What took you so long to come to India?
(Laughs) I always had one wish.. to record an album in India. I had come to perform here five-six years ago but the music in India was different at that time. Today, interesting things are happening musically, so I’m here to rock ‘n’ roll.
What made you want to collaborate with Sonu Niigaam?
I have always listened to his songs and if you had to collaborate with any singer from India, well, he’s the obvious choice.. because he’s so talented. When he walks into a room, by looking at him, you can tell he’s a ‘someone’. I’m honoured to be singing with him.
Who are the other Bollywood musicians you are looking to work with?
(Gushes) Oh it’s my dream to work with A R Rahman.. I’ve loved his music ever since Bombay came out. I’ve also met Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and songs may happen soon.
Having grown up in the U S and U K, how good is your Hindi?
(Smiles) I’ve grown up listening to Bollywood music. My father’s a singer too, and he lived on a musical diet of Rafiji and Lataji. Though I’m a Punjabi girl, I’ve always been more comfortable with Hindi.
What were your music influences while growing up?
Till I was 11-12, I listened to a lot of old Hindi songs. From the Maine Pyaar Kiya era onwards, I started listening to the newer stuff. Radio was always around so I got influenced by Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and even hip-hop music.
You sang for the Asian Underground in U K. How did you end up in hip-hop music from there?
To be honest, I was never really a ‘part’ of that scene. I just happened to be there when it was booming. I was 18 then and sang some very Hindi, very Bollywood numbers. (Laughs) But now I’m more of a woman than a girl, so I know that hip-hop comes more naturally to me. It’s very glamorous and sexy music, so I’m very attracted to it.
Was it easy to blend your Hindi music influenced with R ‘n’ B music?
Yeah, because we never forced the two styles together. You just know when Hindi would sound better on a track, than English. Even my latest single, Show it off, has sultry Hindi lines, big radio effects to add to the Bollywood bit, and then there’s an R ‘n’ B singing hook. Both styles gel naturally.
You work closely with Timbaland. Does he know much about Bollywood music?
Oh yeah! He hasn’t just jumped into it.. he was making Bollywood-based music 15 years ago. In his studio, he has piles and piles of old Bollywood records from the R D Burman and Kalyanji-Anandji era. In fact, I saw the CD of Fanaa at his studio and asked him if he liked it. And he said ‘No, I like the older stuff better.’ He’s into Asha Bhosle and really, really respects Indian music.
How did you first get associated with him?
I signed up with an artiste management firm, which also manages Jim Beanz, who writes and produces most of Timbaland’s projects. I met him and he introduced me to Timbaland.. and I played 6-7 demos for him. Within the next 3-4 days, he asked me to sing for him!
So he’s featuring in your new album Show It Off?
Yeah, I work closely with him now. Whenever he’s on a project, he’ll get me involved.. like I feature in Jamie Foxx’s album now. It’s a friendly set-up.. they could be recording, and I could walk in their sessions and sing a line, or vice versa.
I’d really like to do some Bollywood projects. I’ve done a lot of mainstream stuff back home, but doing something here would be amazing.