Exclusive Interview: Meet R&B Singer and Songwriter Raveena Mehta.

by - 15:07:00

Belgian-born, British-Indian singer-songwriter, Raveena Mehta is making her way through the music industry exploring soul, r&b, and pop genres through her music. 
Photographer/Editorial by: @Helen_sulemanova
Born in Belgium and raised between Antwerp, Belgium, and Mumbai, India, her musical sensibility encompasses various western styles, such as soul and R&B amalgamated with her roots in Indian classical and pop – these distinct elements are present in her vocal tone which has been key to her successes. Her recent record, Casanova (Acoustic) was sung and performed alongside Bollywood actor and mega-star, Tiger Shroff released on Shroff’s YouTube page. Raveena released her R&B trap/soul love ballad ‘Tere Liye’ (‘For You’) in April 2022, creating a paradigm shift in the way in which R&B music is accepted and heard in India. Raveena explores and incorporates Hindi, English, and Punjabi lyrics of longing and lust accessing her eastern and western sensibilities. 
Raveena commenced her career in music with an album launch in 2010 titled ‘From Deep Within’ when she was 12 years old. After the success of her album, she went on to pursue music; leading to the release of her 2020 re-debut Yaadein with Avitesh Shrivastava, son of late composer Aadesh Shrivastava. She has gone on to create a record called Jab Tu Hai Wahi with pioneer Urban-Desi UK producer Rishi Rich on his label ‘Break The Noise Records’. Raveena has released songs with the likes of Tiger Shroff, Rishi Rich, Avitesh Shrivastav, Rishabh Kant, and Rahul Jain to name a few as she prepares to make her debut as a Bollywood playback singer in web-series based on the book ‘Falling in Love Again’, an anthology written by celebrated author, Ruskin Bond. During the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, apart from her original releases and collaborations, Raveena became known for her covers on Instagram, garnering accolades from music lovers globally. 
Raveena has been invited to the Cannes Film Festival for the last 4 years, this year she was marked as the first-ever Indian and Indo-British female artist to perform at the Cannes Film Festival for Red Carpet Fashion Week in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
In an exclusive interview, singer Raveena Mehta talks about her musical journey, artists who inspire her, collaborations, and latest/upcoming projects.
Pleasure meeting you Raveena, Please tell us more about yourself and your personal background.
Thank you so much for having me. To start off, my name is Raveena Mehta, I am a Belgian-born British-Indian singer-songwriter and artist. I have worked on music with the likes of Bollywood actor Tiger Shroff, pioneer producer Rishi Rich, Stewart Epps, Avitesh Shrivastav, and so on. 
I was born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium from the years 1997-to 2008, after which my family and I relocated to Mumbai, India, which is where my musical journey took its professional fleet. 
Ever since I can remember, I have always been immersed in the arts and music and my work has been informed by my South Asian and Western upbringing and exposure, which in turn has led me to be critically aware of my cultural identity and roots. I frequently use art and music as mediums to explore my multicultural identity, professionally through music as well as performance art, painting, film, and drawing, which I have studied formally. 
I began singing when I was 7 years old, with an Indian classical vocal coach in Antwerp, Belgium. After I relocated to Mumbai, I continued with my vocal coach and was subsequently presented with the opportunity to record my first ever album, this was at age 11. This album was titled ‘From Deep Within’. This opportunity changed the course of my life and made music one of the most definitive and constant components.
Moving to Mumbai in 2008 also led me to consider the post-colonial sentiment amongst the population, which led to a far more perceptive, and culturally aware outlook, wherein my focus and appreciation turned to history.
I incorporate my learning and perspectives of the world into my art practice. I graduated from the Goldsmiths University of London, with a BA in Fine Art. My art practice is informed by an array of issues, from finding ways to escape the weighty burden of prescribed gender roles as remnants of colonial legacy to assessing the neo-colonial tactics that maintain and preserve power. I also work with performance art, moving images, sound, sculpture, and painting to consider the sociological impact of colonial legacies and fragmented cultural histories. 
Music and art have informed me about life and people in more ways than I can express. Being able to pursue my passion as a way of living is possibly one of my greatest gratitude.
When did you discover your love for music and what made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in it?
I have always been driven by passion, and this is most likely because of my upbringing and my parents, who have always led by example in pursuing their passion and focusing on the process. I discovered my love for music at around age 6, however, I realized this is a path I wanted to pursue professionally when I started recording my first music album at around age 11. I remember driving back home from my last studio session for the album with my Mum, and I just started welling up - I told her I don't think I ever want to stop recording and creating music. I was only 12, but I think at that moment, I realized the gravity of what music meant to me.
