For this edition of the Artist Interview Series, The Cultural Reset's Nick Lee and Shay Ervin sat down with 15-year-old pop singer Hitha to discuss her experience in the music industry as a young woman of color. From making music during quarantine to shifting the perception of the modern pop artist, Hitha discusses the purpose of her work and lays out her thoughts about inclusion in the music industry.
Click here to listen to Hitha's FULL INTERVIEW
Nick Lee: Hello, everyone. And thank you for tuning in to The Cultural Reset. Welcome, welcome. Welcome. We are here with an incredible artist, if you'd like to introduce yourself!
Hitha: Hi, my name is Hitha. I'm 15 years old, and I love to sing and write.
Shay Ervin: Awesome. And what are your pronouns?
N: Per usual, this is Nick Lee and Shannon, Creator and Assistant Director. And we’re just hopping on to do our usual stuff! Hitha, we wanted to start things off with a standard question that we ask all of our artists when they come on these interviews. And that's where and when did you get your start? You're 15 years old. And the feats that you've accomplished are incredible. You've been featured in Hollywood Weekly, your single Independent has ended up on the Top 40. And you're only 15 years old. So how did you get your start? Where did you get to start? When did you get your start?
H: Okay, so I actually started singing when I was four years old. And I was introduced to this art by my grandmother. And I actually started with Indian classical music. And it allowed me to develop this base where I could experiment with other kinds of music. And I found pop and I was like, “Okay, this is fine. I'll just stay here for a while.” So I'm still here.
S: I love that. What do you feel like your space was like coming up in the music industry? Have your peers also been influenced by the music industry? I know that you're from California. What we have seen is that a lot of artists do come out of California, because it's kind of part of the lifestyle. So would you say that, that has influenced your passion, your drive, your ability, and the people that support you in this art?
H: Definitely, music is a big part of everybody's life, no matter where they are from. And that's part of the reason why I love it. Because even if you don't understand the words that are coming from a song, you can still understand what it's trying to say just through the emotion of it. But I'm from the Bay Area, and there's always music playing somewhere. And particularly, my city is very diverse culturally. So I also get to experience the music of other nations. So all of that combined, it's just, it's like the hub of inspiration here.
N: What artists in particular influence your sound would you say? Who are your top influences?
H: Oh, my gosh! It's always changing. I mean, if I pull up my Spotify right now, they're like, 100. When I started, it was Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift. But as I've grown, my music taste has grown and changed. Now it's more like Bea Miller. I like listening to Jeremy Zucker. Billie Eilish definitely had a couple good songs!
S: We were also watching some of your music videos beforehand, and you have some pretty awesome visuals in there. How did those come about? Have you worked with different people? Is that one person that you've worked with?
H: Okay so the first every song I released was Standing Up With Pride, and for that one, the visuals were not the best. And so then we hired some actual visual artists and directors and we went to Thailand. We went for Thanksgiving break and these directors were from India. So we met in Thailand. And we recorded there. And it was so much fun. There's a scene of me on a speedboat and I was crying because it was the happiest time and I felt so free. So definitely a 10 out of 10 experience.
N: Oh my God, that sounds so serene!
N: Could you talk to us about your artistry as a whole? I know that you have a lot of really big, strong messages in your music and your lyrics. What would you say is your mission with your art? And what would you say is the emotion that inspires it?
H: It’s kind of similar to you guys! It's to represent the people, the youth and people of color, and also to inspire everybody. Because, right now, we are in some dark times. And so everyone needs that little nudge to keep going. And so I kind of do that. Because my music is not only to inspire all the listeners, it's a journal entry to inspire myself. And so I feel like it's kind of authentic in that department.
S: I think that specifically your video for We Will Last was very inspirational to your mission. It was showing all different people from all different walks of life, and I know that this one was released four days ago, It definitely symbolizes a sense of community and what everyone is being nostalgic for right now. Which is just being able to hang out with friends and laugh casually without wearing masks. This came out four days ago. So how have you been using your music to keep going during these times?
H: So I actually wrote the song in June, when we were in lockdown. So it was from the center of all of the separation and stuff. But that song, it's to remind everyone that we will last even through this dark time. As I was saying before, we all just want to hang out again, without masks and be able to travel and it's hard, especially now, because we're so close. Close, but so far away. We don't know yet. But there's that feeling that its about to come. So everyone's continuously inching closer.
