V EXCLUSIVE: Raveena Aurora is the Goddess of DIY

V EXCLUSIVE: Raveena Aurora is the Goddess of DIY

V EXCLUSIVE: Raveena Aurora is the Goddess of DIY

Since mainstream culture wouldn’t let her in, the 26-year-old singer “did it herself”, and the result is nothing short of creative ingenuity

Since mainstream culture wouldn’t let her in, the 26-year-old singer “did it herself”, and the result is nothing short of creative ingenuity

Photography: Shaya Scott

Styling: Branden Ruiz

Text: Margaux Bang

As soon as Raveena picks up the phone all the way from her home in Pasadena, California, she lulls me into her magical universe, where old Bollywood and DIY culture converge in a way that is simultaneously soothing and energizing. The 26-year-old singer, who grew up between Connecticut and New York City, and daughter of two Indian immigrants, has made a name for herself after getting denied multiple record deals because she did not fit the mold. Thanks to the internet, she was able to rise to prominence and claim her space, even if that meant virtually, to create an infrastructure that would allow her talent to get the recognition that it deserved.

After the release of “Shanti”, a completely self-funded single, the world was enthralled by her goddess-like energy and kept yearning for more. Since then, Raveena released a handful of singles, the latest being "Tweety", a light and bouncy melody reminiscent of early 2000s R&B. V Magazine caught up with Raveena to talk about the inspiration behind her newest single, what her creative process looks like during a pandemic, and how DIY culture has allowed marginalized artists like herself to claim their space in an industry that is lacking inclusivity.

V Magazine:  Congratulations on your latest single “Tweety” which came out last week!  Your previous album Lucid explored sensuality, healing from trauma, and spirituality. What inspired this single?

Raveena Aurora: Lately, I feel like I’ve been stepping into a place of lightness and joy after doing all that healing. I was exploring all the music that I was listening to as a child. Sort of like doing that inner child healing, and loving. There were so much early 2000s RnB and Pop that I was listening to back then. Jojo, Usher, Alicia Keys, Ciara, all these amazing artists who are making such light music. It didn't always have to be super heavy and it was connecting with so many people. I kinda wanted to just explore that side of myself. And put out a little serotonin boost out in the world.

V: In what ways have you grown as an artist and how has your sound changed since the release of Lucid? How does your forthcoming album differ? What themes are you looking to explore or encapsulate?

RA: I think I’m really growing holistically as an artist, there’s a lot of ways that I’ve grown into myself so much more as a creative director, musician, etc. all that side of myself is getting a lot stronger and even on the music side I'm getting more involved with the production. I feel like I'm becoming my own boss in every aspect of the process. In the past I was more meek about it, my communication wasn't as strong. I had a lot of doubt in myself. So I feel like that’s the way that I’ve been growing as an artist. And you can feel it in the music, that there’s this newfound confidence that’s emerging from across the board.

V: What does your creative process look like these days? Has the pandemic affected your process in the making of “Tweety” or your album? If so what steps did you take to overcome/get around that?

RA: In ways, the pandemic has been the biggest savior of my artistry. It's forced me to slow down and made me realize how important it is to the time and be isolated from the world. It’s important to be in touch with daily life but I feel like that period of introspection has been so helpful for me. I think that it’s allowed for more routine, like practicing instruments, reading books, journaling, writing down lyric ideas, watching movies for inspiration has become a regular part of my life. Before that, it was hard to incorporate these things into my daily. As an artist, you're constantly on the move so it’s hard to maintain a strong sense of routine. Never had a chance to nurture that as an artist because I went from being a full-time nanny to being a singer overnight. So I didn’t get that “in-between” period that allowed me to figure out what works best for me so this time has been a blessing.

Raveena wears dress Nosesso, earrings Debora Malouf Jewelry, headpiece Chainedbysedona

V: How do you stay connected to your audience during a pandemic?

RA: I feel like people are coming together on the internet. It feels like we're more connected to each other than ever in that dimension. People are more responsive because they have more time on their hands. Another thing I want to do more of, is send packages and letters to a few fans. It can only go to a few fans, I wish I could do more.

V: Now just to backtrack, as an artist who was born and raised in New York City, how has your upbringing inspired your work?