Which artists would you say are your inspirations?
I grew up listening to the greats, I have always been so inspired by Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Diana Ross, Shania Twain, Lata Mangeshkar, and Shreya Ghoshal to name a few. 
Are there any specific themes or ideas that you like to address in your songs?
I speak about love and longing in my original music. However, I don't think there are carved out specific themes. I focus on remaining multi-dimensional with the ideas and themes that I decided to put across through my music.
Have you felt any hesitancy going into the industry regarding your race or identity?
Honestly, I haven’t been very hesitant about working in the music industry just because of my sheer love for it. However, I have considered exploring more opportunities in the West and have thought to myself ‘will be regarded as an ‘artist’ or will I be considered an ‘Indian artist’ and what does that really mean?’ Although, with time I have realized that sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith to see what’s on the other side.
Photographer/Editorial by: @Helen_sulemanova
What challenges did you face in breaking into the professional singing industry? Was it difficult as a woman?
Some challenges that I have faced are rooted in the Covid-19 outbreak. Like many others, I began my career in music once again in 2019. After graduating from university I decided I was going to move back to Mumbai and delve into music full time. Just as that happened the world went into lockdown, so of course, this changed the way things were done. However, this just teaches adaptability and the ability to look for opportunities in every situation.
There have been times when I have felt the weight of being a woman in the industry. I do believe this industry, like many others, is incredibly male-dominated and so as a woman, it is no easy task to find your footing but I really do believe, it's about staying in your lane, knowing your self-worth, putting those blinders on and going after those dreams.
Self-expression and character are big aspects of an artist’s persona. Have you started to figure out how you wish to present yourself within the industry?
I am a big believer in honest work. Whenever you’re creating art, if you’re not honest with yourself it will come through. For me, the biggest thing that I know is that focusing on the process and being honest leads to a very rewarding journey. It has always been important for me to present myself authentically and create a comfortable space for everyone I work with. Creating music is a vulnerable thing and it is important to respect that part of the process. 
When it comes to your music, what are you most excited about this year? How has 2022 been treating you so far?
It has been an absolutely incredible year so far; I have had some major milestones. My song Tere Liye was recognized on a Times Square billboard earlier in May. Apart from this, I released the teaser for my first playback song, which will be featured in and as the promotional song for the author, Ruskin Bond’s Falling in Love Again anthology, which is being created into a web series. I am very excited to release all the music I have in the pipeline.
Amazing! We are so excited for you. Raveena, What do you think motivates you day in and day out? How has that changed over the years?
I believe people and environments motivate me the most. In my opinion, it is important to be deliberate about surrounding yourself with the right kind of people and experiences for you. It's that growth mentality and being around people who are also striving to be the best versions of themselves, which motivates me most. As a teenager I never fully recognized the importance of being selective about the people you let into your inner circle – however today I truly see the merit in it and how it allows you to focus on being your best self.
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Were your family and friends supportive of this career choice? If you weren’t a musician today, could you see yourself doing anything else?
Music has been extremely important in my life, however, music has been my own finding in my life. My family is not from the industry, be it music or art. So it has been an absolutely treasured journey finding my path in music and art. My family has been incredibly supportive of my passion and desire to pursue a career in music. It is actually my mum who fostered my growth in music and gave me the confidence at a very young age to go push the boundaries and explore the role of music in my life. If I wasn't an artist or a musician today, I think I would either be an art historian or be running an NGO perhaps in animal welfare.
Do you plan on releasing more new music and a full album of new songs anytime soon?
I am very excited to release all the new music I have worked on. I am also in the process of working on an EP. This is very exciting for me, as so far I have only released singles. I am most excited about treating the EP as a musical journey and soundscape for my audiences.
How do you feel about social media today? What do you think social media has done for your career so far?
Social media has played a massive role in my career. My career started on social media due to Covid-19. Despite all its setbacks, I really think social media if used correctly has the ability to propel your growth and connect you with so many around the world. It is a great networking tool; I have met some of the most incredible musicians and made the closest of friends in the industry through social media. I consider my Instagram feed, somewhat of a portfolio, and I think for artists, musicians, actors, and public figures it really is that; a place to document and mark progress. 
