Brian Jenkins: Alright, so you can start by telling us your name, where you’re from, and what you do.
Aria Wunderland: So my name’s Aria, I’m originally from New York, but raised in New Jersey, and I’m a singer-songwriter.
BJ: What part of New York are you from specifically?
AW: I was born in Washington Heights, and I lived there until I was 10. Then I moved to New Jersey, and now I’m living in Brooklyn in Park Slope.
BJ: When did you decide that you were going to pursue music as a career rather than just songwriting?
AW: I started off first doing music as a career. I was first a piano player – I grew up with a piano at home, and I was always drawn to it. I started really gravitating towards classical music, and I started taking piano lessons. It all started with the piano. Then I started to develop a voice. I started singing, and I realized, “Wow, I can actually create something.” Very early on, I started writing – I would say 11, 10 [years old]. Then the older I got, the better I got, the more I thought, “I can do this. I can actually release my own music.” There was a time in the music industry that I felt that the style of music that I do wasn’t really relevant. That’s when I started shifting more towards writing for others. I just felt like there wasn’t a place for me. But so much has changed now, with all the platforms that service independent artists, that I feel now I can do both equally, confidently.
BJ: So I know you wrote for JLo, earlier in your career. What were you able to take away from that, and how was it?
AW: That was a really fun experience, actually. I was writing with some of my buddies in L.A., and originally, I wasn’t really intended to write on this track, but it was a last-minute thing. My producer said, “Hey, I have this track, and we’re going to present it to JLo. Will you write on it?” So I took it home, I started it. I was so inspired. It came so easily. The next day, I met up with my buddy. We polished it up, did the vocals. He helped me finish it. Then she loved it. She recorded the song. It was the only song I’ve written with the artist specifically in mind. Usually when I write, I try to just write whatever’s good and find a home for it. This, I can honestly say I wrote it specifically thinking about JLo.
BJ: What song was it specifically?
AW: It’s called “Loving Each Other.” She recorded it, but she hasn’t yet released it. But it was still a great experience. That’s the only bad part – she never released it.
BJ: But it’s still there. Still credibility.
AW: Yeah, I never would speak about that until one of the other publicists was like, “You should! It’s still a great thing!” The fact that she chose it and recorded it.
BJ: That’s always in the artist catalog regardless.
AW: Yeah! It’s called “Loving Each Other.”
BJ: Being from New York, how do you separate yourself from some of the other artists who stay here as well?
AW: I’ve always been a little bit left because I’ve never stuck to one genre. I find that a lot of my very talented colleagues tend to be a little more specific. I have some girlfriends that are R&B singers and some friends that are pop singers. I always took a very “I’m gonna take everything that influenced me” type of approach, which, again, is why I felt like there wasn’t a place for me for so long. I think, in general, I already do something different because of that. I have elements of pop, I have elements of alternative and some trap. I really try to just create my own genre.
BJ: So a song that stands out to me, personally, is “Coup d'Etat.” And I know there’s a deeper meaning behind that song. Would you care to explain that a little bit?
AW: Yes! I love that you love that one. “Coup d'État,” for those who don’t know, is a French word for overthrowing a government. And that song was when Donald Trump was only elected to run for president. I don’t know. I think it was a little bit disturbing for a lot of my friends and I, creatives. And I was in the studio with my producer, and I was like, “You know what, I want to write a song called ‘Coup-d’etat.’” It started with the title. And we were listening to A Tribe Called Quest that night, and Wu Tang. We were getting inspired, you know? I don’t know if you could hear that in the song. There was a lot of that going on, and that just drove just drove the whole night. That inspiration early in the session put us in a frame of mind. Yeah, it’s just about the government, and it’s about specifically feeling like we could all, together, overthrow government. Obviously that’s a lot harder to do than it is to just say it. But I feel like in art, you can be a little bit more free and just dream. So it’s just about that, about overthrowing government.
BJ: So does any of your Dominican or Hungarian background influence your music?
AW: I would say maybe my Dominican side. I was raised with my mom mainly, and I was exposed to Dominican music over Hungarian – I don’t actually know Hungarian music that well. Maybe it’s folky. I’m not familiar with that. But the Dominican music, like Bachata and Merengue, a lot of it is drum-based. I’m always drawn to music producers that are heavy into drums, which is why Ikenna and Lark – they’re both Nigerian – I connect with them. They’re very drum-oriented, and that’s very Dominican. In fact, Dominican music’s roots come from Africa. All of that music – Merengue, Bachata – all comes from Africa. The drums. I never actually thought about it until you asked me that question today, but if anything, that’s probably why I connect with drums so much.
BJ: That makes a lot of sense. I’m glad you realized that just now.
AW: Yeah, thank you.
BJ: I know you had appearances at the American Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards last year. What was that experience like?
AW: That was amazing, honestly. What was really cool to experience was the positivity. You would think in a place where people are getting nominated, and some are winning, and some are losing, the energy would be tense, but there’s so much love in the air in these award shows. You see even when people don’t win, it’s so much love for the other people that do win. Such a sense of community. I’ll say that both times – both at the AMAs and the Billboard Awards – I felt very proud to be part of the community. I’m like, “Wow, it’s such a great world.”
BJ: Like more of a comradery.
AW: Yeah, that’s what it is. A lot of comradery, a lot of love, you know? And then of course, at the AMAs, I saw Christina Aguilera do her Whitney [Houston] tribute.
BJ: Oh yeah.
AW: That was amazing. I was about to cry the whole time. She did really good.
BJ: So how would you describe your latest single, “Super Fly”?
AW: “Super Fly” is alternative-pop with some urban and trap influences. Again, that fusion that I was telling you about. I majored in philosophy for college – undergrad – and I’ve always loved philosophy and philosophical literature. There’s a book called The Metamorphosis. Some of us read it in high school. It’s by Franz Kafka. A guy wakes up one day, and he’s a bug. The whole time you’re reading the book, you’re just like, “Is he really a bug, or is this just imagery? Is it a metaphor?” There’s so much interpretation throughout the whole book, but the visual always stuck with me, like this man being a bug, so I decided to play on words: “super fly” meaning the guy is dope and cool, but he’s also a bug.
BJ: Yeah, he’s buggin’.
AW: Yeah, exactly.
BJ: So what’s the timeline on an Aria Wunderland project?
AW: Like a song or the EP?
BJ: An EP, mixtape, anything like that.
AW: When is it coming out?
BJ: Give us an idea.
AW: So that’s a tough one. Right when I think I’m done, a new song happens, and I’m like, “I wanna include this one on there too.” Let’s just say I’m polishing up a lot of what’s already been written. By that I mean I’m finishing up some last-minute harmonies and vocals. Really getting the sound right, the mix right. I just sent one out for master last week. It’s getting there. It’s gonna be this year, 2018.