S: I think it might be that the new year is almost here. And there's always a sense of new beginnings with the new year. But even though the year changes, that doesn't mean that COVID listens to that.
H: Also, everyone wants to get out of 2020 as fast as possible.
N: Yeah we’re tired…
H: Yeah so I just kind of wanted to get that like “we will last until we don't have to stay by ourselves.” And until we can interact with people safely.
N: What about this year has influenced you to write the songs that you're writing right now? Is there something in particular that happened this year to you personally, or maybe just in general, in terms of the state of the world right now that particularly inspires you to do the music you're doing?
H: This year was a dark year for me. I'm sure it was for many people. But when lockdown first started, it was gloomy outside and cold. It wasn’t the best time to be a teenager, especially because, you know/
S: Also school, I'm sure that was all thrown off.
H: It was a headache to figure out what was going on. I wasn't in the best place and to get myself out of there, I started to write more. And I realized that the stuff that I wrote down was kind of inspirational. And singing was always just a way for me to release pent up emotions and aggression and the feeling of being trapped inside and not being able to go out for that many months. It was torture for some of us, so that process of writing down and figuring out what I would want to do with all the songs, words, lyrics and melodies, it was kind of a way to get rid of that.
S: It’s a heavy topic and really hard to digest. You know, I'm almost 24. And it's hard for me to handle it, it's hard for adults to handle it. But the fact that you're a teenager and you are facing this and going through this...I know that being a youth during this time, there's a sense of responsibility, to be aware of the issues going on, because there is so much weight being put on youth today to fix the issues of the world. So I mean, even outside of your art, even outside of music, is this something that you see in all of your peers? Is this something that you're experiencing? And what is that like?
H: Yeah, we as human beings definitely depend on human interaction. And with the pressure of, as you said, fixing all of these problems, a lot of times our emotions are undermined because of our age. And so all of these, layers of problems in our heads...it's really hard. So we just have to stay strong, until we can let go...until we can come together again and celebrate us being able to survive all this and still feel happy and feel love and just joy in general. It's just hard to feel the good during these dark times.
N: I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to how people in Gen Z...our emotions are often completely invalidated because we're young.
Photo: "Hitha-We Will Last"
"...one thing I realized, with all the books I read, and everything from the past is like, when change starts, you need to really work hard to keep it going..."
N:...and that is a really big deal. And I think the situation that we're in, in terms of activism, and everything else going on, has really shown people what we can do. I think we've really proved ourselves with the things that we care about. I think that you've really proved that in your works as well. Every single song that you've written has some sort of depth, and has a lot of character, and it really relates to what's happening at this time. And I just wanted to say that I really appreciate that from your stuff in general.
H: Like you were saying, older generations tend to undermine what we're feeling, but I don't think they really realize that. When we were young, we got to see everything going on around us because of social media and the internet. And that itself allowed us to mature much faster. We have to deal with world issues and not just drama and friends. And a lot of people don't realize that. So a lot of people don't realize that our problems and our emotions and feelings are similar to that of adults, or older generations, because we know what's going on around the world.
N: Absolutely. And we know that you have this upcoming album that you're coming out with called “We Are Who We Are”. Since we're talking about the content of your songs and how relevant they are. Can you talk to us a little bit about the thought behind this album and what it may contain thematically?
H: We Are Who We Are is a song and I named the album that. When we were in lockdown, my mom and I were talking and I was feeling depressed and really insecure. And I had some emotional baggage that I needed to let go. So we were talking and I'm lucky because I can talk to my mother about that...a lot of people don't have that possibility. So we were talking and she was like, “Hitha, what are you gonna do about it? I mean, you're born. You have all of these things. And you don't have everything in the entire world, but you should accept who you are already. You were born this way, because you can't be someone else. That someone else has already been taken.”
H: Right? And I was like, “Oh my god, you're right.” She was like “we are who we are, we just need to accept that and grow with it.” And I was like, “Oh my god, I'm writing this.” So I wrote it down. And the song specifically is about putting aside the color of the skin, who we love, how much money our families make, where we're from, all of that...putting that aside, we're all human. We are all the same species. So why can't we just accept each other? I mean, we all have our own ability to grow and to learn. Why do we hate because of skin? Or because of the people we love? That shouldn't be a part that defines who we are as people.