Having said that, I feel like it is very important to recognize that social media is not real life. People are only posting their ‘highlights’ and there is always a lot more under the surface. So I would say, take the entire experience of being on social media with a pinch of salt.
What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to work with Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, and some of my favorites in India, Arijit Singh, Jubin Nautiyal, and AR Rahman.
Photographer/Editorial by: @Helen_sulemanova
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
I believe music has the ability to transcend time in the form of nostalgia; I would hope to someday experience my music becoming nostalgic to people of certain times in their respective lives. I hope people take away good and positive energy from my music. I hope it adds value to people in the form of positive energy.
What are your strong points as an artist?
My strongest qualities as an artist are that I am a very honest artist, and I create art and music from a real place. I have not pursued music for anything other than what it does for me spiritually, as well as the massive impact music, has on the world. Music connects and transcends time – it has the power to document history. For me, being part of something that special and vast is a privilege in itself.
What’s challenging about bringing music to life?
I would say one of the greatest challenges about bringing music to life is truly knowing when to stop; knowing when to let go of something you've been working on day in and day out. It can be very difficult to know when to stop, but I feel like that is equally as important as starting a project.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work is when I get to experience and witness other people enjoying my music. It is an indescribable feeling and the greatest form of appreciation, whether I’m on stage performing and interacting with audiences or in general seeing people enjoy the work that I have created.
What is your own definition of happiness?
My definition of happiness is something that occurs as a by-product of living the most honest, authentic life, being true to yourself - evolving into the best version of yourself surrounded by loved ones and focusing on the journey.
What are some of your latest and upcoming projects?
My next release is called ‘Tujhse Milne Ki Aas’. This will be my first playback song in Bollywood. This song will be featured in a Bollywood web series based on the Ruskin Bond anthology titled ‘Falling in Love Again’. Additionally, next month, I am all set to release a tropical song for the summer!
What advice would you give to aspiring artists out there?
I would really say ‘focus on the journey, build a rewarding process’, ‘always strive to remain a student of life, there is always more to learn, and ‘you are the sum of your closest people; so choose wisely. I think focusing on the journey and being consistent are two really important things in order to witness any kind of growth and success. Most importantly, I would say Self-belief; you need to believe in your abilities more than anyone else out there. 
Please describe the term “Women Empowerment” in your own words?
In my opinion, Women's Empowerment means to uplift the thoughts and mindsets of women around the world, which leads to women being able to determine their own choices, and self-worth, and carve out their own paths and identity. Patriarchal narratives and social constructs have limited the potential of women for centuries, and as a by-product has etched specific gender roles and normative behavior to what it means to be a Woman. Being a woman is limitless, you can be whatever you choose to be, and to me ‘Women Empowerment is truly realizing the power of that.
What do you think is most important in this field?
I think the most important thing in this field is to have your inner circle solid, and a lot of self-belief. Being a musician or in the entertainment industry, it is a prerequisite to putting yourself out there, and so, it is that much more important to have a solid inner circle of people you can trust, a small group of people whose opinions matter to you, and people you can depend on. This is an industry where you are constantly making yourself vulnerable, so it is imperative to build a secure network of people around you, who elevate you and allow you to be your best self. 
What Would You Consider the Most Important Components of Your Style? And Do You Feel You Have A Signature Style?
I would say one of the most integral components of my vocal style is my tone. I have a huskier, more sultry tone which I believe has been developed as a result of my western exposure to Soul music amalgamated with my Indian exposure to classical and Bollywood styles. 
What, Who or where do you draw your inspiration from?
My source of inspiration is really my experiences and the people I meet. I absolutely love meeting people and am constantly looking to learn. I am so inspired by nature, 
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
I would really say, ‘don't take yourself too seriously. It's all part of the journey, and the journey is the destination – so just enjoy the moment. 
What’s your beauty regime? Would you like to share some of your best beauty secrets?
My beauty regime is very simple, I don't do too much but I believe in using good, clean products for my skin. I have started putting on sunscreen before moisturizer and it's a game-changer. Of course, being diligent about taking makeup off (so that the pores can breathe) before bed and once again using moisturizer. Hydrate your body and your skin.
Singer/Artist: @raveenamehtaofficial
Outfit: Dimple Amrin Couture @dimpleamrin
Bag: Fendi @Fendi
Photographer/Editorial by: @Helen_sulemanova
Makeup: @Deboradenecke
Artist PR Agency- @namsolutions10, @navelnazareth, @anjalih25

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