Hitting the high note: Meet British pop singer Arzutra Garielle who recently launched her debut album Woh Pal

In an exclusive interview British Indian pop singer and songwriter Arzutra Garielle talks about the recent release of her debut album Woh Pal, which was inspired by Bollywood singer Shreya Ghosal, her early idol.

Arzutra Garielle is a British Indian pop singer and songwriter who fell in love with Bollywood at a very early age.

Her recently released debut album 'Woh Pal’ is a fusion of western and eastern melodic sounds and features her unique singing style. It has 9 songs and takes her fans into a world of fantasy and adventure.

Dubai based music producer, Atif Ali, who has worked on several Bollywood films and TV serials, worked with her on the album to bring it to life.

"I had an amazing experience putting this album together. However, I now realise why so few singers release albums. It's hard work. It's a lot of blood, sweat and tears," says Arzutra.

Singer Arzutra Garielle

Arzutra has always been inspired by Shreya Ghoshal, a Bollywood playback singer, composer, and music producer who is one of her major influences in music, and these influences helped her decide to curate an album, and put her work out there.

“When I started my own music career, whilst the obvious choice was to sing in English, my heart was set on singing in Hindi. It was hard though as I had so much discouragement from friends telling me that I could never sing in Hindi because I couldn’t speak the language. I was laughed at a lot in the early days” recalls the singer.

However, she was determined to succeed and was set on releasing an album one day, with Hindi songs, and today 'Woh Pal' is a result of her dreams, desires, and sheer hard work.

She has previously studied semi-Indian classical music with renowned classically trained teachers as well the Italian style of singing called Bel Canto, with a Spanish vocal teacher in the UK.

In an exclusive interview with YS Weekender singer Arzutra Garielle talks about her recent album Woh Pal, her musical inspirations, and how she got into Bel Canto, a traditional Italian style of singing

YSW: Were you always passionate about music? Tell us about an early musical memory you look back on fondly.

AG: I grew up in a family that had Bollywood music playing at home and in the car. Music has been a big part of my life and upbringing.

However, I never imagined that one day I would be a singer. I thought singers were stars and we were just normal people.

It's only when I became a singer that I realised that I’m a normal person just like my fans, but I have a profession which is an entertainment one and that comes with a big responsibility.

My first experience of Bollywood music was watching all the old movies and listening to the voice of Alka Yagnik, Lata Mangeshkar, and then, Shreya Ghoshal.

In those days’ voices were unfabricated. Literally, music to your ears.

I remember I used to listen to Raja ko Rani se Pyar ho Gaya.' I tried to sing just those chorus lines and play them back on my dad’s tape recorder. I remember hearing my voice and thinking - god, I sound like a man. 

Arzutra has been fond of Bollywood music since the beginning.

YSW: Can you tell us about your experience of growing up in England and the type of music you were exposed to?

AG: Funnily enough, I grew up never listening to western music. The influences were always Indian and Bollywood songs.

Music from Bollywood was the only real music I heard on TV, and on the radio in the car.

It wasn’t until later in life I started listening to English singers such as Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson and Alicia Keys. 

YSW: When did your love for Bollywood music start?

AG: Things got serious when I went to a music producer and said I wanted to sing the cover of Alka Yagnik’s ‘Pehli Baar Dil Yun.’

However, in those days he among others laughed at me and made a mockery out of my desire of wanting to sing in Hindi. Many people said I could not sing in Hindi as I didn’t know the language. I went away and studied it.

Ten years later, I now have a full album in Hindi and 13 singles released all in Hindi. It’s been a hard slog.

YSW: Who are some of your early artistic influences/inspirations (actors, singers, bands, lyricists)? Who are they now?

AG: Shreya Ghoshal, Lata Mangeshkar, Marilyn Monroe and Cleopatra. I have the same idols now. For me, once an idol, I am hooked for life.
My inspiration comes from the one thing these women have in common. They are leaders in their field and powerful women. The strength of a woman is what sets her apart from any other.

Her music is melodious and soulful.

YSW: What would you define your musical style as and what do you feel makes you stand out from the crowd?

AG: My musical style is more melody focused soulful romantics and mushy numbers.

Right or wrong, but I’m not looking to stand out from the crowd. I’m not looking to blend in either. Since childhood I never quite ‘fitted in.’ I’m so used to being an outsider.

