Equipped with an angelic voice and a degree from Berklee, the versatile singer, songwriter, DJ and pianist who goes only by her first name has been impacting the dance music world since 2007. Three years of vocal accompaniments for the likes of Filo & Peri, the Thrillseekers and Ronski Speed preceded the debut of her Velvetine project, a collaborative effort with Myon & Shane 54. It was in October of that year that her first solo project was released to the masses. “Let Go” was a monster hit, featuring on Anjunabeats Volume 8 and warranting remixes from trance heavyweights Nic Chagall and Who.Is. This year, the American songstress’ most successful to date, saw the resurgence of Velvetine, another solo single and vocals for the most popular single off of Ferry Corsten’s latest album. Earlier in 2012, Aruna talked to The Hawt about women in dance music, her new role as a DJ and her relationship with Myon & Shane54.
Where are you from, how long have you been in music and what is your claim to fame?
Aruna: I'm from Flemington, NJ. I've been a musician since I was about seven but didn't start pursuing it professionally 'til i graduated Berklee and moved to LA in 2001, and didn't fall into EDM ‘til about 2007. My "claim to fame" as you put it would vary depending on who you ask. To some it's having written a song for Hannah Montana. To others, it’s probably my recent track with Ferry Corsten "Live Forever" as that was far and away my most successful dance release to date.
Aruna: It's been interesting so far, lots of very diverse reactions. For some reason it seems EDM is still in the 1950s in terms of the way it views the role of women. Honestly there have been some moments where I really felt pushed down, as if certain entities/individuals (not naming names of course) viewed it as some kind of threat to themselves or to some established order or I don't know what, it was very strange to me and of course very frustrating. I think especially since I became known as a singer first and only stepped into the role of DJ not that long ago that oftentimes there's a bit of skepticism at the outset but usually once they hear my sets they're pleasantly surprised and really into it from that point on, case in point my Trance Around The World guest mix. I got literally hundreds of thousands of new subscribers to my podcast, The Hot List, in the months after that, so I must have done something right! Girls especially have been extremely supportive and encouraging. It seems they really love seeing a female in that role. Its very empowering for them. They need a cheerleader in this scene, an ambassador, someone with a visible presence and a brand, not someone who's merely relegated to the sidelines as 'featured vocalist'. DJing has been great for live performances cuz it really gives me a solid block of time up there with my fans to showcase my taste and take them on a nice ride, and yes every show I do they always want me to sing, so lately I've been doing both, usually spinning for an hour or so and then closing with a few live songs. My sets tend to be pretty high energy, trance of course but on the techy side with some house elements but always very musical, that’s the most important thing to me at the end of the day. Even when it's banging, it still has to be tasteful.
Aruna: Pretty much any of Maor Levi's remixes work really well. He's a perfect example of someone who can knock it out HARD in his productions and really get people jumping but what he does always makes musical sense. I LOVED what he did with Leon Bolier's US. I played that in El Salvador and the place exploded. And of course when I play my own tunes people get pretty excited too. I remember dropping the Shogun mix of Live Forever in Vancouver and people were singing louder than the record, it was great!
With EDM continuing to rapidly gain popularity, it seems as though more artists are being swayed into mainstream tendencies. Do you think mass popularity hinders quality?
Aruna: Very interesting question. I don't think being popular or even trying to make something become popular means that it has to be bad, although it might mean a more simplified, predictable structure. Some of the most mainstream tracks on the radio in my opinion are actually quite good. Because there's so much money there, they can do whatever they want in terms of working at the best studios, working with the best writers, etcetera. However I think people that get into it only for the success and the money and the chicks and everything else that comes with it, well…you can kinda hear it in their work. There's just no love there, and you can tell they're not musicians. But I don't think those people will be around long. The amount of passion and enthusiasm required to keep things going, if thats not there, then I don't think ego and greed is enough to sustain you long term. Most of the people that I know personally who are at the top live and breathe music, and they genuinely love it, they love the creative process and are always striving for excellence. Those are the people who have built an enduring brand for themselves, and will continue to evolve as necessary to stay relevant and keep things interesting for themselves.
What can you tell us about Save The Day?
Aruna: The writing of "Save The Day" started a little over two years ago while I was staying with Myon in Hungary for three weeks. It was a really creative period for both of us. We were working on three different tracks at once, "All Around You", the one that came out on Cosmic Gate's album and also another tune which will be Myon & Shane's next single, out in early 2013. I came up with a chorus that I LOVED and showed it to Myon for their single. He felt it was a bit too commercial for theirs but said it could be great for mine. So basically I built up the whole rest of the song around that chorus. The lyric basically describes a failing relationship, that moment you realize that the magic and love is just gone and that it's more or less unfixable. For me that moment was always the saddest point in a relationship, the actual breakup is just a natural extension of that. Strangely I wasn't in any sort of situation like that at the time I wrote it, but as fate would have it I ended up there right around the time the track was released. So it was incredibly prophetic, almost feels like I wrote it to my future self, never had anything like that happen before.
Which came first; Myon and Aruna or Velvetine? Did either of those partnerships cause the other? We promise that’s our only quasi-personal question :)
Aruna: Hahaha! The musical relationship came first, and yes it definitely fuelled the personal relationship. It's a very intimate thing, creating music with someone, especially when the chemistry is there on so many levels, as it was with us. And of course the personal relationship affected the musical relationship too, sometimes in good ways as I've written quite a few songs about him by now, "The Great Divide" being one of them, but also in not so good ways, like if we had a fight it would definitely affect our ability to work together. You can't just shut those feelings off and say "OK, its time to work now". So yea, you take the good with the bad. It was a great experience and I don't have any regrets, but I'm also glad we ultimately decided to call it off and go back to just being friends. It was a hard decision but I think in the end it's the best thing for our musical relationship, it keeps things very steady that way. But the feelings are still very strong on both sides, and probably always will be.
Congratulations on having “The Great Divide” become a worldwide trending topic! Despite its lengthy gestation period (TATW 400, right?), did you ever expect the track to reach such levels of hype before its release?
Aruna: Seeing as Safe, our first single together, did really well, we knew we had some big shoes to fill and that the anticipation, especially amongst the Anjuna crowd, would be massive. We all knew we had a really sick track on our hands, and we knew Anjuna and Above & Beyond would push it hard, but at the end of the day even with so many cards stacked in your favor, you never REALLY know how something is gonna do. We were very happy with the way it was received.
The last Velvetine track came out way back in 2010. “The Great Divide” already being a huge success, do you envision giving this alias more importance? Or will we have to eagerly wait another 2 years for the next release?
Aruna: Hah! I sure hope it wont be another two years! We already have a good jump on our next single, and have even discussed plans for an album, its just a matter of all of us making the time for it. Between crazy touring schedules, making radio shows and doing other projects and collaborations, that can be more difficult than it sounds. I think the bigger Velvetine gets, the more it will continue to become a priority for all of us, especially once we start doing official Velvetine Live shows. So far we've only done Myon & Shane 54 and Aruna shows, Velvetine Live will be a very different format and experience.
Aruna: I would love to! I've never been and it would be a great opportunity to practice my French! Nothing's planned though, so for anyone who wants me there, make sure to tell your local promoters! Believe it or not, most of them pay close attention to what (and who) fans want.
I’m typing out these words with one hand and dialling Circus Afterhours with the other. Happy New Year from all of us at The Hawt!