Want my job? with singer-songwriter Aisha Badru

"One day I bought a guitar, dropped out of college, and gave myself a year to make something happen with my music before enrolling back in my classes."

Want my job? with singer-songwriter Aisha Badru

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

I'm Aisha Badru, a singer-songwriter originally from New York and I am also a full-time mom of three year old twins.

What’s great about your job?

Being a songwriter, I love not having set work hours or having to work in an office. Having this amount of freedom and flexibility is key to my creativity. It's so important that I'm able to really sit with myself and process the things that go on in my life and in the world because that is where I draw inspiration from. Sometimes an idea for a song will come spontaneously and it's great to have the space to pull out my phone and sing an idea into a voice memo. Another thing I love about being a singer is all of the opportunities I've had to travel around the world and perform and connect with so many people.

What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?

The biggest challenge is not having a health-care package, predictable salary, or other benefits that people get with more traditional careers. When I earn money from my music career, I have to be very strategic and mindful about how I invest it.

What are the highlights of your career to date?

The greatest highlight would have to be having my song play in a Volkswagen advertisement and to have other songs of mine play in multiple popular TV shows.

What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?

Before pursuing music I was in college and working as an after-school counsellor at an elementary school. One day I bought a guitar, dropped out of college, and gave myself a year to make something happen with my music before enrolling back in my classes. Luckily, that same year Volkswagen used my song in one of their TV commercials. I have been releasing music consistently ever since and I never ended up going back to school.

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?

Growing up in a predominantly black & latino low-income community in NY has been the most impactful experience that has shaped my artistry and who I am. I know what it's like to be on the bottom of a ladder that seems improbable to climb. Because I started off with very little in a material sense, I really learned how to utilize my spiritual, creative, and mental strength. I have become very good at making something out of nothing which is basically what crafting music involves. 

Did you have any role models or inspirations growing up?

I have always been deeply enamoured and inspired by nature and the parallels between it and us. You can hear this in many of the lyrics in my songs.

Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?

I used to have terrible stage fright and never imagined I'd ever feel comfortable singing and speaking in front of a crowd. I overcame it by doing it scared! 

Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?

Social media paired with the boom of music streaming has made becoming successful within the music industry more accessible than ever. I see more and more people being able to generate a following without the need of a record label or expensive marketing. That's huge for artists who want to stay independent, and it gives those who want a label a lot more edge and leverage. Being able to reach your target audience directly is a huge shift in the artist's favour.

You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to a 16-year-old you. What do you say?

Everything you're going through now that you feel down and depressed about will be the same things that people around the world will one day be inspired and uplifted by.

Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?

I encourage young people to develop a healthy relationship with social media. It can be such a helpful tool to help you build your audience, but always try to find balance and prioritise your mental health. Another piece of advice would be to never underestimate the importance of finances. As creative people we tend to only want to focus on making art. It is so important to educate yourself about the expenses and responsibilities of being a self-employed artist. 

Header Image Credit: Jeffery Trapani

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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