Vardaan Arora is a happy man. Which is a stark contrast to the name of his most recent single – Addicted to Sad. But as the New York-based actor and indie pop artiste tells us in this interview, “Writing about the thoughts that bring you down can take their power away”. And while there is no music video out just yet, the image of a strip of tablets that feature smiley faces on them is certainly food for thought. Cue the opening line of the song: ‘I spent years and years in therapy. Could have built myself a pharmacy... ’ In this interview, Arora talks about seeking joy, being vulnerable and making infectious melodies from a space of melancholy. Excerpts:
What have you been up to in the last few years?
I’ve consistently been writing and releasing new music.Mostly singles. I try to be consistent, I can’t take long breaks from writing. Oh, also performing! I recently supported this incredible artiste named Tom Aspaul on his world tour. I joined him in London, Toronto and New York. It was my first time hitting venues outside the US, and it was an inspiring experience. It was exactly what I needed.
Addicted to Sad is a vulnerable work of art. What made you release it and why now?
I try to write most of my songs from a place of vulnerability and honesty. Hopefully people connect to that. Every time I’m feeling down or hopeless, I try to get myself to write about what’s going through my mind in that moment. It’s often hard to push yourself to do that, but it’s rewarding afterwards. We’re living at a time in which people are starting to be more open about the ups and downs of mental health. Everyone
is on their own journey, and it can feel isolating, so I can only hope that truthfully writing about my experiences can help whoever listens to my music feel less alone. As for what made me release it now – I don’t like to sit on songs for too long. I get too excited to share! The sooner it comes out, the better.
I like the line you end on: ‘I’ve been trying to find a better me. But we keep playing hide and seek.’ What helps you seek the light on a dark day?
That’s my favourite line from the whole song. Maybe even my favourite line I’ve ever written! It’s essentially about how I keep trying to do better, but I often fail at my attempts. It breaks my heart, but there’s power in admitting it. For me, when it feels especially dark, I try to remind myself that it’s temporary. Even if it feels like forever, I try to trick myself into thinking that it’s temporary. Sometimes, you have to fake it until you make it. ‘This too shall pass’ is an overused phrase, but I do believe in it.
How has music played a part in the healing process?
Writing about the thoughts in my head that are bringing me down, in my experience, takes the power away from them. They reveal themselves for what they are – just thoughts. Not reality. And in turn, I can create a piece of work that other people going through something similar can relate to. Also, from a production standpoint, I always like my music to feel good. I like infectious melodies and uptempo dance pop production so even if the lyrics are melancholy, the overall mood is elevated.
A song is often more relatable and accessible than a counsellor. What is your message to folks living with grief, depression or the weight of loss right now?
Absolutely. Writing music and consuming it can both be therapeutic. Depression, grief and anxiety all carry an unimaginable weight that can every day, be debilitating. I think taking it one day at a time can put things into perspective. When you find yourself overthinking in broad terms, try to bring yourself back to the present moment. To what is right in front of you. I also like to find joy in the small things. Whether it’s what I’m eating for my next meal, or a friend I’m seeing, or a TV show I’m excited about. Lastly, as alone as you may feel, you aren’t. You are stronger than your struggles, and you will beat them.
What is next for you?
I have a few more songs coming out later this year. They’re totally different from anything I’ve ever put out before. I wrote a song a few months ago that definitely has a more desi inspired sound, melodically. Maybe even a little Hindi. It’s been fun to play with that. I just want to experiment with new sounds and still sound authentic to myself. I’m excited for you all to hear what’s coming!
Any plans to perform in India this year?
I try to visit as much as I can, my whole family is in Delhi. Which is also why I’d love to perform there. It’s been on my bucket list for a while, so it’s just a matter of finding the right venue.
(Addicted to Sad is streaming on music platforms)