By SPECIWOMEN Photography MELISSA NELSON
Who are you?
I am Ashni. A musician, a creator, a woman. I am Indian, I am first-generation, I am always trying to sit deeply with myself, and I'm almost the next version of me.
What drew you into music?
Everything else fades away - I think that's the thing that sticks around from childhood. More specifically, I was around Indian classical, jazz, and all things radio all the time. Vocal tone, melody, lyrics, and rhythm drew me in.
Do you remember the moment you decided that this was the path for you?
I remember making the decision, or rather, admission to myself and my parents when I was 22, after finishing a degree in Biology and health policy and working a corporate job for a year. But I dreamt it up when I was about 7. So it just took time, a lot of hoping behind a cloud of fear, a loud dose of frustration, eventually beginning to record demos, and then the release of fear (for a minute).
Who/what are your biggest inspirations as a musician?
My own, billowing feelings. The world I've built around me. The world I wish wasn't. The world I wish was. My friends.
(Ella, Billie, Louis, Norah Jones, and Alicia Keys shaped my dreams as a kid.)
As a woman, how have your experiences shaped your sound?
My experiences as a woman - as a femme - on the street, in an office, in relationships, in a band rehearsal, as an entrepreneur advocating for herself - they all inform my understanding of my immediate and extended surroundings. I process an idea or a problem as I write about it. They appear most strongly in my lyrics and harmonies.
If you could collab with three people in the near future, who would they be and why?
Raveena - I love what she's doing and I want to grow with, amongst, in support of other brown women.
Meshell Ndegeocello - a dream, a dream, a dream. Her writing, her production, her voice, her playing, her energy. I would love to learn from her.
Laura Mvula - Her songwriting and vocal delivery are so strong. I admire her lyrics, string arrangements, and production. I would love to write with and learn from her.
Talk to us about the first song you’ve ever written.
I wrote angsty lyrics in a pink notebook that I began at 12. They were not good. I can't quite remember the first finished song… but the subject was always my supposedly broken heart.
Where does performing bring you?
Performing is a delicate, beautiful space. It's malleable, it's life-giving, and if I forget these two then it can be quite draining. It requires absolute presence, and an ever-changing balance and exchange between myself and the room of people in front of me.
Name 5 songs that always keep you going.
Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart - Mitski
The Lung, Hiatus Kaiyote
My Baby Just Cares For Me - Nina Simone
Never Had A Dream Come True - Stevie Wonder
Listen to Ashni here.