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Interview: Anthony Arya on Blues Roots, Songwriting, and Upcoming Album

Based in sunny Santa Cruz, California, Anthony Arya is the latest folk rock singer-songwriter and frontman on the rise. The artist has honed his funky, bluesy, feel-good sound over the years. An experienced performer, Arya has hundreds of live shows and three studio albums under his belt.

In fall of 2018, Arya appeared as a contestant on Season 15 of NBC's The Voice, where he captured the hearts and ears not only of the judges, but also of fans across America. Singles "Slow Train" and "Blues By Midnight" built anticipation for the singer-songwriter's debut album, Going to California (released later that year). Sophomore album The Road came in 2020, taking the form of folksy, poignant odes to love, adventure, and socio-political awareness. 2022 brought fans Circles & the Flames, 11 groove-filled tracks highlighting Arya's signature guitar chops and emotive vocals. In addition to his solo project, the artist performs regularly with the Anthony Arya Band.

We spoke with Anthony Arya about his blues rock roots, songwriting process, and upcoming fourth album. Read the full interview below and check out his discography. Let us know what you think.


How did you get started in music?

I had always had a lot of music growing up around me. I was born in San Francisco and grew up around the Bay Area. There’s a really amazing blues scene there, particularly in North Beach, the Italian part of town. I grew up knowing a lot of the local blues musicians because my mom was a big blues fan, but also just hearing a lot of the great music coming out of that scene. Artists like Tommy Castro and Harvey Mandel were the genesis of my seeing performances and hearing the blues scene where I lived.

I started playing the guitar and I always wanted to sing and play at the same time. I was just naturally learning songs and going through school, joining programs that could get me performing. I started writing my own songs when I was about 14, so that’s when I really started playing out with my original music.

How have your musical influences evolved over time?

With my songwriting, I’ve been amassing a big pool of influences and then using all of them to write songs. Even though today’s Spotify and other streaming services are very niche-oriented, there’s still a big question of what genre or small section of the music industry an artist fits into. I’ve always admired songwriters that write different styles and felt inclined to do so myself. Like I mentioned, I listened to a lot of blues early on, but then I got into folk singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, and Paul Simon.

At the same time, I listen to modern artists like KALEO, Shakey Graves, and Houndmouth. I’m informed by all that and also the classics like the Stones and Led Zeppelin. I’ve always listened to and played a lot of different things, including jazz. I like to tap into different things for each song.

"I’ve always admired songwriters that write different styles and felt inclined to do so myself."

Tell us about your songwriting process.

I’ve always kept a little journal of notes and ideas. I call ‘em lyric ideas, but they can be anything from a whole song to just a couple of stanzas or words. I keep that in my back pocket, if you will. I’m always just fiddling around on my guitar, so the lyrics seep into a chord progression or even an idea of a story I want to tell. From there, the song sort of takes shape. There’s not a set formula, but I liked to have that basis of ideas that I’ve jotted down to keep in the back of my head while I play guitar.

What are you working on now?

I put out my third original album, Circle & the Flames, last may, and I have about 10 to 15 new songs that I’ve written and played live since then. I play about a hundred shows a year in the Bay Area and I’m the front man for the Anthony Arya Band, but I also play solo. All these songs that are new since the third album are destined for a fourth album one of these days. That’s a new project on the horizon once I graduate from college and the start of being a musician full-time. I’m excited for that fourth album and new batch of tunes.

What’s the most recent song you’ve written (released or unreleased)?

We got a lot of rain this year in California, especially on campus at Stanford. I was sitting by the lake that has been dried out for like 10 years. It’s the first time it’s been filled up again in a long time, so I wrote a song a little while ago called “Milk and Honey”. It’s about the good and bad times, and it just uses the metaphor of the rain pouring and a river overflowing to talk about the heart.

What’s your favorite show you’ve ever played?

It’s hard to pick just one… I’ve played at a lot of exciting and unique venues. When I was 15, I was on The Voice. That was certainly a thrill. I was pretty young and that whole show has an audience of about 10 million or something crazy like that. The sound stage in LA was famed and well-known. I grew up watching the show, so it was surreal for me to be a part of it. I’ve also been lucky enough to play some of the festivals I grew up going to in the Bay Area. Those are more sentimental for me and are very meaningful shows.

Share about your upcoming fourth album. Does it have an overall theme or is each song an individual story?

All three of my previous albums have had a central theme to them. My first LP was Going to California and I was fascinated with these stories of generations of people coming out to California to chase their dreams. The Road was the second album, which was all about traveling. Circles & the Flames was about the people in our lives that circle back to us and the flames that shine bright or leave a mark. I think that with this next album, I’ve got a lot of singles, so it’ll naturally be more different concepts put together. Since the first three albums were more conceptual in their entirety, it would be nice to have one that can be streamed more like a series of singles with their own stories.

"Since the first three albums were more conceptual in their entirety, it would be nice to have one that can be streamed more like a series of singles with their own stories."

Do you have a set release date for the project yet?

I want to start recording by the end of this year or fall of next year, so it could probably come out early in the next year. There’s no definitive time yet, but it’s definitely on the horizon.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or your music?

I’m hoping to reach back to some of the roots that inspired me in writing these songs while also joining a group of new-age artists doing cool things. I’ve always been a fan of people like Jack White, who are involved in numerous projects at once while taking rock into a new avenue. Folk rock is at the center of my music, but I’m excited to explore the various ins, outs, and edges of the genres.

Who are three more artists you think would be a good fit for Enharmonic Magazine?

I love Shakey Graves. He’s definitely made a name from himself and I’m actually going up to Oregon and playing the same bill opening up for him. There’s also an all-female band called Wet Leg, who are pretty big now and they’re dope. Finally, Rayland Baxter is at a cool edge of rock, alt rock, and indie singer-songwriter stuff.



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