She's an Indo-Tanzanian-Canadian, Juno-nominated singer, songwriter and producer. She's a social justice advocate and a yoga instructor. She's Alysha Brilla, and her forthcoming third album is called Human. The Globe spoke to the Waterloo-based dynamo this week, about her music, her travels and the lack of female producers in the business.
You recorded your new album at your own studio. Can you tell me about the place?
In the past, I've had a smaller set-up, like a lot of artists do. But I do have a space now where I have room that functions for recording audio, and where I have room for a bit of filming as well. I've done a couple of community projects, recording for an organization called Bridges to Belonging, for instance. We recorded a song with a choir whose members are otherwise abled. I want the space to be a place where media is created for non-profit or special interest projects.
But not as a commercial studio, for other artists?
I'd like to produce other artists as well, on a commercial level. But the space is always here for special projects that don't have budgets.
You've produced this album, as well as your previous two, both of which were nominated for Juno Awards. What's your take on the lack of female producers in the music industry?
My producing wasn't a response to the lack of female producers. I just naturally enjoy audio production. But the role of women in the music industry is certainly in the front for the most part. Not behind, in the technical production or organization. So, I want to encourage other female producers as well. I have plans on offering a production camp here for beginners.
Is production something women aren't interested in, or is it a closed shop?
I think it's a little of column A, and a little of column B. Growing up I definitely had an interest in audio production, but I never thought of it as a viable option. I simply didn't know of any female producers. So, for myself, I had to step out of my comfort zone.
And probably at no one's invitation, right?
Well, I'm lucky I had men in the industry to help me get my foot in the door. But it can certainly feel like a bit of a boys' club. For people to actually believe I'm knowledgeable about production, there's always some sort of demonstration needed.
Following you on social media, I've noticed you've been travelling extensively lately. Where have you been?
I went to India and England and Tanzania. It was partly to explore my roots and partly to play some music. I recently played in Chile at the WOMAD festival, and just a couple of weeks ago I played Midem in France. For me, as an artist who's not No. 1 on the charts, it's pretty amazing to be able to bring my band to these places.
And did the travelling affect the album?
Absolutely, it did. The trip to India and England and Tanzania was a two-month journey. I wrote most of the songs on the album on that trip. I have some sitar and tabla samples. Some of the rhythms come from the things I heard in India.
The writer and lecturer Andrew Solomon said on CNN that it should be mandatory that people spend time in other countries, in order to get a sense of the universality of people. Can you get with that?
For sure. Going to visit other places, you see how similar people's basic needs are. Even from a spiritual perspective, how much of the same thing people ultimately want. I think the thing that ultimately perverts it is the desire for power over other people, or fear of other people. But underlying all of that is that none of us truly know why we're here, even if we have different spiritual interpretations.
Alysha Brilla plays Canada Day at Queen's Park, July 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Aug. 17, she releases her new album at The Painted Lady, 218 Ossington Ave., alyshabrilla.com.