for the online music video that shot her to fame in 2013]. I recorded it on my laptop, but it still reached out to people. So, anyone can post anything there but the con is that there is a lot of bad content that people speak a lot more about. But you can’t really do anything… There are a lot of entertainment channels out there and every person finds different things entertaining. Everyone has a different taste and there is a lot of content out there which caters to the likes and dislikes of the individuals.  And you can’t really put a filter because it is a platform that is open to everyone. You just have to accept it and move on. Focus and improve yourself. Also, you have the option of watching or not watching something.

Q. How do you look back on your journey from being a part-time radio jockey to handling your YouTube channel and studying all at the same time?

A. I was working crazy hours at that time. My weekends would include going to work and doing YouTube videos with whatever time I had left. I remember I used to stay up till 5:30 a.m., editing my videos and I had exams in the morning at 8:30 a.m. I would straightaway get ready and go for the exams. My crazy work hours haven’t really changed. They have in fact become more intense; I am travelling so much, I am doing so many shows in different cities and at the same time I am recording, I am also up for rehearsals and there are a lot of other things as well. I thought that things would get easier when they start to settle in, but now I feel that it is just the first step. If you want something in life, you do have to work hard, nothing comes easy.

“I was working crazy hours at that time. My weekends would include going to work and doing YouTube videos with whatever time I had left.”

Q. You have been brought up in a multicultural environment. Has that influenced your music?

A. Absolutely, and not just in my singing. I have never professionally learned music. I have just grown up listening to a lot of it. Nobody from my family is from a musical background; nobody is part of the entertainment industry. I have just got influenced by the kind of music I used to listen to or my friends used to listen to or my family used to listen to. My parents would listen to a lot of old songs by Kishore Kumar, R. D. Burman and others. So, I have been definitely influenced by a lot of music… And I am still growing and very open to learning and being influenced by different genres of music. And that is always going to show in the kind of work that I will end up doing.

Q. Are you happy with the response you are getting from the Indian audience?

A. I am absolutely thrilled, and so overwhelmed by the response from everyone out here. There’s so much of love that I receive from all ends, so I’m super humbled by it.

Q. How is the film music industry treating you?

A. I think everyone’s really welcoming of new artists, be it the composers, lyricists or even fellow singers. Everyone I’ve met has been kind to me and encouraging, too.

Q. Any composers or artistes from the Indian music industry you’d like to collaborate with?

A. I’d love to work with everyone. Why limit myself? I’m just going with the flow.

Q. How would you describe your kind of music?

A. Honestly, the kind of music I listen to varies from slow romantic to EDM. It purely depends on my mood. As far as the music I’m working on goes, it’s very much influenced by the music I listen to. As long as I can vibe with the music and lyrics, then it’s all good.

Q. Taking up singing professionally was always a part of your future plan?

A. Not entirely. It kind of just happened! But I’m loving this journey, and going with the flow, so let’s see where things go. I’m going to keep working hard, no matter what.

Q. Who are your musical influences?

A. I’ve been following Ed Sheeran’s music for the past seven years, along with Taylor Swift, and Coldplay also. In the Indian music space, A.R. Rahman, R.D. Burman, K.K. and Arijit Singh influence me.

Q. Tell us about your upcoming projects?

A. I’m working on a lot of original music. I recently released a single, titled “Tu Mil Gaya”, and it has received immense love so far. This, in turn, motivates me to do more of such tracks, as I love being a part of the song’s creation right from scratch. It allows me to be involved with the song, and hence I can relate to it more.

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