Interview Series: Shubha Vedula
Welcome to MODA Interview Series, where we feature influencers and leaders in the creative industry in the Chicago area and beyond to discuss their inspirations, their artistic backgrounds and what it means to be a self-starter.
Meet Shubha Vedula, a fourth year Sociology major who is getting ready to graduate this weekend! She hails from Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
First off, tell me a little bit about yourself, both as a musician and a student.
Well, my name is Shubha.
I'm an R.A. on campus for Delgiorno House, and my residents are some of my biggest fans and that's super fun. I also do Dirt Red Brass Band and I did Voices in Your Head, which is this crazy, award-winning a cappella group on campus that every knows. I’ve just been trying to find different musical outlets that also cater to the idea that I really love learning stuff and being part of this community.
Singing has always been my passion. I think the first time I started singing was when I was three years old–my family has a recording of me singing from some children’s storybook. I started doing talent shows when I was ten, performing live. That’s when I started to get really serious. When I was seventeen, I was on American Idol, and that was the stamp of approval, it’s like “Ok, you can actually sing well.” It’s one thing to sing songs and another thing to be an artist, so then I started writing songs and here I am.
I’ve had the pleasure of listening to a lot of your work, both with Voices in Your Head on Spotify and live with Dirt Red Brass Band. How would you say your participation in these two groups has impacted you as an individual musician?
So there’s a bunch of parts about being a singer. You sing, you write songs, you perform. So one thing that I had down was like “Ok I can sing, right?” Another thing was writing songs, that’s just a constant thing, you write a ton of songs, pour your heart out. But performance–I think that if I wasn’t in Dirt Red Brass Band or Voices in Your Head, I wouldn’t have known a lot of things you can do as a performer. Before, I wouldn't really move whenever I performed on stage. In Voices, I would be the soloist for some songs, and I would move around a little, but after watching other a cappella groups perform, I was like “oh, I can actually move around.” I can run around the stage and be crazy, and be in people’s faces. For me, it’s the best version of myself, when I’m on stage performing for an audience like that.
Tell me a little bit about Shuba, the brand–the one without the “h,” and why you decided to leave it out.
It’s a question that comes up a lot. Shubha comes from a Sanskrit word meaning auspicious and one who brings good fortune to other people, so I wanted to keep that meaning. But it was kind of a group effort between me and people I perform with and random fans, because when I would perform at things and people wanted to follow me it was a lot easier for the to just say S-h-u-b-a, versus S-h-u-b-h-a, V-e-d- you know, that’s a lot to remember.
I know that you’ll be graduating soon. What’s going through your head? What are your plans for after college?
It’s really bittersweet and it hasn’t really set in. I have a week left of school. I’m very excited because I’m the kind of person who likes to be all or nothing. I haven’t at any point in my life been able to fully give myself to my music–there’s always been something mental or emotional or academic holding me back, and I feel like after that day where I accept my diploma, I can give myself and everything I have to pursuing my passion.
I was also worried about where I should end up. I’ll definitely be in Chicago for the summer because Chicago’s a great scene–it’s where I got my start as an artist. And then I think I want to move out to L.A. I know it’s inevitable that I’m going to end up there, whether it’s September or sometime after that.
What are some of your biggest inspirations in the music industry?
I think Rihanna is just an all around amazing artist because her sound has evolved as her career has evolved. And she’s universal–your mom would listen to it, your dad would listen to it, she has stuff you could jam out to at a party with or chill songs that you can just listen to when you’re in your room by yourself. I love that versatility. I love Ariana Grande, just for being an amazing vocalist, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Etta James, and surprisingly, Eminem. At some period in my life I learned a lot of rhythmic things from him. He’s huge in just the way he’s able to tell stories with his music.
As an Indian-American woman, do you feel that there are any noticeable barriers in the music industry, and how are you trying to break any stereotypes that are potential obstacles in your career?
That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? The way I view my identity is very interesting because I understand that there’s a huge gap in the market for an Indian American artist, especially female artists. My primary goal is not to have a gimmick. I don’t want to become anything or become successful because of the color of my skin or lack of color–it should be down to the music. I’m a singer and I sing and I happen to be Indian. But at the same time, it’s also really important for me to be a face for Indian-Americans who have these weird pressures to become a doctor or lawyer or engineer, and this is exciting for me because I can help represent all these Indian-American women who just want to be creative.
What would you say to aspiring musicians who are hesitant to fully pursue their passions out of fear for practicality or stability that comes with going to college, getting a degree, just following a path of “normalcy “in life? How do you convince yourself to deviate off that path and really pursue what you love?
This is something I dealt with for four years. I mean, if I knew that I wanted to do music four years ago, why would I come to college. And the reality is that I was scared. But in light of all the events happening in the world, you realize how temporary life can be. Wouldn’t you rather spend it doing something you love rather just something you’re doing to just get by? People have these preconceived notions that life has to be so ABCD but if you’re good at something, you should really just do it.
You just released a new EP, Around Me, a couple weeks ago on Spotify. Are there any projects that you’re currently working on that we can look forward to?
I have a music video coming for one of the songs on my EP and acoustic videos for two of them. Outside of that, I think I’m changing my sound a little on my next project. Around Me is very sentimental and very sweet and I think I want to be sassier in the next one and write a bunch of upbeat pieces and ones where I get to show off the fun riffy things I love doing and chromatic scales and experimenting with different rhythmic patterns. I think my next project is definitely going to be bolder.
Feature image courtesy of Shubha Vedula.