S: The content of ones character, yes. I have heard that question over and over and over again, “Why is it that this is the basis that we are judged on?” And it is because, we are built on a system that is geared for the success of a certain demographic and it's definitely been brought to light, especially this year. You know how much the system is set up for the wealthy, the white, and the educated. It's not geared to support everyone, even though we are all humans. And the minor things that make us different are irrelevant.
H: Sometimes I wish there was just a restart button. And the younger generation just moved on.
S: Hey! Yeah! That’s us! I think that this year, for better or for worse, is that reset button? I think this is the closest we're gonna get.
H: So much change is happening right now. But one thing I realized, with all the books I read, and everything from the past is like, when change starts, you need to really work hard to keep it going. Because it is stopped almost immediately, most of the time. The acceptance that's going on right now is incredible. We're not all the way there yet, but we need to keep going. Because if it stops now, it's never going to get to this point again.
N: That's such a good point. Because human beings naturally accept the status quo. We're okay with things as they are and don't like change. And that's why its stopped so quickly. So I think it's such a poignant point that you made. So go on.
H: And I also say that society likes to keep us in boxes. They just keep us in boxes but being able to push aside what society wants...being able to continue our path the way we want, truly shows the strength of who we are.
N: Yes, right. Yes.
S: I think that that's something we're taught at a very young age and we have been on for generations is that “this” is what is expected of you. You will go to school, you will go to college, you'll get a degree, you'll get a job, you'll get married, you'll have kids, you'll live in a house and that is what it is to be human. Like a template. “Check off the boxes once they’re done!
H: Exactly! Yeah. How do you want us to follow that? NO. We all want different things. We all want to pursue different paths. So why make us follow a template? Why put that into our head at a young age and make us think that's the only way to achieve a good life?
N: And I think these things are being overwritten now. I feel like our generation in particular is not going to have to deal with that anymore. We’re that kind of breaking point in history in which we're saying “no, we're gonna be who we are unapologetically and freely.”
H: Yeah! Because of social media. Even though there are some bad things about it. If we can come together, I mean, we have the opportunity to progress and follow this path of change. So, I mean, again, just staying at it and rolling.
S: One part is that the younger generations, we are certainly very willing to change form out of this box, but we are still, surrounded and learning from our parents' generation. We love them tremendously, but they grew up with the mentality of that “box-life”...that template. So what would you say to those who didn’t grow up like us? What message would you want to get across to these generations that haven't had to think outside of the box in this way?
H: Thankfully, my parents are very understanding and open. So I haven't really had that many complications, that I know a lot of people have. And so to the older generations, I would say, we can't live in the past. We can't hold on to what the past looked like, because we're not in the past, we are in the present. And we're waiting for the future. So you can't expect the things from the past to stay, because we grow, technology grows, the world grows. And with that growth, you need to accept.
We are progressing. We are accepting more people. And we are welcoming everyone. And so why is that a bad thing? In the past things changed at some point, and then, little by little people were more accepted. There was a little more freedom and now we're at a stage where we can say, look how much we've improved. So why is that a bad thing? It's not a bad thing. Just be a little more open minded.
S: We can only move forward.
N: Wow. I love that. I also wanted to ask a little bit more about your music as well. I saw another song that you've been teasing on some of your social platforms called Lost. And it was just a snippet that you teased and I really, really loved it. And it got me thinking, what is the song about in particular? And also, when are you releasing it?
H: Okay so, funny story, I wrote that song in gym class in my head. I didn't have a book. I actually was playing football in PE and I was tackled and I bruised my tailbone. It was so painful. But I couldn't play for the next two weeks. So I was forced to just walk around the track and watch everyone else get to play sports. And I just had to be all alone. So I was like, “Okay, you know what? I'm using this time.” So I just looked up at the sky, and I was like, “wow, why is it so big? I’m In a world without love, no one will fight for each other.” Those are the lyrics by the way. So Lost is about everyone just keeping to each other..just staying away from each other. Again, in dividing and putting each other in boxes we are often lost. Because we don't know where, how to progress, or how to move out of these boxes. How to move back into who we want to be. So that's kind of a little bit of what the song is about. And I can't say when it's gonna be released! It’s soon though, it’s the next song!
