Ananya | 5 Minutes With

Inspired by the shadows of the moonlight, nightmares, dreams, and the inexplicable creativity, which awakens when everyone is asleep, Ananya encapsulates her insomnia-charged reflections with her debut EP, ‘i woke up one night.’ Amongst the seven introspective pop writings, Ananya offers an ode to her idol in the form of a heartfelt ballad, ‘macy gray.’

Having grown up in Zimbabwe, surrounded by women, Ananya learned the value of self-confidence and creative expression that essentially laid the foundation for her musical journey. Currently based in London, she builds on advocacy for truth and authentic contemplative songwriting, intending “to connect, console, and uplift” her listeners.

Ananya’s latest single, ‘macy gray’ resembles the honesty and storytelling of the hitmaker Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘driver’s license,’ with catchy punch lines and unravelling of the profound emotional baggage. Since her 2019 debut single, ‘Aftertaste,’ Ananya has established herself with each track, polishing her sound and intricate work with words.

Outside of her musical arena, Ananya co-founded The Nani Wellness Project, which addresses the mental health crisis in her home country, Zimbabwe. For Noctis, she shares what initiatives are already in the works and their impact on the nation’s well-being – “it’s about helping others feel less alone.”

How was it growing up in Zimbabwe and what were the main music influences you picked up from your parents?

Growing up in Zimbabwe was magical—a childhood spent outdoors in the sun, exploring creativity with my three siblings. Surrounded by inspiring women, I learned the value of self-confidence and creative expression. My childhood laid the foundation for my musical journey. There were always different music genres coming from the living room, but to name a few influences – Katie Melua, Whitney Houston, Bryan Adams, and Macy Gray.

How was the process of your relocation to London?

It’s been unbelievable so far and I feel incredibly lucky to be here. I’m still getting used to the weather, but I love this city’s energy.

Were you always drawn to music and expressing your feelings via songwriting?

Absolutely! Music has this incredible ability to transport me back to specific moments or emotions, and I cherish that. Recognizing this influence, I’ve leaned on music to help me articulate those very feelings too.

Where did you film your new visuals for ‘macy gray’?

The lyric video was filmed in Hyde Park. My younger sister, Bella, filmed this lyric video in one take.

Could you elaborate on the influence and connection you feel to Macy Gray?

Macy Gray has been a huge inspiration since I first heard her song “I Try.” I remember watching that music video and wishing I could be just like her. I practiced that song daily to perform it for my mom on Mother’s Day. “I Try” remains one of my all-time favorites.

What was your thought process like going into the recording of your debut EP? Did you feel any pressure to release a project that will significantly define your artistic identity?

Above everything else, my priority was to create music that resonated with my truth and authenticity. Knowing that my experiences are shared by others, I aimed to express them sincerely, with the hope of offering company to anyone facing similar challenges. This has always been the power of music for me: to connect, console, and uplift those who listen.

What is the meaning behind the title ‘i woke up one night’?

I felt it was essential to capture the essence of being a night owl, where much of my creativity takes flight. Every track is linked with my nighttime’s, some drawing inspiration from dreams or nightmares, and others sparked by late-night contemplation and restless sleep. Each song is a reflection of this mysterious inspiration that unfolds when the world is sleeping.

What sort of emotions were you working through on this project?

Heartbreak, resolution, regret, empowerment, acceptance

What did you learn about yourself in the process?

How cool it is to collaborate with others—a new experience for me, and I’m incredibly grateful for it. I’ve also discovered that while writing vulnerable songs can be tough, it’s immensely rewarding in the end. Surprisingly, the songs I’ve hesitated to release are often the ones listeners connect with the most!

You co-founded The Nani Wellness Project that addresses the mental health crisis in Zimbabwe, what specific initiative were you already able to implement?

We have an app that provides free mental healthcare to Zimbabweans, and it’s run totally by volunteers. Our app has played a crucial role in raising awareness and promoting the importance of seeking help when necessary.

What inspired you to advocate for better mental health?

Mental health holds immense importance in my life. Throughout my teenage and young adult years, I navigated my own mental health struggles. Inspirational role models showed me the importance of seeking help. Speaking openly about mental health isn’t just about honesty; it’s mostly about helping others feel less alone.

What else do you have in store for this year?

Hopefully more music videos and live performances!

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Words: Karolina Kramplova