RA: I was raised half and half between New York and Connecticut. I think it was an interesting mix between being fully in nature and living in the city. It’s influenced my art in a lot of ways, I definitely feel very connected to nature as well because of that side of my upbringing, I need it and I crave it. Where I feel the most whole as a being is around nature. And then the city is just so energizing and I love the spirit of collaboration that this city offers and having access to so many beautiful souls to work with.

V: As the daughter of two Indian immigrants, how has this shaped your artistry? What was your upbringing like and how does that translate into your sound?

RA: It was really interesting because I grew up around a lot of Indian music. And I think there’s a sense of spirituality in Indian music, this vibrancy, and colors to it that live in their own world and I’m so grateful that I got to experience that. But obviously, as an American kid I was listening to all of Western music like R&B, and Soul, and Pop and Rock. I was consuming it all and I feel like what I make now is such an honest representation of everything I was listening to. Because I’m so connected to India growing up, I grew up in a very immigrant household. I feel like I’m learning to incorporate these two worlds into my work. It’s been the biggest challenge because tonally and musically they have different scales and completely different ways of approach towards the music so it’s been a really challenging but great opening part of my artistry. Learning how to merge the two and I think that’s where my work will be changing and getting stronger in that sense from now on.

V: If you could collaborate with any Bollywood artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

RA: I love Asha Bhosle. She has a beautiful voice and was born almost exactly sixty years apart. She’s still alive, she’s 87 so I think she’s probably chilling now.

V: You went to NYU right? What was that experience like?

RA: I’m grateful to have been in the city and have access to all these resources, but I think I grew as an artist outside of college but I’m definitely very grateful to have learned about the business aspect of music that was definitely such a privilege and helped me understand the ins and outs of the industry.

V: Your music videos mesh elements of old Bollywood cinema and DIY culture. Do you think the DIY culture has helped marginalized artists like yourself gain wider acceptance?

RA: Yeah of course. I think it’s inspired us and shown us the tools of what you can do with very little. A lot of my early music videos were completely self-funded it was when I was working a day job and was directing them myself. That spirit has carried on throughout my work. I think the DIY mentality puts a lot of stress and pressure on people who are marginalized. It allows us a portal into the industry but we have to work so incredibly hard to build up an infrastructure where people will care about us. Because at the beginning of my career, I would have label meetings and people would be like “we can’t sign you, you’re brown”, to my face they would tell me “there’s no space for you.” I was forced to build the infrastructure myself. I hope that the people who have control over that infrastructure start to support marginalized artists really early on. It’s such a hard phase when you’re in it, and it breaks a lot of people.

V: As a singer with a pretty big following on Instagram, how do you think social media and DIY culture will impact the future of the music industry?

RA: It’s definitely allowing us a space to be completely authentic if we want to be. I also think it’s really interesting how the algorithm favors certain types of content even if we're being our most authentic self, and expressing our art in the ways that we want to. There does tend to be a pattern in terms of what gets popular and there’s a pressure to follow it. I hope that we can come up with even more expansive technologies and ways of connection beyond even this. I think this is just the beginning, I think it’s still all very tied to capitalism, this social media stuff.

V: Do you think the pandemic has pushed DIY culture further? Will it find its way into mainstream culture?

RA: So much of mainstream culture is already inspired by DIY in ways that are maybe unseen to people outside of the art world. But you can see where a lot of the references are coming from it’s already part of mainstream music in an unseen way. I think that in terms of the pandemic, I do think it's a really good time to connect with people on the internet and build a strong following simply on the internet. This is where a lot of DIY artists like myself have started and have gotten a lot more attention. So I do hope to see a lot of growth there. I feel like in the music industry every year, there’s a different way to break out. Like when I was breaking out three years ago, I got popular because of the Colors Channel. And that’s how I was able to start. And now it's all through TikTok. So it’s like the platforms and the things are constantly changing and I hope that over time it becomes less gate-kept and more open and a bit less based on virality.

V: What's next for you?

RA: People should expect to see more music and visuals this year. Don’t want to give anything away but there will definitely be more music from me this year!

Check out Raveena's latest single Tweety below!

Credits:
Photography by Shaya Scott
Fashion by Braden Ruiz
Beauty by Jaime Diaz (using MAC Cosmetics)
Hair by Preston Wada

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