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Courtesy of Tara Priya & Clear Entertainment Music

Tara Priya graduated from Columbia with a degree in economics in two years and is expecting the release of her second album.

Soul singer-songwriter Tara Priya, CC '09, knows a thing or two about hard work.

After spending her college years performing around New York City, graduating from Columbia two years early, and building her own musical career with little structure or guidance along the way, Priya has begun to reap the rewards of her lifelong dedication to music. 

Recorded and written in Los Angeles, Priya's self-titled first full-length album debuted at number two on iTunes Japan, with the album's single, "Run Like Hell," lasting 17 weeks on the Japan Hot 100. In March, Priya filmed her third music video, which has garnered over 300,000 views on YouTube, and she is expecting to release her second album this year. Critics have compared her retro soul sound to Amy Winehouse's, though she names Duffy, Aretha Franklin, and The Temptations among her influences.

But her success has not come easy. 

"I'm glad that I had no idea how hard it was going to be," she said. "But the thing is, with most things that are very difficult, every time you don't give up, you win, because so many people drop out and give up." 

Priya takes pride in being able to attribute much of her success to her own efforts. The times when she did not have friends in Los Angeles, connections in the music industry, or support from her family were formative, she said, allowing her to focus her energy on her career.

"If you're comfortable, there's not a lot to drive you, but when you're uncomfortable, you have a fire under your ass and are more motivated to be successful," Priya said. "The things that make it difficult, like not having friends, are actually blessings because I've seen many artists who get distracted by those things."

Despite her strong focus on her career, Priya doesn't regret her choice to attend Columbia instead of launching directly into the industry. As part of Columbia's Jazz Ensemble, Priya had the opportunity to perform in venues around the city and gain experience that would be invaluable in her solo ventures, she said.

"If I hadn't had performance opportunities and training while I was at Columbia, I could have very easily not had any music in my life beyond what I played for myself," Priya said. 

Her time in college was accelerated, with Priya carefully planning her economics degree to fit in two years, but she still values her academic pursuits. 

"I think that just being an intelligent, well-read person will serve you no matter what career path you take," she said. "The arts need people with brains, too."

Having recently signed with a manager in Los Angeles, Priya is looking forward to the release of her next album.

"It's really exciting and feels like things are finally coming together, and there's a little less struggle," Priya said. "It's an awesome time to be on this journey, as opposed to the beginning."

jenny.payne@columbiaspectator.com  |  @jennayne

Tara Priya
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