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INTERVIEW: T U R Y A - 'I had to go through a massive emotional journey to give birth to these songs'

Laura  Barnes
INTERVIEW: T U R Y A - 'I had to go through a massive emotional journey to give birth to these songs'

Nature vs. nurture – the age-old argument about whether someone’s tastes and personality is predisposed in their DNA, or influenced by their environment. It’s an interesting psychological debate that can be applied to many aspects of someone’s life, and as a music fanatic, it has always fascinated me how our musical tastest are expanded by our experiences.

So when I was given the chance to chat to Nicki Wells, AKA T U R Y A, I was eager to find out about the influences growing up in India, playing in bands in Australia, and studying music in London had on her debut album.

“In India, I absorbed a lot of the culture and I resonated with the melodies. I loved how their approach to melody was very formless and knew no bounds. It’s very free. I was really drawn into that,” says T U R Y A, who lived in the foothills of the Himalayas between the ages of six and 10.

If the first two singles, Rain and Falling, are anything to go by, her soon-to-be-released debut album Ocean will showcase a fascinating amalgamation of acoustic and electro vibes with a healthy dollop of Indian-esque melodies.
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“I haven’t consciously tried to make the album sound “Indian”, it’s just been part of the musical identity that I’ve grown up with,” T U R Y A tells me. “Just like how schools you go to and friends that you have shape who you are, whatever environment you’ve grown up with also shapes who you are.

“It’s about an amalgamation of what we’ve absorbed from our environment. So I just absorbed quite a bit of the culture and the musical identity of living in India.”

Coming from a musical family, it seems there may be a musical gene or two in T U R Y A’s DNA as well. “My dad is fairly musical and I started singing with my sisters when I was around 10. I used to always be a fan of the voice as an instrument and it’s capabilities,” she says.

By 11, she was writing her own songs on piano, and by 16, she had moved to Australia to join a few bands.

“That opened up my musical palette to different things. I then travelled around. I went back to India and learned some classical Indian music, and then I came back to the UK to do a degree in vocal performance.”

Continuing her exploration of using her voice, and delving into the world of Indian music, T U R Y A joined British Indian musician Nitin Swahney as part of his touring band. “Getting to work with Nitin allowed me to explore that world further. I was a singer in his band for seven years. We did amazing gigs like the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, The Royal Albert Hall, and Sydney Opera House.”

Moving into the present day, and on to her own project, T U R Y A reveals that her debut album has been a long, and emotional, process.

“I did three drafts of the album in four years. Each draft was very different, and the third draft is what will now be released. It’s very organic, stripped back and raw.

“It was about finding the right sound and finding something that emotionally resonated with me. I had to go through a massive emotional journey to give birth to these songs on the album,” she says.

“The themes of the album are about opening yourself up to being vulnerable, and then also reconciling with yourself and this element of surrender. There’s a theme of surrendering throughout the album and basically finding your own strength and worth after being vulnerable and weakened by emotional strain.

"It’s been a journey about finding my own sound and my own voice. Finding who I am really,” admits T U R Y A.

So how does this raw, emotional and vulnerable music translate to a live environment?

“I’ve just got an intimate band,” she tells me. “Just the three of us. The whole album is quite minimalistic and it’s got acoustic instruments and well as electronic. So it’s about trying to be as organic as possible, but then also having a depth that the electronic elements bring to it.

“We’ve got a drummer on an acoustic kit and programming some beats. We’ve got a bassist playing double and electric bass, and I’m playing keyboard, guitar, and singing.”

As well as influencing her sound, India was a source of inspiration for what would become Nicki Wells’ performance name, T U R Y A.

"Turya” is a word that derives from the Sanskrit language. It has a few meanings, one of which is “the silence one experiences after sound”.

“I really resonated with that meaning,” says the singer. “I was just intrigued by it. I wanted to have an identity that represented my songwriting. I also do composition and a few different projects, so I wanted ‘T U R Y A’ to represent my singer/songwriter aspect.

“I wanted that silence to encapsulate the sound that I produce. Once someone listens to a song, they’re left in silence. When you go to a gig and hear the last note of a song, the silence you hear before the applause is “turya”.”

T U R Y A will be performing various shows throughout 2018 as well as releasing her debut album Ocean. Keep up-to-date at https://www.musicglue.com/turya

Tags: Interviews , T U R Y A , turya , nitin swahney

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