- Words Isabelle Cassidy
- Photography Gennelle Cruz
We caught up with insha to chat about new single "Drifting", her latest obsession with Feng Shui and why she’s a typical Taurus.
Canadian born with Chinese-Indian heritage, insha is a singer-songwriter keeping bedroom-pop alive with a variety of influences. Back with new single “Drifting”, after recently announcing this November’s debut EP ‘5:55’, she’s also an artist ready to show listeners exactly who ‘insha’ is.
insha learnt piano at the age of 9, swapping it for a guitar six years later. Starting out by posting rough originals to Soundcloud in 2017, aged only 14, as her social media presence grew so did her confidence. Citing the likes of Beabadoobee, Joji, Kevin Abstract, Billie Eilish as her more clear-cut inspirations, some of her most enduring influences came from the film scores and TV soundtracks that punctuated her adolescence.
New track “Drifting” is an emotional story which shows insha in the throes of vulnerability, as she describes: “I was going through a very confusing weird teen romance the Summer I wrote ‘Drifting'”. Released alongside a one-shot visualiser which insha developed alongside renowned Canadian creatives Kid Studio, her creative output continues to be nothing short of enchanting.
We caught up with insha to find out more about the “Drifting” romance, a new obsession with Feng Shui and why she’s a typical Taurus.
Hey insha, how would you introduce yourself, and your music, to someone who hadn’t come across you before?
Probably irrelevant but I’m like an avid cat lover. I’m 19. My songs are all mini diary entries but like sonically in a pretty cool almost magical world. I guess they’re like alt-pop. I’ve been writing music since I was a wee dot, like I have terrible digital videos of just a black screen and 9 year-old me singing a made up tune into a camera she took from her parents. I was an “influencer” for awhile, so that one has been kinda hard to break out of. But I’m so grateful for all the connections I’ve made through that. Being able to connect with so many people like at such a young age and as such an average human is so humbling and the internet is crazy cool. And now I’ve been given the opportunity to do what I love on a bigger scale and so that has been so awesome in my life and where I am at now.
Congratulations on the new single, “Drifting”, what’s the story behind the track? I hear there was some teen romance involved…?
Yeah, unfortunately. I just texted him joking about writing an exposé, although I guess you could say I already did! The overarching story is one where I was just like, “you’re such a coward I know you like me” because he had, to be blunt, ghosted after professing his undying adoration. I was just angry he couldn’t man-up about it, but like ultimately I mostly pretty hurt by the way things were gone about. So, I thought it would be awesome to like emulate a very REI AMI-like style: have it start out super like angsty and then have the whole song switch up to reveal that mostly I was hurt. Anger generally stems from upset, and I think that’s what “Drifting” is mostly about. It’s a bit of a laugh now to be honest.
It comes with a gorgeous visualiser that I know you developed alongside Kid Studio, is the visual side of your music important to you? And do you enjoy creative collaboration?
Super important. I started my online presence on Instagram, creating since I was like 13. Definitely not supposed to be posting and creating content like a maniac that age, but I loved it. I’m super specific about what I want and Kid Studio was a dream. Glenn, Eric, the whole team were super accommodating with like anything I really could dream up. I appreciate them so much. I don’t think it’s really my thing to just do what other people want me to—or to do it alone—collaboration is everything.
And the single is from your upcoming EP, ‘5:55’, how are you feeling for the debut project? Has it been a long time in the making?
I’m super excited, I think my two favourites are the only two un-spotlighted. So you can imagine how excited I am for those to finally have their little shining moments. A few of the songs were written before “shes watching” even came over, which is over 2 years ago. It feels really good to just have those feeling and moments made into music and then like released into the universe and no longer be my own anymore.
Your debut single dropped when you were only 17, how do you reflect on that track now a couple of years have passed? Do you feel you’ve grown musically and personally since then?
To be honest I haven’t heard it in a while, and I do truly think my current work is better, but it will always have a soft spot in my heart. I will always love that song and experience. Having that single get even that tiniest speck of attention that it did, gave me the confidence in pursuing music as a legitimate option. Oftentimes, especially like with an asian upbringing (although my parents are the most supportive people in the entire universe) and social environment, you don’t realize you can actually try to build a career out of what you love instead of what is expected. So that part is so special.
As for growing musically, as I said before I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds. I gained the confidence in my own work, confidence in my own sound and am always always looking to be better. I don’t think I’m even half good sometimes, but as long as it’s a personal step up I’m happy. For growing personally, of course I have. I barely know anything about anything, but somehow that is still more than at 16. I still struggle with all the things I whined about back then though.
What do you hope people take away from your EP? Does it have a message you’re trying to put across or a particular overarching story?
I just hope someone somewhere listens to one of the songs and decides they like it. For any reason. Whether it is because all of my innately boring and human problems are a shared experience and they feel/felt the same, or because they just like the sonics, I would feel so blessed. I already am. I don’t think I sit down and think about what the numbers of the screens mean often enough. Like, one stream is an actual human listening to me. That’s crazy. It is a blessing. The whole story of 5:55, if you can even call it a story, is just my own personal mini diary. That’s how I write too usually, just sitting by a piano or with a guitar in the middle of the night talking to myself. I guess that is the only story I’d like to come across. It’s nothing special, most music topics aren’t. It’s just something truthful.
The EP’s title comes from your planetary alignment, are you still into astrology? Do you think you’re a typical Taurus?
I’m still kooky, my latest obsession was Feng Shui. I’m convinced I will build a house one day with every single auspicious alignment you can think of and the chi will just flow through it like honey. I went to some fortune teller on Valentines Day, and she told me I was destined to become a teacher and live an ordinary life. Since then astrology has been kinda tied to that disheartening fortune experience so unless it is done by some like super legit astrology guru I will disregard. Like, websites are a no no and I’m far too lazy to really learn the ins and outs and receive a proper written-in-the-stars verdict.
I think it terms of like a stereotypical taurus women, yeah probably. I’m stubborn, enjoy the finer things in life and love food. I think those are all terrible descriptions if you really jump in the intricacies behind like all the different things being “a Taurus” can mean. Like you have your moon and alignments to really think about too. But sure, as far as typical taurus goes, sure.
You’ve described your most enduring influences are film scores and TV soundtracks, what kind of films have influenced you and how? Do you have an ultimate favourite?
All the studio Ghibli films are like massively important to me. For “she’s watching”, “A Huge Tree in the Tsukamori Forest” was one of the major tracks I referenced. Even for one of the tracks on 5:55 Ghibli was a giant influence. Minari was also super huge musically. I loved it, listened to that track over and over and over while driving everywhere for a few months. We like warped that track in another song I was writing this summer. I just love film scores and tv scores because of how they convey emotion so well without saying anything. Like you can just feel it in your chest. I want all my stuff to sound like that. That’s when I am happiest with my music.
Aside from the EP, what’s next for insha? Anything you’re excited about for the rest of the year?
Another EP I guess! Eventually. Definitely writing more stuff. I have a terrible habit of finishing something and then being like frozen creatively until it comes out. The whole year before “she’s watching” came out I couldn’t write anything at all really. It’s like I have to let go of what has passed to be able to make something new easily. So I’m really excited for that.