N: I was hoping! And that's completely fine. We're eager for it. I know your fans are also eager for it. We'll definitely be adding that to our playlist!
Let’s hone our focus onto the music industry in and of itself. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your opinions on it. Is there anything that you would want to change in the industry? Any injustices or insufficiencies that you think you would want to rectify or you would want to see rectified as you continue in your career?
H: Because we're on this road to acceptance. The music industry has a particular view of what a pop star should be like or what a famous artist should be like. Like a huge fan base, an exciting life, always going out and meeting all these people. It's a specific personality that you need to have to become famous in the music industry. And while there's definitely some accepting of people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, I would like to add one more: just accepting people for being more introverted. Because I'm introverted. Sometimes I can talk forever, but also, I like to stay in my room with the door shut listening to music and reading a book. Like I can spend an entire month just doing that and I'll be happy. Just accepting all the different characteristics of people.
N: I think that's such a nice angle too. Because you see these lifestyles on social media, and you have these influencers that become big pop stars, or famous sensations. And they all live this same cookie-cutter lifestyle: they're all wearing the same outfits, and have the same type of makeup on. They're all going to the same beach, and they're all taking the same pictures with the same poses. When the truth of the matter is most people like you, me, and Shay, we're not always about that life. And we can also make art, we can also be creative, but we don't have to fit in like a size zero. Well not me haha. But I'm just saying you don't have to be that same thing. And I think its harmful how we have social media and the music industry constantly projecting that vision of reality towards us.
S: Once again, another box to be put in. A template. “If you want to get to this point, you have to check these boxes, then you'll get there and there's the prize.” But I always like to say that I think normal is boring. And being weird is the best!
H: Yeah. We're all unique. So why do we have to pretend to act like the same?
"...in dividing and putting each other in boxes we are often lost. Because we don't know where, how to progress, or how to move out of these boxes. How to move back into who we want to be..."
N: Absolutely. Just be yourself.
I'm really eager to see where you go. Because I love your mind. I love how incredibly wise you are at such a young age, even though I shouldn't be surprised just because of your age. But you are incredibly wise and have an ethereal presence that radiates in your music as well. So I can tell that you're a deep person; I can tell that you're genuine and that you're authentic. And I really am interested to see where you go. So before we go, this can be kind of a wrap up question: Where do you see yourself in five years? And where do you want to be? When you're as your career goes? growth?
H: Okay, I'll start with a quick little story. So I met with the producer, three years ago. And we were talking and he asked the same question: where do you see yourself in five years? And I said, I want to inspire people. And he gave me that look like “THAT's really what you want to do?” And then later, he walked out. And then the A&R lady, she was like, you were supposed to say, I want to get a Grammy.
N: Oh my God.
H: And I was like...what do you mean? I mean, yeah, I guess. But my main goal is to inspire people to bring a smile to their face...to make them realize that there's so much to live for. There's so much too. There's so many people to love. There's so many times you can be happy, I want to inspire people. That's what I want to do with my music. And she's like, “Yeah, but producers don't want to hear that.”
And I was like, great. I, that's what I want to do. If they are not fine with it. That's their problem. So again, in five years, I just want to keep inspiring people to keep doing what I love, which is making music writing filling all my books with journal entries and songs. And you know, having fun while doing it because I don't want to live a boring life.
S: Agreed 100%. Is there anyone that you feel like has represented you well, or your peers that you would want to give a shout out to?
H: Not yet. My journey has still been alone.
S: Okay, well, we are here with you, and we absolutely support you. And I think that you are a great representation of Gen Z. Keep doing what you're doing, because staying true to yourself is the only way to be and stay weird! Don't put yourself into a box. Don't tell yourself that you got to check those boxes, because you're gonna make it in your own way.
H: Thank you. Yeah.
N: Well, with that being said I just want to thank you for hopping on with us. It's been an incredible interview, we would love to check in with you in the next couple months or whenever you’re available to see how you progress. We know you'll do well. So you know you'll do well. We really look forward to talking with you again.
H: Thank you so much. Bye!
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