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Kiara Rodrigues: A rising voice in Australian Country Music

So how does someone with an Indian background get into country music?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Take me back to when we were just 17

We ruled the world, we knew who we were gonna be

And then life came along and killed our teenage dream

Singer-songwriter Kiara Rodrigues claims she wrote this charting song as she took stock of her life in pandemic-caused isolation, wondering what a high school reunion would look like for her, ten years on.

She can rest assured, however, that her own teenage dreams are well and truly realised.

As a first-gen Indian-Australian, she is breaking stereotypes and making waves in the Australian country music scene.

South Asian country music star
Source: Supplied

Singing since she was nine years old Kiara has won several awards, including “Female Rising Star” at Southern Stars Australian Independent Country Music Awards; the Tamworth Songwriter’s Association Comedy Song of the Year (for Mr. Vanity), and Triple World Champion (Country, Gospel, Rock) at the ‘World Championships of Performing Arts’ in Hollywood.

She has also made her mark on the charts, with three singles debuting in the top five of the Australian Country iTunes Charts; has sung at the world-renowned Tootsies in Nashville, and performed the national anthem at NRL games.

“People often wonder how someone with an Indian background gets into country music,” Kiara tells Indian Link. “The stereotype is often blonde hair, cowboy boots and cowgirl dress! But my parents grew up on all these songs that they didn’t necessarily know were country. As a result, I’ve ended up listening to those songs and having that influence in what I do now.”

Kiara’s parents immigrated to Australia in 1994 from Mumbai, arriving in Melbourne and then moving to North Queensland. Today the 27-year-old is based in Sydney, and works as a speech pathologist when she’s not singing.

Influenced by country music, the stage beckoned from a young age, with appearances on Channel Ten’s Young Talent Time and X Factor.

Classic country artists such as Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton heavily influence Kiara’s music. She is also inspired by more contemporary country artists such as Kacey Musgraves and Ashley McBryde.

Kiara Rodrigues country music star
Source: Supplied

“What all of those artists have in common is their ability to tell stories,” Kiara muses.

It’s no surprise to see this reflected in her own work. She writes in High School Reunion:

Shelly’s on her second husband

Betty’s on her second kid,

and Mary’s on her second shot a whiskey

just to get through this

 

Or again, in her latest single Message in a Bottle

Gonna drink you right out off my mind

When the bottle’s empty I feel empty too

Her songwriting just as accomplished as her vocal prowess, Rodrigues hopes listeners will take away the stories behind her music and relate to them.

“The stories are often my own experiences, or the experiences of other people around me. My hope is that listeners can find something that they relate to. Being able to relate to others through your work is what it’s all about.”

Explaining her creative process, Kiara reveals, “I start with an idea and then put a unique spin on it, often finding inspiration between my laptop, piano, and guitar.”

She’s currently writing new music for an EP to be released shortly.

As a person of colour in Australia, Kiara Rodrigues acknowledges that she has faced challenges and barriers in the country’s music industry. “You’re often striving against Western beauty standards of what a singer looks like, what a popstar looks like, and what a country singer looks like. And I think it’s really great to have that opportunity to be able to change and challenge those expectations of what a country singer in Australia looks like.”

South Asian country music singer
Source: Supplied

Despite the challenges, Kiara Rodrigues sees her role as an opportunity to inspire younger children who look like her to pursue their dreams. “Growing up, I didn’t really have that in Australian country music, but things have now gotten a lot more diverse. So to be able to be that representation for our Indian community in the country music industry and in the wider industry as well, it’s just a real privilege.”

Kiara Rodrigues’ rise to prominence demonstrates that there is room for diversity and different perspectives in Country Music.

Beginning now to see a country music industry that is welcoming and which values diversity, she advises aspiring country singers to “just jump right in.”

“As a person of colour no matter what community you are from, being as visible as you can be, and getting out there, is the best thing you can do. Be seen, and add to the diversity. So my best advice would be, be proud of your heritage, and just do it!”

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