With an illustrious career and two new EPs released this month, Shazneen Arethna has a lot going for her at the moment, which makes it difficult to start a conversation with her. As a singer and a voice–over artist from a very young age, jamming with the best rock bands in India, to her Bollywood song 'I hate you like I love you', Shazneen is truly a gifted and multi-talented singer with an incredible voice.
Verus Ferreira met up with Shazneen to learn more about her music and her new singles
Can you tell us how you got into music?
As far as I can remember, I always enjoyed singing and the occasional song writing. Singing for people other than myself finally happened in college, with the college band and at college festivals. Soon after college, I was part of 2 musicals i.e. Zohar Lokhandwala's 'Hide in the Habit' and Rahul Da Cunha's 'Jesus Christ Superstar'. Around that time, I started doing studio sessions too and it wasn't long before I realised I'm gonna be singing for the rest of my life
You've done many ad commercials down the line; can you tell us something about it?.
Being a session singer is one the most challenging and interesting jobs. Singing for ad jingles is like being a chameleon, ready to adapt your voice and personality to the sometimes ‘unreasonable’ requests of the client. Every session is with a different music director, new song, different client, new film… but my love for being behind the mic overrides all these issues and each time I head for a session, there’s still the thrill of anticipation because I have no clue what I’m going to sing. Some of my recent work has been for Honda W- RV and Amazon’s CoolPad.
You have been in the music scene for about 20 years or so, what has been your experience working on different projects?
Every studio session and every stage performance is a learning process. I’ve been a part of numerous bands, constantly meeting new musicians and artists. It’s never run of the mill, and the singer I am today, is an amalgamation of all these experiences and all that I’ve gained from them.
You have played with various music bands since in the mid 2000s. What made you switch from one to another?
I wouldn't call it a switch from one band to another. Freelancing with bands gives me the opportunity to meet and perform with various musicians. Bands like 'Caliche', 'Merlin', 'Soul Yatra, 'Zero' and many others had their own unique sound and a preference in different genres of music which I was so happy to explore. I consider myself very lucky to sing with all these bands. When singing is your passion, I guess you just want to grab every opportunity to perform on stage… as for me, the stage is where I feel most alive.
You have a voice that flows easily into pop, rock, jazz and the blues to even Hindi pop and bhangra. Which genre do you feel best suits your singing style?
Yes, I enjoy singing all these styles, though I am partial towards pop- rock and folk- rock tunes. When you listen to my EP, you’ll get an idea of my style of music. Till now everyone has been used to listening to me sing other people’s songs, but here in my new EPs, the songs that I’ve written flow differently, that’s my own style.
So then tell us about your new singles, ‘Dance Alone’ and ‘La La Love song’.
I've been writing songs for a long time, but never been brave enough to release them until now. Now at this point in my life, I feel the need to share my music. It's probably the best way of expressing what music means to me, as a singer and song-writer, singing straight from the heart, trusting my soul for direction. I decided to start by putting out an EP of 4 songs. When Warren Mendonsa from Blackstratblues got on board as the producer, Nathan Thomas on bass and JJ on drums, everything just fell into place. 'Dance Alone' is my first release from the EP. It's a song that's very close to my heart, it's one of those songs that you write, start to finish in the shortest time. It's about living, loving, losing and learning to live and love all over again. 'La- La -Love Song', I wrote for my family. My family means the world to me and in my video I decided to celebrate my bond with my sisters, one of the most fulfilling and heart-warming relationships I'll ever have. Like they say, three things make life worth living... chocolate, wine and sisters.
Your sisters in the video, well tell us about it.
My video was about celebrating ‘sisters and the bond they share’, and I had a set of sisters running around at home, who totally fit the bill. So, I decided to capture the most amazing parts of sisterhood featuring my daughters doing what they do best, enjoying each other’s company. When I released the video, I had different sets of sisters from all over the country pledging their undying love for each other. For me, that was extremely heartening. My kids share my love for music; it’s so wonderful that they sing as well.
What was the thought process for making the music videos?
Since 'Dance Alone' and 'La- La- Love Song' were my songs, I wanted to be involved in making the videos. I was contemplating ideas for the videos, when I started shooting some footage on my phone and I finally landed up shooting and editing both the videos myself. Though there's an overtly amateur vibe to them, there's rawness in the shots.
What do you think of the current Indie music scene in Mumbai and around the country?
I think the Indie scene is totally thriving right now. Our Indian Indie audience is more appreciative and receptive than it ever was. It's great to see numerous bands and acts emerging from every part of the country. They're not afraid to experiment and merge genres. I think it's a great time to be an Indie artist in India, especially with music festivals mushrooming all over.
Who are your musical influences?
I listen to a lot of guitar flavored music. While growing up, I was greatly influenced by Alanis Morrisette, Sheryl crow, Robert Plant, Freddy Mercury and classic rock. Nowadays, I listen to various genres of music and a mix of various artists, though pop- rock and folk- rock remain my favorites.
Are you with any band at the moment or part of any band you regularly jam with?
I still choose to freelance as a singer with different bands. Yes, I definitely will be putting a band together to perform my EPs live. I've put my heart and soul into it and would love for it to reach out to as many people as possible.
You’ve also done some work for Bollywood; can you tell us something about it?
Yeah, I sang a song for ‘Delhi Belly’ called 'I hate you Like I love you', which was well received. I’ve also toured abroad with Amitabh Bachchan, Vishal- Shekhar, Shankar- Ehsaan- Loy, Chandresh Kudwa and I worked together on a Bollywood classic recently and we released our own version of Inteha Ho Gayi. It turned out pretty well, as Amitabh Bachchan himself appreciated it and shared it on his social media handle and it went viral for a bit.