"Good Love 2.0" hitmaker and Notion's One To Watch for 2021, Priya Ragu, speaks on her inspiring musical journey, creation process, and advice for budding artists.
When I catch up with Priya Ragu, she’s in the middle of assembling some furniture. Now, as someone who can’t even look at IKEA instructions without getting the sweats, Priya’s grace and ease with the lockdown project is to me, seriously impressive. Clearly, she’s not just creatively adept with music, but with her hands too.
The natural dexterity Swiss-Tamil artist Priya exudes can be heard instantly in her music. There’s a pervading sense – right from her opening vocals – that this is her calling. Despite this, Priya spent years in the shadows of music, providing backing vocals whilst working full time at an airport, instead of stepping into the light that’s rightfully hers. Three years ago, however, she decided to team up with her brother, the producer Japhna Gold, and give it a go. After their debut single “Lighthouse” earned radio play in their home country of Switzerland, about 20 international labels came knocking. After some deliberation, the pair settled with Warner and strapped themselves in for one hell of a ride.
The nascent star’s first label release, “Good Love 2.0” has seen her rocket on to countless ‘Ones to Watch’ lists, birthed remixes by none other than Honey Dijon and Little Dragon, and secured a coveted place on the FIFA 21 tracklist. It’s no wonder the song has procured such success. An intoxicating blend of R&B, pop, soul, and electronic sounds, the lyrics champion optimism and a perfect first love that’s so strong that nothing can tear you apart. With a club-ready beat to boot, it’s paved the way for a catalogue of unreleased songs that are ready to go, cooked up in what will soon become Priya Ragu’s trademark smouldering fusion sound.
Stepping into “Good Love 2.0”’s shoes is the joyful “Chicken Lemon Rice”, a perfect follow-up single. Carrying on the positive vibes, it’s all about embracing and celebrating who you are, a theme that runs through the roster of releases she has coming up.
Priya Ragu is poised for the big time, but her feet are still firmly on the ground. We spoke with the star on the rise about everything from her musical journey and the importance of showing up every day, to what she has in store for 2021.
Congratulations on the success of your song “Good Love 2.0”. It’s such a bop! How did you know that working with your brother, the producer Japhna Gold, would be the right thing to do? Was collaborating with him always a goal?
Me and my brother started to do music together three years ago. When we were kids, we had a music band with our father, but that was just temporary. Before he had this project [with Priya], he worked with local artists and I was doing my own thing, but I was not focusing on creating my own music, more like doing a lot of backing vocals for other artists or going to jam sessions or featuring and stuff like that. But three years ago, I realised I can’t be at this 8-5 job and come home wondering like, what’s the meaning behind all of this? I knew I had this gift to me and I just didn’t use its full potential. And also, I never gave myself enough creative space to see what I’m able to create. So that’s when I quit my job and went to New York and wrote songs with my brother over Skype. And at the beginning, it was a bit difficult because I had another vision of making music, or at least the style, because I’m more into soul and R&B, but my brother liked hip-hop. I was not really open to experimenting with a new sound. So on the first song we created together, there was a lot of back and forth and arguments. It was challenging, but after that, it was an easy flow. It was at that point that I said, you know what, I’m just going to trust you, and then I became really open to new sounds including the South Indian style.
It must have been amazing to work with family and have someone you can trust so early on in your career.
I mean, it’s so personal, this whole thing. Especially working with a producer, we both come from the same source so it’s all very familiar and safe, we can trust each other and be vulnerable and show weakness. I’m really, really blessed that I’m able to do this with my brother and to celebrate all these small successes that are coming along. It’s a win-win situation. Everything happens organically – the whole sound. It was never a plan from the beginning to include the South Indian tunes, it just happened randomly on a song and my brother was like, “Hey, what if we just switch up the beat?”
And then the iconic Honey Dijon jumped on a remix of “Good Love 2.0”. How did it feel when you heard she was remixing your track?
I mean, it was incredible. It was really incredible. Everything came at the same time – the management team, the label, all these opportunities like FIFA 21 and Honey Dijon and Little Dragon wanting to do the remix of a song. For us, it was out of this world because they’re big names, so I was really thankful for that.
You mentioned that everything happened at the same time – did that feel overwhelming?
Yeah, it was. It’s still so overwhelming. I feel like I need another year to process everything because I’ve never had so much recognition for the music I’ve made. I’ve only released four songs, and the first song we released together [“Lighthouse”], me and my brother, got recognition within Switzerland and the radio started to play it. Then it was magical. It was like doors opening one after the other, boom, boom, boom, boom! For a long time, I didn’t even pursue music because I suppressed that voice within me. I thought, why try [music]? I mean, I have a really comfortable life with an amazing safe job, friends, family. I never thought a music career would be possible for me out of Switzerland; I never saw that happening so it was never an option for me. Once these doors opened, I heard a voice speaking within me telling me, you should try at least one song. It was the universe speaking to me, you know? Once I did that, it took it to another level.
Your new song “Chicken Lemon Rice” has such a feel-good vibe. Is this theme of positivity going to recur prominently in your forthcoming releases?
Of course, yeah. The song has different messages, but mainly it’s just about letting loose and letting go of yourself to just dance and forget about everything that is happening around you. It’s about embracing diversity and your cultural background, representing wherever you come from.
Give me a window into your writing process – how do you create a song?
Sometimes I receive beats from my brother, and then I just improvise over it or have a melody or supply lyric lines, but mostly I just write with my brother. Everything we have written so far is just the two of us. Of course, you can have more songwriters on board, but then you have all these different energies in one song. I like to think that these songs are made out of Ragu energy, you know [laughs].
So you’ve got an album basically finished and ready to be released as singles. What can we expect?
The album is about finding your true self and connecting with it in order to go your own path without being afraid. It takes a lot of courage to do that. I mean, I just quit my job and chose this music career, and I’m not in my early 20s, I’m like, in my 30s. So it doesn’t matter how old you are, or what kind of situation you’re in, as long as the voice within you says: now’s the time.
You said in a previous interview that you feel at ease now you can make music. What advice would you give to other artists that may be on a similar journey?
I would say that you just have to show up every day. Sometimes the creativity comes through, and some days it doesn’t. But your job is just to show up, sit there and see what comes through.
And lastly, live music may still be on hold for now, but what kind of energy are you hoping to bring to your shows when we can go to gigs again?
I want to have a magical show. For us to be all connected in that very moment and experience something together, whatever it is [laughs].