We recently spoke with Delhi-based singer-songwriter Pooja Sharma aka Audio Cassette for the first time, and we seem to have struck the right chord from the get-go. Sharma is not just talented, but funny, and has a no-holds-barred attitude, something we see less in people these days. Further, we love women that wear their hearts on their sleeves, and we can’t lie. For instance, she sarcastically speaks about how her parents did not put a lot of thought into her namesake! (no judging, she loves them to bits). Or the instance where she highlights that she knew “Pooja Sharma” would not get her any likes, because, boringggg.
In this candid interview with Glassic, Sharma aka Audio Cassette tells us more about how she chanced upon her quirky moniker, how she honed her artistic insights in a family filled with creative people, how she likes influencing people with her music and her love for the sun and sunglasses. We find out more in this segment of the #shadesofsoundseries.
Your moniker is an interesting one and it’s called Audio Cassette. Could you take us through the idea behind the stage name? How do people react when they find out that you go by the name Audio Cassette? Any interesting conversations that you might remember?
Alright, so my name is Pooja Sharma, which is a one-of-a-kind star name, right? (laughs). I hope I am able to communicate my sarcasm through this e-mail, but to be honest it’s the most common Indian name. Obviously, my parents did not put a lot of thought into it (I love you mom and dad, okay?) so there was no way I could have gone with that name and started a career in music!
When I decided to create a Facebook music page, I knew “Pooja Sharma” would not get me any likes, because, boringggg. Also, the same name was unavailable.
I thought I should keep a name that actually means something to me, so I recalled about what exactly got me into music. I have this distinct childhood memory, when I was in sixth grade, and I had seen the group Westlife on VH1. My naïve, young self was so influenced, that I decided to go to planet M and buy a cassette of the band. Which I eventually did after saving pocket money for over two months. Soon, saving up money to buy cassettes became a habit and I bought a cassette of the Backstreet Boys in another two months, hence the name Audio Cassette.
People do ask me “Why Audio Cassette?” and instead of giving a sane answer, I tell them “What comes before Part B?” “Part Aaaaaaaaay!” (laughs)
How was life growing up in Jaipur? You come from a place where the roots of art and music grow deep, so, could you take us through your first memories of crossing paths with things musical?
Well, I was a studious kid throughout my school days. My mom ensured I studied well, she had/has big plans for me. My paternal grandmother sings like a boss, so when I was in first grade, she started giving me singing lessons. I remember she would sit with her harmonium and we would sing, in fact, I learnt how to play the harmonium when I was in first grade. My dad is a singer too, mom’s a keyboard player and a dancer, my uncle is a professional singer… I am the least talented of the lot, to be honest. But having such artists around was fun. I was a part of the school band from fifth to the twelfth standard. I played the keys, there my band member (Ritvik) influenced my taste in music, but to be brutally honest, thank God for VH1; because that channel completely changed my life. I would play these cassettes in the tape recorder, and dance on my bed, pretending as if I was in a concert, singing out to thousands of people. I was delusional as a kid, but that madness paid off in a way, I guess.
According to you, what are the good and not so good things about being a singer-songwriter?
Let’s start with the good things:
I do what I love every single day, and that is a blessing, so I thank my stars every single day.
It’s not a desk job and no matter how many hours you put into it, it does not seem like work, because you truly enjoy every single moment of it.
When you are playing live for an audience and you see them smiling and vibing with you, it’s the best feeling! Making someone forget about his/her own life or troubles or just letting them escape reality for some time, is a great gift to have. To know, you made someone genuinely smile, that to me is pure bliss. That, in turn, makes me smile, so it’s like a dynamic equilibrium of emotions!
Side note: I am a Chemical Engineer from NIT, Jaipur, so allow me to geek out a little with my references).
The best thing about the job is when people come up to you post the gig and tell you that you have inspired them to pick up an old hobby or an old artistic habit. That just makes my heart smile. I feel I am someone who gets inspired easily, so for me, to be able to do that for other people, that’s just 100 percent job satisfaction. Once someone told me they bought a guitar and started learning after attending one of my gigs, which just moved me, because art really helps you emotionally and spiritually… I want to do more of that, make people emotionally and spiritually stable.
The ruthless things:
It’s a super lonely profession, you practice alone, you travel to the venues all by yourself, and you play there alone, sometimes to a less number of people.
Since you are your own boss, and your own employee, it gets tricky, because mostly the employee is highly demotivated, and the boss is highly motivated, imagine both of those emotions in the same person, I am an anxious cucumber!
What does the music scene look like in 2018? Is it better, or shaky and turbulent as ever? Comment.
I think it is definitely getting better, a lot more venues are coming up, hence a lot more opportunities for artists. There is a lot of competition, but that is true in every field. Also, with social media being so significant, anyone can do any kind of music from any place and be popular, so the scene is good.
Musicians speak about interesting concepts when they work on their music—like life, death or mundane things. Are their similar creative ideas close to your heart, you would like to explore more as a musician?
I do write a lot, most of it is crap, (laughs), okay, am kidding, some of it is crap (bursts out laughing again). I have written a couple of songs recently, and two of them are about love, because I am a sucker for love, and I am not ashamed to show it. But this other one is inspired by the universe and celestial bodies. I am excited about that one, because I do feel, we live on this little planet, and there are new moons being discovered on Jupiter, so much that we do not know about space and other galaxies, that just fascinates me. Wait what was the question, again? (hoots)
I definitely want to write more happy songs because writing a sad song just transports me into an unpleasant space, and I do want to make people happy through my music, so I guess that's the emotion/idea I mostly work on.
A superpower you wished you had?
(Gasps) I always wanted someone to ask me that! Teleportation, hands down, love going to new places, I dislike flying, taking the bus or taking the train.
Also, I would like it if I could see and be with my loved ones in a matter of seconds, something I struggle with since my family and friends all live in different parts of the country.
A book, art, or piece of music that changed the way you look at things?
Book: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
Like The Flowing River by Paulo Coelho.
Art: F.R.I.E.N.D.S, the TV show! Taught me so much about life, relationships and how to laugh even in the time of adversity. (smiles)
Music: I could never pick one, but there is a song called Atlas Hands by Benjamin Francis Leftwich. I always sing/hum it when I am at a beach, gives me peace.
What do sunglasses mean to you? If you had the option to teleport to wherever you want to, as soon as you put on your sunglasses, where one would it be?
I absolutely love wearing colourful sunglasses, because I am a lazy person so they hide my undone swollen eyes with no makeup and at the same time make me look cool! Now that’s a double win right there. (giggles)
If I could teleport, I would put on my sunglasses and teleport to a sunny beach (in New Zealand, maybe) with some good mojitos, a good book, good music playing in the background, and rest assured, the first thing I would do when I get there is, I would click a selfie!
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