People usually use the word ‘weird’ to describe me. I get complimented on my voice all the time. I guess my voice is my USP (or one of them) and so it should be.

YSW: Tell us about ‘Bel Canto’ and how you chanced upon it.

AG: In 2014 I had decided to get more serious about learning how to sing. I had some great coaches in the UK however I was ready for advancing to a higher level.

I am one of those people who gets bored easily especially when I know I’m not developing. With some vocal teachers they can only take you so far.

In 2014 I had a sudden realisation that I wanted to move to Italy to learn the traditional Bel Canto. I moved there for six months and started to learn the technique that has been applied to Italian Opera since the 18th Century.

I then moved back to UK and continued learning Bel Canto with Victor Asquith, a teacher from Spain. I have been studying with him for 6 years now.

Bel Canto exposed me to some of the greatest classical music written by composers such as Handel, Mozart etc.

Many people are amazed at how I have a Spanish coach for my Indian singing. It proves that technique is all that matters regardless of language. 

YSW: Can you describe your new album ‘Woh Pal’ and what was the motivation behind it?

AG: The motivation behind my Album ‘Woh Pal’ was to just go and learn everything I can about making music.
From recording to releasing music to having the experience to live each song like a mini fairytale.

I made a lot of mistakes initially. However, I learnt a lot from that experience.

The one thing that a mentor said to me once is ‘Arzutra why are you working on singles, that’s what every average singer is doing. Go push yourself.’ That advice was given to me in 2014. It sticks with me till this day.

A still from behind the scenes of the music video for the song Tumhari.

YSW: You are a big Shreya Ghosal fan, what about her singing inspires you the most?

AG: I think it’s more the expressions in Shreya Ghoshal’s voice. I knew I wanted to sound like her. I always loved listening to Shreya Ji out of all of the other singers such as Chitra, Alka Yagnik etc.

Shreya Ghoshal was at the top of my list. If there’s one singer I wish I could sound like, it has to be Shreya Ghoshal. My dream is to meet her and tell her how much she has been an inspiration to me.

YSW: What are some of the songs you have sung that are personal favourites and who are some of the singers you have collaborated with in the past?

AG: My favourite song is actually ‘Tumhaari’ which launches on 17th July. It is my most romantic song till date.
I haven’t really done any solid collabs yet. I need to wait for me and my voice to get established first.

YSW: Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?

AG: The singer Weeknd. I can imagine doing a duet with him.

I have collaborated with producers such as Atif Ali and DJ Shadow recently. It’s amazing doing collabs but only when they are with the right people. 

YSW: What is your advice to those young individuals aspiring to become singers and make a name for themselves in the music industry?

AG: It's tough. However, one my DJ friends said to me today ‘your determination got you to where you are.’ I strongly believe there’s truth in this.

Without grit and determination, it won’t happen. Oh, and the other thing turn your social media off.
If you want to use it use it max 10-15 mins per day and that’s to document your journey. Don’t waste your life away liking and commenting on other people’s random posts. If you want to make it in this field, you need to be more than average.

Quite simple you just don’t have time to do things ‘normal’ people are doing.

Expect to lose a lot of friends and expect to sacrifice your Friday nights out with friends for staying indoors and working on your music. Sorry, I know that’s not what you want to hear. 

YSW: You advocate strongly for mental health. What does this subject mean to you, and how do you hope to go about helping individuals become more aware?

AG: I haven’t campaigned yet for mental health like other celebs. I don’t want to be giving advice which can be seen to replace that of a doctor.

However, coming from a background where my parents constantly argued when I was growing up, I had a really hard childhood.

The one thing that keeps me going is my fans and the music. I have created a world of my own. It’s a small world but it’s a place I can go to experience joy and happiness. 

YSW: What is your message to your fans finding it difficult to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions?

AG: I have done a short video for this. Check it out here...

YSW: What do you enjoy doing most in your free time when not creating music?

AG: I know this is really unhealthy but honestly speaking I don’t have any such thing as any free time.

I do enjoy catching up with friends. I am a fanatic about beauty products. I just don’t get time to do anything other than music these days.

(Image Credits: Arzutra Garielle and Shamrock Communication)

Edited by Asha Chowdary