Asian keyboard maestro Hannah Vasanth is one of the UK’s leading session players currently working with Jessie J and recently for Rihanna.
Hannah has previously also toured and played for Anastacia, Sugababes, Jay Sean, Daniel Merriweather & Taio Cruz.
Brit-Asian talks exclusively to Hannah on her career so far…
Tell us about your colourful background?
My parents are both South Indian. I was born and raised in Berlin, lived in India for a few years, then came back to Berlin were I went to an American school. I moved to London 14 years ago to study at the Royal Academy of Music –and here we are now! Goes without saying that my accent is a bit messed up!
Your early music memories…
My dad always blasted Tamil Christian songs and Bollywood music – not cool at 7 in the morning on a Saturday!! But the church I was raised in was very musical – lots of opera singers and professional musicians – and I was always performing in some way or other – jumping in last minute to sing in the choir, play piano, etc.
You’ve toured with some big names, how did you get this type of opportunity?
One of my friends from university (Bob Knight) runs an agency. He put me on my first pop gig about 6 years ago – Charlotte Church. I was nervous as hell – having only really done jazz gigs before. But the gigs went well and the ball started rolling from there.
You’re currently touring with Jessie J, including her recent Glastonbury performance…
Jessie is amazing to work with – she is the real thing! Her vocal ability is mind blowing and her energy on stage is infectious.
Glastonbury was one of the highlights of my Jessie gigs. She had broken her foot a few weeks before, was about to go in for an operation and had not taken any painkillers as they made her nauseous. So naturally we were a bit nervous about the gig and worried for Jessie. But in typical Jessie style – she absolutely smashed it – walking on in crutches and sitting down for the entire gig!! There were some beautiful moments on stage – definitely an unforgettable gig.
You also toured with Rihanna last year; give us an insight into that experience?
Touring with Rihanna was really a phenomenal experience. We were on the road for about 6 months – about 60 of us traveling – 20 trucks and 9 tour buses. As you can imagine, being with people for that amount of time in such close proximity is a really powerful experience – you end up being so close to everyone.
The gigs themselves were crazy – production wise, there was a pink tank specifically built for the tour, dancers on stilts and in the air, moving platforms, lifts, treadmill runways, u name it!
Ri alone had about 7 costume changes. The band are a phenomenal bunch of musicians – and I really feel privileged to have been part of this tour. My favourite moments – Eminem joining us as a surprise guest in LA’s Staples Centre with my grandma in the audience, Ri announcing my birthday on stage at the 02 Arena in London, Miami Madness, visiting Jerusalem, Jetskiing in Greece, ….the list of magical moments is endless!!
I hear you’ve also worked with Jay Sean, what’s Jay like to work with?
Jay is a consummate professional. I adore working with him. It’s just EASY. He comes in, knows exactly what he wants, gets the work done, and commands respect without a trace of arrogance. A great role model and a true gentleman.
I hear you are now working on your own material, describe Hannah Vasanth’s sound?
Phew, that’s hard! I guess my sound is a combination of all my influences – expect a healthy dose of dance floor elements with strong vocal hooks and lots of keyboards obviously!!
As a producer & writer, what song do you wish you penned & produced? That’s a tough one! I love Joni Mitchell’s writing – her lyrics on “Both Sides Now” are mind blowing. Production wise – Quincy Jones. Need I say more?
Any tips for aspiring musicians/producers to make it big in the mainstream music industry?
Don’t try and think of it as making it “big”. Just do what you love and love what you do. Be good at your craft, improve every day. The most successful people are not only talented – they also are the ones that grind and hustle and work on it every day. Nothing is going to come easy, so expect to pay your dues. Don’t sleep on opportunities. Always be humble, polite, friendly and genuine – no one likes working with an a-hole! And remember – everything happens when it is meant to happen.
Check out Hannah at Glastonbury with Jessie J
Hannah on tour with Rihanna
Hannah working with Jay Sean