An Indian-born, US-brought up girl storms the Internet with her magical voice, creating a global niche for herself. Sounds like a dreamy journey, right? Well, the dream did come true for Vidya Iyer, who is now known all over the world as Vidya Vox, the YouTube superstar.
Although she has soared high, she has not forgotten her roots. Her songs always have an Indian flavor, merged seamlessly with Hollywood hits. After mesmerizing netizens with close to 40 songs, she has gained more than three million followers on her YouTube channel, garnering about 270 million total views.
The singer, along with her producer Shankar Tucker, is now on a fresh journey. Her EP 'Kuthu Fire' has already captured hearts. Now, she is bringing her fire to India, to the six cities of Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi and Ahmedabad. The tour is in association with India's favorite radio station, Radio Mirchi, and the apparel brand Forever 21.
Before she lights up India with her Kuthu fire, IBTimes Singapore brings you an exclusive interview of the diva with magic in her voice and humility in her words. Get to know her and her journey, through all the rocky paths and smooth avenues.
You've come a long way in a short time. How has your journey been so far?
I feel like it's been such a long journey, and I still have a long way to go. So far, it's been amazing. Lots of highs, and lots of lows. It's been a learning process in so many ways - I've learned so much about myself and my music. I've learned a lot of things the hard way, but it's toughened me up! I'm so grateful for how many people have connected with the music and supported me along the way.
What did you have in mind when you started your YouTube channel?
Honestly, I didn't think anyone would even watch the videos. I just started it because Shankar and I had this idea for a mashup that we spontaneously recorded and shot on the same day.
You have toured India before. How has the experience been?
I've lived there! I was there till I was 9 and moved back to Mumbai after graduating college. It was amazing, Mumbai is one of my favorite cities in the world. I loved everything about it, especially the food and musical scene. So many amazing, talented musicians.
Your choice of words is unique. Why Vidya 'Vox'? And why 'Kuthu Fire'?
Vox means voice in Latin. I wanted to name my channel something different - I was thinking along the lines of Vidya's music, or just my name but it felt too plain. So Shankar came up with it as we were recording a song because he titles my vocals "Vidya Vox" and that's how we decided to name the channel. Kuthu is short for dabankuthu the Tamil folk music and dance tradition. Growing up, I listened to a lot of folk songs, and that's why it influences my music so heavily today.
What was the inspiration behind your EP Kuthu Fire?
I really wanted to experiment with sounds and styles I liked with this EP. Shankar and I wrote all the songs on it, and each song is inspired from our personal life stories. Home, for example, was written when we both were missing family (since we live so far away from them), and similarly with Tamil Born Killa, when I read some mean comments online. We really wanted it to be in mostly English, with a lot of Indian influences in the production and vocal melodies.
India loves both Bollywood and regional songs. How do the Indian viewers receive your songs?
I think India has such a deep knowledge of so many musical traditions and cultures. Each region and language is different, and instrumentation is different as well. Classical music, of course, is such an ancient tradition. I think Bollywood does a great job of getting inspiration from all of these traditions of music. I wanted to show people that Indian and western music have some similarities and I think Indian viewers connect with that, especially Indian kids who have grown up outside of India, like myself.
Have you encountered negative criticism? How do you deal with it?
I have! However, I also have the best supporters and fans. Music is so subjective and personal, I don't expect people to like everything I do. But that's life and you have to live unapologetically. If I take the trolls to heart, it will be difficult to survive in the world without losing yourself. I've stopped reading comments on all my social media accounts.
What can viewers expect from the Kuthu Fire tour?
I'm so proud of the Kuthu Fire Tour! Shankar and I have been working on it since the end of May, and been in rehearsals since June! It's definitely a lot of original music, from the EP and other songs that we haven't released yet. Of course, I do have some mashups in there as well, as well as Shankar's EDM/trap remixes of a few of our favorite Bollywood songs. We have an amazing band, dancers and I'm also busting a move as well. Singing and dancing are probably one of the hardest things to do on stage!
Your mashups are fabulous. What is next on your platter? Do you plan to explore any other Indian language?
Thank you so much! Right now, I'm working on videos for the all the songs on the EP, as well as other folk song / original mashup combos. I haven't explored Kannada or Gujurati on my channel yet, however, they are in the works! I'm so excited for those songs.
Your style game is always high. Any tips for your fans to rock Indo-Western outfits?
I think it's important to wear what you love no matter the trends, that will make you feel comfortable and confident. I always add a jhimki or an Indian necklace with a western outfit, which is a really simple way to mix & match the styles.
Any word of advice for aspiring singers? How can social media help them?
Always put out content that you are 100% happy with. I think in the world of Internet trolls, people can shake your confidence really easily, with just one comment. As long as you can stand behind your work, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks! Also, just put out your content, use social media to your advantage. You don't have to wait for anyone else to give you a chance.
Do you have any plans to perform in Singapore in the near future?
I absolutely would love to, and I think a few things are in the works. I visited Singapore a few years ago with Maatibaani as their guest vocalist and really loved it. As a matter of fact, Din Tai Fung is one of my favorite places ever, and when I found out that they had a branch in LA, I was so beyond elated. I eat there so often!
So get ready to lose yourself in her music this November! Keep checking this space for exclusive coverage of Vidya's upcoming tour.