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In Conversation With Anoushka Maskey On Her Latest Project, Mental Health and More

Anoushka Maskey is a singer-songwriter born in Sikkim and based in Navi Mumbai. Her career as an indie musician started out in 2020 with the release of her debut album ‘Things I Saw In A Dream’ which is a DIY collection of songs with reassuring layers of acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies, and the ukulele on the final song ‘Intervals’, touching on lockdown-related themes of the need for physical human contact, loneliness and the plight of migrant workers.

Her next project, an EP called ‘CEASE’ released later in the same year, presented a chilling fatalist view of how humans will ultimately be responsible for the world’s destruction, showcasing Anoushka’s diversity as a singer-songwriter and collaborator Cosmic Grooves’ production palette.

Since then, Anoushka has added to her discography an array of single releases. Her latest single: “So Long, Already, Again.” tugs at the heartstrings as a sorrowful ode to the melancholy of two long-distance lovers and their struggle to adapt to frequent goodbyes to end their seldom reunions. Anoushka’s signature ethereal vocal tone is complemented by a dreamy instrumental arrangement with rich lead guitar licks. Overall, the song is paced and gradually builds up and softens down throughout the entire duration.

As a performer, Anoushka has evolved from playing online gigs to being curated for music festivals across the country, her most recent festival performance being at the Udaipur World Music Festival in December 2022. We reached out to Anoushka to learn more about her latest project, and how she’s learned to put her mental health first in her journey as a singer-songwriter.

1. How was the release of this single (So Long, Already, Again.) and its music video different from previous ones?

With this release, I was feeling a lot of needless pressure. Pressure to make sure the tracking sessions are ‘perfect,’ pressure to make sure the mix is great, pressure to have the ‘best’ release campaign, pressure because this was my first release in 1.2 years. I realised fast that this undesired pressure was a result of having lost the flow I’d developed when I was releasing music consistently. This was the first time I was realising first-hand the true importance of putting music out regularly. Not doing so has the potential to make a release less about the music, and more about the external noise.
Apart from building the song, ‘So Long’ was an incredibly exciting project to work on since I was conceptualising a music video for the first time, and kind of co-directing with the best boys at Cut Reel Films. So Long definitely opened my mind up to doing more for my releases visually, and taking the reins in that aspect of a release as well!

2. What was the outcome of your year-long gap from releasing music? How did you put your mental health first and what benefits and struggles did you face during the time?

I think my answer to the first question covers the first bit of this question.
It was putting my mental health first that caused a lack of releases in 2022. I was, and still am, going through some monumental changes in my life, and I really struggle to balance the different ministries of my life 😛 I struggle to adult, to put it briefly.
For the longest time, I did nothing, to be honest. But it was more Wu Wei than just that. I sat in my solitude, in my space and just let myself go through the motions and feel everything. Some things that helped me were working out regularly, reading, freelancing as a writer, being alone as much as I was with people. What really took me by surprise was that a state of mind I would expect would inspire me to write music, didn’t. Whether I write a sad song or a happy one, the process of writing music makes me happy nonetheless. And at the risk of sounding more dismal or masochistic than I probably was, I just think I wasn’t in the headspace to do things I love.

Credit: Soham Joshi
3. How has your relationship with social media been in general or since you’ve become a verified user on Instagram? What changes in these platforms would you like to see that would benefit artists like you?

I wouldn’t say that there’s been a significant difference with me being a verified user. There may have been instances where I felt an air of being taken more seriously, in conversations with people.
I could say a lot about the ever changing ways of social media, but I don’t really see the point. I think we should just accept the losses and be grateful that platforms where we can share our art and life for free even exist. I can only hope that artists, including myself, keep doing what we do for the love of it, and not much else.

4. For your next project, what would you implement based on the lessons learned with marketing this single?

I think one mistake I’ve been making in our release process is having heavy pre-release campaigns rather than post. It makes more sense for people to stumble upon something on social media and follow a call to action that leads to a Spotify/Youtube etc. link, rather than talk about it for many days prior to the release and expect people to stay engaged post release.
The release of So Long also taught me to talk more in detail about not just what the project is, but what it means to me, through reels etc. As a listener, I would want the space to make my own interpretations of a song, but I would also love to learn what it meant to the artist. I think this is a pretty basic thing I would only touch upon briefly in the past, but shall do more of, moving forward.

Credit: Sudarshan
5. Being a professional artist can drain away the fun in the art. What do you do to enjoy making music? How do you de-stress?

I think at the heart of it, at the heart of anything really, is managing expectations. One of the biggest things to save yourself from is looking to music as your only source of income. Things can get pretty ugly when you start expecting your art to feed you. It becomes easy to place blame and be inclined to moving away from something that isn’t helping you survive in your material world.
I’m incredibly blessed to be someone who thoroughly enjoys the process of making music, and so, I believe that I will be able to do this for a long time. The part that stresses me out most is tracking sessions. I’ve gotta find a way to love them, too. But for now, there’s something about that damned red record button that strips you of all your skills and breeds frustration and sometimes even rage 😛
To destress, I take breaks between sessions, focus my energy on some other activity. My best bet usually is to do nothing and metamorphose into a potato for a bit.

6. What general advice would you give to artists, or specifically in terms of taking care of themselves and managing their social media appearances?

I think making note of my answer to question 5 is one of my two cents. My second cent would be not letting social media get the better of you. A piece of work or content you have worked hard to create need not hang by a thread, easily torn when your expectations of how it should be received is not met. You are not any less of an artist if you’re doing ‘creator’ things. Want to share a jingle you wrote about a life-changing poop you took this morning, do it. Want to make dance reels your friends call cringe, do it. Do whatever the heck you want, with no expectations. Damn, now I gotta start implementing these myself.

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