She's a powerhouse of a singer, has a rich, distinctive tone and conveys a palpable emotional connection to whatever she's singing. But behind the layers of Aaradhna's deeply moving voice, there's a sense of rawness and vulnerability.

She's a woman who has dealt with a concoction of racism, anxiety and depression. Yet, it's arguably what makes her.

Speaking on the phone while on a short break in Phuket, Thailand, her voice sounds soft and nervous, later confessing "I'm bad at interviews". But she isn't and has no reason to be nervous. She is one of the country's most distinguished singer songwriters and has made a name for herself on the international music scene.

Her career has spanned more than a decade and seen her recognised with more accolades than the number of albums she has produced.

Advertisement

Most notably, her fourth and latest album, 2016's Brown Girl, garnered recognition with her single of the same name and earned her the award for Best Female Solo Artist at the NZ music Awards, as well as four awards at the 2017 Pacific Music Awards.

"There's moments where I'm like 'did that really happen?', The soul singer confesses. "I take it day by day ... I am always ready for what's to come but I'm always grateful for what's happened in the past."

One of those "did that really happen?" moments was in 2015 when she became the first Polynesian solo artist to headline at the Apollo Music Café (Apollo Theatre) in Harlem, New York.

"That was probably one of the highlights of my life ... It was a dream goal to perform there and I got to do it."

Born in the 80s, Aaradhna Jayantilal Patel grew up in Porirua, Wellington. Raised by a Samoan mother and an Indian father, music was a constant, with both parents nurturing their own love of singing and songwriting.

"I've learnt a lot of stuff just watching them ... I definitely know that it shaped who I am today."

She took inspiration from not only a childhood filled with gospel songs, soul records and traditional Indian music, but her love of contemporary mainstream US R&B groups like SWV and Boyz II Men, which was becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand at the time.

"I used to tape all those music videos and watch them all the time."

However, it was a talent show at age 13 which cemented her desire to become a professional singer.

"I remember the feeling I felt when I finished the song (For you I will by Monica) the audience was clapping and whistling and I didn't expect that so when it happened, I just felt excited and extremely happy inside. I was like I really like the vibe of performing to an audience because it gives me something. It lifts me up ... It just feels natural."

She loves every aspect of her craft; creating and performing. But when it comes to writing, inspiration comes naturally and in very different forms.

"It usually comes out as a line and a melody in my head and then I will build on that," Aaradhna said. "I used to just write down titles - whatever I am feeling at the time and then brainstorm around it. But it changes.

"I just want to make music that people can feel and relate to. For me, it is a way to keep sane ... It is the best way that I can express myself and having people connect to it is a plus for me."

The soul singer loves it when crowds sing her songs back to her at gigs, particularly her old tunes such as Getting Stronger and Down Time and more recent ones like Forever Love and Brown Girl.

"Most of the gigs that I have done, the audience sings it back to me and it still buzzes me out those moments. Like some of the songs I just wrote in my bedroom and now people are singing it."

And although Aaradhna finds it hard to pick a favourite song, after long deliberation she decides it has to be Brown Girl - a direct response to the racist abuse she suffered growing up. Over a backing that recalls the sweet spiralling mellifluousness of 70s soul act the Chi-Lites, she proudly sings: "I'm more than the colour of my skin/I'm a girl that likes to sing/All I know is what's within/I'm not just a Brown Girl in the ring".

"They always change but I think for me the one that I love is Brown Girl. It is just me being proud of my self and being confident in who I am and where I come from. When I sing that song I feel strong ... I feel powerful."

She is now embarking on a six-date Winter's End tour, which includes a stop off at Napier's The Cabana later this month. With her six-piece band by her side, she will take a trip down memory lane with some old hits, play some newer songs and test out a few covers as well.

It's her favourite part of New Zealand to perform in, besides the "shower", she jokes, with a laugh.

"I'm going to say Napier because I'm coming there but I know I'll love it there anyways - just showing love ... I'm excited to come and play."

It is her final live performance before she tales time to continue writing and recording new music. And while no date is set yet, she promises her fifth album will be ready next year - "soon".

"I've been in writing mode; working on new music and getting inspired like coming out to places like [Thailand]."

The said new album is more "Aaradhna", she declares, with a slight giggle.

"I'm really liking this one because I feel like it is sounding more me and I am really trying to tap into what's my sound and tap into my roots and just experiment a bit more."

It's safe to say Aaradhna has a lot more left to give.

Aaradhna will perform at the Cabana, Napier, on September 28, as part of her Winter's End Tour '18. Tickets are available at theticketfairy.com