“There’s strength in realizing that you’re not alone and that there are many other people in the same boat that you’re in,” Ananya tells HollywoodLife when discussing her new song and video, “Everybody’s Lost.” In the new visual, the global pop superstar finds her wandering through the empty halls of a featureless building, an apt metaphor for those also in need of direction in their life. While dressed in a series of glamorous outfits, Ananya works her way through her feelings – which sees her defy gravity at one point – in a chill anthem, one that’s perfect for those in need of some reassurance in these troubled times.
“I hope that the song is able to subtly make people feel empowered,” she tells HollywoodLife. Ananya, in an EXCLUSIVE interview, talks more about the motivation for this new song. Ananya — the first-ever Indian artist to be played on Top 40 radio in the U.S. — also touches upon her philanthropic efforts in her native India, how COVID has given new meaning to her song, “Blackout,” and what fans can expect from her once January 2021 rolls around.
HollywoodLife: What was the inspiration behind your latest single “Everybody’s Lost?”
Ananya: I moved to LA without having a base there at all. I just packed my bags with my best friend who also manages me in India and said “hey, it’s time to go to LA and make this global dream come true.” That was pretty much it. I was really lost initially. It was just me in this big city where I didn’t know how to get started or who to talk to. I was super lost. I was completely alone as I didn’t really have a support network at that time or any family nearby. It was just me and my best friend. For me, “Everybody’s Lost” was a way to find strength and tell myself that I’m not the only one who is lost.
While pursuing this path, getting signed to Maverick, and meeting new people, and making new friends, I kind of realized that everyone is lost in their own way. That provided the basis for the song. I just wanted to bring that to light. There’s strength in realizing that you’re not alone and that there are many other people in the same boat that you’re in. I hope that the song is able to subtly make people feel empowered.
“Everybody’s Lost” has a very different emotional core than your last single “Let There Be Love,” but still focuses on bringing people together. Is this something you want to do with your music?
Thank you so much for saying that! That’s not really one of my main goals when I’m writing, but I’m glad that you feel as though my music is bringing people together. My music is really just how I feel. If you go back, I wrote a song called “Love Suicide” which basically talks about a really toxic relationship that I had. My first song that went double-platinum in India was called “Meant To Be,” which again is about a relationship. I have a song called “Unstoppable,” which I wrote for my mom, which is about women and empowerment. It really depends on where I am in life and what I’m feeling. I guess that’s who I am. If I’m going through a relationship or a breakup, that’s what I write about. If I’m going through life and experience a pandemic, like we all did, that’s what I write about. My music is like a diary. It’s about life experiences that we all go through.
What was it like making the “Everybody’s Lost” video? How involved were you in coming up with and creating the visual?
Shooting the video was an amazing experience. I’ve been on tons of sets and I’ve done tons of music videos now, but this one was special because the crew was really small due to the pandemic. It was actually amazing because everyone was doing everything. The director, Martin Landgreve, was on lights and production as well. It was really nice to see how everyone was lending a hand wherever they could and not just focusing on their one task. The styling of the video is very me. I broke out a little from being seen as the girl next door. I think I came into my own a little bit and let my sexy side out.
Initially, I wanted the video to be a little bit dark and melancholic – for lack of a better word. Most of the video was shot in a small box and I wanted to bring across the emotion of feeling claustrophobic and not knowing where to go because you’re lost. That was what I was going for. Martin got super excited and sent some notes back to me with ways to push the concept a little further before we worked together to settle on one. As it was such a minimal production, we only had two different sets. It wasn’t what I’m used to where I have five sets and I only have an hour in one location and then need to rush off to the next place. We could really take our time and I could take my time to be my character and make sure it was really right. I was able to really give it my best.
It’s been a moment since your first U.S. single “Let There Be Love,” was released. How has the reception to this track been?
It has been amazing. I think it set a really good ground for me. We were #3 a week ago underneath Justin Bieber’s “Lonely” and Shawn Mendes, so it’s really great company to be in. I was really shocked and overwhelmed – and really very grateful. SiriusXM picked it up which made me the first Indian to play on American radio, so there have been very many firsts for me – as an Indian as well – with “Let There Be Love.” There have been tons of collaboration requests coming in, which is really exciting. It also was top 40 in Mexico and did really well in Japan. People back home have been seeing the progress I’ve been making as well and the new Hindi remix has added so much more. It was the first time I had ever sung in Hindi. I wanted to do that for “Let There Be Love” because the song was so special to me that I wanted my first Hindi song to be this one.
COVID-19 has put a strange filter over music. Songs about being lonely take on a new context. I was curious if you found people resonating with “Blackout” in the pandemic?
Yeah! Actually, people have been streaming “Blackout” more. It’s really funny because a couple of people tweeted saying that “Blackout” was a prediction of what was going to happen. My fans are definitely interacting with it more. People have been reaching out to me saying that “we’ve been listening to ‘Blackout’ and OMG its actually happening now” or “it describes the situation perfectly,” so it’s really funny and people have definitely been connecting it to the pandemic in a jokey way.
You just launched the Ananya Birla foundation, which aims to do a great deal of good in the world: helping remove the stigma around mental health, promote equality, combat climate change and increase financial inclusion. What the motivation to start this foundation?
It’s so overwhelming and amazing to see the love that we get as artists and musicians. It’s incredible and gives us a great platform. I want to use the platform I’ve been given for good. I have this reach because of the listeners and because of the fans. This is my way of giving back and saying thank you. Everyone has had a tough time growing up and have had moments where they never felt like they were accepted or where they felt different to everyone else. I’ve struggled with my own anxiety and depression. If I can make someone feel less alone or make them feel like they’re understood, which I didn’t have growing up, that would be a huge personal achievement. I just want to use what I’m lucky enough to have in the best way possible.
You also are behind Svatantra, a company that provides small loans to women in rural India, and Mpower, another initiative that provides support for those with mental health issues. There’s always the stereotype of the “rockstar activist,” but you seem to be sincerely, deeply involved in helping others. What caused you to be so heavily involved in these humanitarian efforts?
I’m a big believer in equality and it’s something I stand for very strongly. While growing up, I always saw my parents giving back and doing their bit to make the world a better place. I feel like it inspired that purpose in me as well. There’s really not that much more to it, in all honesty. I just want to make the world a better place before I die.
Musicwise, will there be more songs by the end of 2020? Or will fans just have to stay tuned until 2021?
We released “Let There Be Love” and then the “Let There Be Love” remixes and then the “Let There Be Love” Hindi remixes. Now that we’ve dropped “Everybody’s Lost,” hopefully listeners will enjoy that through to January when there’ll be more music.
“Everybody’s Lost” is out now.