by Lily Lyons
Varsha Vinn fell in love with music at age 4, when her mom flooded their Bangalore apartment with the sound of an early Michael Jackson cassette. 12 years later, she discovered country music as an exchange student in Colorado, becoming instantly hooked upon hearing her host dad play guitar. “I just loved the vibe of country, the sound of the instruments, and the story telling aspect of the songs,” she says, her eyes lighting up. From that moment, she decided that she wanted to learn songwriting and become a recording artist in the US, refusing to listen to anyone who told her that was a pipe dream. “I grew up being a very rebellious child…I think that was one of my talents,” she laughs.
Fast-forward to 2016 and Varsha has released her debut EP Magnet, climbed The Iceman Show’s New Country Artist Top 40 Chart, and gained 25,000 followers on Instagram. She’s also survived three intense semesters at Berklee. She credits her friends for helping her get the most out of her Berklee experience: “My friends are also the people I work with, grow with and learn from… the most intimate thing friendship can see is watching the other person grow and fall and grow again.”
All signs say that Varsha is taking flight as an artist. And as she gains the confidence and platform to use her voice, she finds herself less interested in playing it safe. Her work in the country music industry thus far has been exciting and developmental, but she’s also felt pressure to conform. “They wanted me to be the next Taylor Swift,” she muses. Initially, she was worried because she didn’t fit into the stereotypical image of the blond, stick-thin America’s sweetheart that pervades country music. But now she’s pushing back: “I’ve been through way too much in my life to be a girl next door,” she declares, “I am a short brown girl with brunette hair from India. I could never be like them and I don’t want to be like them.”
She’s also ready to make music about her struggles instead of sweeping difficult topics under the rug. “I want to write songs about real things, not just about love and heartbreak,” she tells me. The personal and financial sacrifices she had make to attend college and start her career are “things that people my age go through that I need to voice.” For her, writing songs is a way to process what is going on in her life, to transform the darkness and insecurity she experiences into something meaningful. “When you listen to a really great musician, you know that the music is who they are,” she says, taking a moment to stare across the room and contemplate the thought. “When I came here I had this notion of making songs in order to be famous and at this point I just want to stay true to myself.”
Since she released her EP Magnet, she’s been co-writing and recording in preparation for a full-length album with a dark, emotionally raw, rock-influenced sound. I ask her about how she psyches herself up to go into the studio and recreate the emotion that compelled her to write in the first place. “I try not to think about it as singing. I think about it as talking,” she replies, “when you are in love with the song, the listener will know it.” This philosophy of treating songs intimately applies to her upcoming single, “Rainbow,” an anthemic track about fighting against being controlled by “people who are trying kill who you are.” It’s very different from her previous releases, but she feels confident about it because it is true to her life. “I’ve figured out who I want to be, and I’m not going to change that for anyone,” she says, “this new music is exactly who I am.”
Did you love Varsha’s honest thoughts about music? Find more about her here: