Why Tanya Nambiar is Not Your Regular Girl Next Door
The New Delhi singer-songwriter/anchor/voiceover artist doesn’t want you to box her in by genre, or marriage
When New Delhi-based singer-songwriter Tanya Nambiar got married last November, along with a flood of congratulatory messages came some very curious questions regarding her career. “Everyone was like, ‘So what are your plans now? Are you still going to do music?’” says Nambiar. “It’s fucking 2017, and people still ask me that. It’s so annoying!”
The 29-year-old former vocalist of the now-defunct rock band Gravy Train channeled her frustrations with people’s perceptions of marriage into her new solo single, “Good Old Days.” Nambiar describes the jazz-inspired number as her attempt to “unleash that inner sexiness” which people might not expect in a married woman, while harkening back to the old-school R&B sound propagated by the likes of pop prodigy Amy Winehouse, who she lists as one of her biggest sources of inspiration.
Nambiar’s first musical inspiration came from her parents. “I’m the most useless mixed breed, because my dad is South Indian and my mom’s North Indian, and I’m like this exotic North-South mixture but I don’t know either of the languages,” she says. “The only common thing that the entire family had was music.” Nambiar’s mother had been a music teacher, and her father introduced her to icons such as Madonna and Chris Isaak when she was very young. They encouraged her to participate in singing competitions and the school band, but Nambiar didn’t imagine that she would ever be pursuing music full-time.
She did, however, recognize that she wanted to do things differently from an early age. “In my head I was always like, ‘I want to stand out, I don’t want to be doing the regular thing,’” she says. In Nambiar’s case, “the regular thing” turned out to be sales, the field she started out in after graduating college. In an effort to distance herself from the corporate nine-to-five, she began hosting karaoke nights with her brother Karan (vocalist for New Delhi prog-metal band Guillotine), which were what ultimately propelled her to quit her sales job and become a full-time musician.
Nambiar has been active in the New Delhi music scene for the last seven years, but is only just beginning to come into her own as a solo artist after having parted ways with long-time band Gravy Train, a development she says left her “heartbroken.” She spent the year after the breakup songwriting and finding musicians in New Delhi’s hectic session scene that’d be willing play with her exclusively.
Given her newly singular direction, Nambiar’s music seems unusually all over the place when it comes to genre. While “Good Old Days” is clearly inspired by jazz and R&B, Nambiar states that the EP she’s currently working on, due out in May, hits closer to alternative rock, which she attributes to all of the Wolfmother she’s been listening to while recording. “I don’t like to box myself into one genre,” she says, explaining that she’d rather make sure that all of her output is both relatable and catchy.
There’s certainly no lack of focus when it comes to Nambiar meeting her musical goals. Her numerous side hustles–as a voiceover artist, anchor, and until recently, karaoke jockey–are all directed towards keeping herself financially profitable while she records her new music. “I’m a salesperson, so I set my targets and my deadlines and I take them very seriously,” Nambiar says. “I’ve set a deadline; we’re putting this [new EP] out in May. It’s like my birthday gift to myself.”
Listen to Nambiar’s new single, “Good Old Days”: