If you listen to some early works of successful artists such as Billie Eilish or Stevie Wonder, despite it perhaps being much different from their later works, you can still recognize why they gained such huge success in the first place. It is that star power, a glow that radiates from them and never fades. One can recognize this same star power when meeting with Vaishalini Sitaraman, also known as her stage name, Vaishalini.
Vaishalini is also a second-year student at Arizona State University majoring in secondary english education and minoring in musical theater and fashion. If that did not already sound like she has a lot on her plate, in addition to school, she is working towards her dreams of being an independent music artist.
From growing up listening to jazz and soul music, to training in Indian classical music in her youth and getting involved in musical theater in high school, Vaishalini has been surrounded by music for as long as she can remember.
It was not until a little later in her life that she became interested in the pop and rhythm and blues genres, the genres she currently operates within.
“I think [R&B and pop] is really lyrically complex. I think they both use very interesting production styles; there’s a lot of cool techniques that you can just keep learning from. As you listen to those kinds of styles of music you’ll find that they’re just such vast genres that you can really explore,” Vaishalini said.
Vaishalini has expressed that as a musician she has a wide array of people that inspire her including Christina Aguilera, Amy Winehouse and most prominently Victoria Monét and Sara Bareilles.
“I really love [Victoria Monét and Sara Bareilles’] writing styles because it’s very literal and metaphorical at the same time,” Vaishalini said.
In addition to these stars, Vaishalini cites her vocal inspiration coming from classic powerhouses like Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston.
“I love listening to the classic soul and R&B artists because they have such power in their voices, and I think being inspired by their vocal styling is what is teaching me how to be a powerful singer,” Vaishalini said.
On Oct. 30, 2020, Vaishalini released her most recent single, “Watch Your Step.” Vip Sitaraman, Vaishalini’s brother and producer, created most of the track years ago.
When the siblings agreed to begin to embark on this career together, they looked at old music they had created from their youth, and when they stumbled upon the “Watch Your Step” track, it stuck out.
“I wanted to revisit this song particularly because it's such an original type of sound; I've never heard anything like it, and it's just been very special to me,” Vaishalini said.
The song is written in the perspective of a woman jaded by her lover, with him finally crossing a line. No longer letting him walk all over her, she tells him, “You better watch your step.”
Her strong vocals are fully on display as well as a songwriting style reminiscent of the literal and metaphorical technique she has cited from the musicians that have influenced her.
Toby Yatso, a lecturer in musical theatre and performance at Arizona State University, and former teacher of Vaishalini was fond of his former student. When asked, Yatso had zero hesitation in speaking very highly of Vaishalini as a student and musician. He verbalized sentiments that were demonstrated heavily in “Watch Your Step.”
“Her output as a recording artist — I'm fascinated by it because it's very layered. You can hear there's a lot going on in it, and I feel like that reflects [Vaishalini] because she's always looking at things from multi-facets, and I feel like she has a layered approach to life,” Yatso explains.
Yatso further delved into who Vaishalini is as a student and musician.
“Just a sense of style and rhythm and flair ... exudes from [Vaishalini]. Though she is so young, it's incredible because she brings a sense of experience and accomplishment with her even though she's got her whole life ahead of her. You can definitely tell how much she’s immersed herself in it,” Yatso gushed.
When Vaishalini was asked about what her goal was in making music, she spoke briefly about discovering a new sound but prioritized her goals in how she wants her music to make people feel.
“I want to make people feel happy and powerful and like they can take on the world, especially if they don't feel like they can at the moment,” Vaishalini said.
If you are ready to hear more from Vaishalini, do not fear; “Watch Your Step” will not be the last of her. Vaishalini has more upcoming singles in the works and eventually a release of an EP planned.
“My upcoming EP is definitely a huge exploration of my sound. It kind of encompasses a lot of styles of R&B and pop,” Vaishalini said. “So there's a lot coming, there's a lot on the way.”
Vaishalini can be found on social media and her newest single, “Watch Your Step,” as well as her other music can be found on various streaming platforms, all linked on her website.
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