On Thursday, Jan. 17, local dance-pop singer and songwriter Azra performs at the Mint, so we had a quick chat about what we can expect from that show, and from the artist in 2019.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you start making music, and when did you realize that it could be a career?
AZRA: I started making music back in 2012 when I met a recording studio owner who was also a producer-engineer-songwriter in Albany, New York. I originally went into his studio to record a cover song (Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All") for my family, but he ended up teaching me the inner workings of a recording studio and all of its various equipment and functions. I was hooked because it was nothing like how I used to record cover songs in my parents' garage when I was a young teenager.
So every time I was traveling to Albany from Los Angeles, I spent the majority of my time in the recording studio. The studio owner let me sit in on studio sessions with other artists and musicians to observe and learn. Eventually, we started writing and recording music in the studio. Soon after, he introduced me to a local artist, and the artist and I started making music together in his home studio in Troy, New York. He was a producer-rapper-songwriter and I was a singer, songwriter and hip-hop dancer. We would make beats, put sounds together, write lyrics, come up with melodies and basic piano instrumentals. Then I recorded vocals in a makeshift recording booth.
Thanks to the two people mentioned, I learned early on how to be free with my words and expression, not be afraid to let my ideas flow, and have the bravery to put down my lyrics and vocals on tracks regardless of the quality of content. We made tons of songs together and the quality also eventually improved over time. These two friends letting me create with them, without any judgment, helped me build my confidence in generating creative ideas, encouraged me to focus on getting better at my craft and always strive to grow as a singer-performer early on.
However, it wasn't until late 2015 when I realized that I would make this a career. Before then, I treated my love for music, singing, performing and making music as a hobby but then realized in 2015 that it was a passion I could no longer escape and I might as well make it my career.
Describe your sound/style.
Pop, dance, soul, with a bit of grunge and grit. I just love to sing soulful pop music that combines a wide range of vocals with melodic tunes rooted from lyrics with substance.
You're based here in L.A. — what do you think of the music scene here right now?
I think the music scene here is ever growing and always evolving. It's definitely more entrepreneurial, and I see more empowered artists of all types from various backgrounds trying to create their legacy on their own instead of waiting around for someone to notice them or give them a job.
Also, I think people are craving more diversity and longevity in artists and consistently good music rather than falling for the next social media sensation and then moving on. Which I think is great for serious artists and musicians. I'm not gonna sugarcoat, the music scene in L.A. can be brutal — you cannot skip any steps and you are learning something new every day. It's also important to stay true to who you are because there's a lot of people in L.A. who may try to convince you on how you should be as an artist.
It's a crazy world to navigate at first but once you get familiar with the community, have supportive friends and mentors and establish your roots, it gets better. L.A. is the epicenter of all things entertainment, which includes music, and this means that you are always surrounded by extremely talented artists all of the time, and creativity and inspiration flow all around you even when you are sleeping; and this can be overwhelming if you don't take the time to stay centered, humble and focused on your own career — paving your own path to your own truth.
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What can we expect from this L.A. set from you?
With this set (at the Mint), I'll be with a band singing a mixture of my released and unreleased original music (pop/dance/soul), as well as a couple of cover songs by two of my favorite artists (Gaga and Whitney). I'll be singing about a bunch of things — letting go of our fears and inhibitions, entering a new era of unapologetically and fearlessly pursuing our dreams, and owning and growing from our setbacks all while having fun and being a boss at the same time. Please come join me and have a good time, I'll also be handing out exclusive merch after the show.
What's next from you, in 2019?
Releasing my new single called "Skyline," More new music, performances (band and dance) and more. You can check out all of my updates and news on my website at azraofficial.com and on Instagram/Twitter @theazraofficial.
Azra plays with Mayme Marshall and Eliza Spear at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Mint.