Turning her back on Albert Square to shake her booty on the dancefloor, Preeya Kalidas tells Asiana what made her swap the Masoods for smooth moves...
So your exit from Eastenders was pretty sudden for a lot of your fans. Was your singing career planned in advance or was it a sudden career change for you? I’d always been working towards a music career so even when I was filming I was working in the studio and writing, so its not something I just decided to do, its been a process leading up to the point. Then last year I was offered an opportunity with a label and I decided to go for it, I thought I’d take the risk and pursue a music career that’s always been a dream of mine.
And you didn’t leave in a Black taxi when you made the classic Eastenders exit …Yeah I always have to correct people when they say I left in a black cab which is usually the norm but, I changed the norm and left in a Mercedes which is classy.
Are you planning to return to Eastenders at some point? I loved my time on Eastenders, I had a great time, the storyline was great as well as working with such brilliant actors. I had such fun particularly with Nina and Mark that played Zainab and Syed, I laughed a lot on that show, we all did and we used to get in trouble for laughing as well.I do miss seeing those guys and working with them. We were practically like family but I think its important sometimes to just take the risk to try to do your passion and dreams and you never know where it leads to, even if its doesn’t work out, at least I know that I tried. But you know Ameera’s not dead, she’s still alive, she’s out there somewhere. I think she needs a bit of time to get herself together because what she went through it was quite traumatic particularly for her confidence and her emotions and trusting anyone. So I’ll speak to her and I’ll see what she says.
You must have had a lot of support playing Amira…I have had consistent support from fans of the show who have been really supportive and positive about my interpretation of this character, which has been brilliant in the show. Even on this show characters come and go and you just never know how characters are going to be perceived but I played a character that was really liked, she wasn’t the stereotypical character, she was really fun and sexy, respectful of her culture, different and kind. She to me was like the women representing the modern and new generation.
How have your Asian fans taken to your pop career? All the Asian fans have been really supportive and fantastic since Bombay dreams and what has been great to me has been getting out and performing. I’ve loved every bit of it, its been fantastic, I’ve been number one on the Asian download chart for two weeks, that for me is brilliant to have that response. With music its quite tough because your expressing yourself and even if your in the studio and listen to it yourself you don’t know how its going to be with the outside world but its cool its been really brilliant I’m really grateful and thankful.
Did you ever have any second thoughts about your pop career? I started off at a young age and this is all I’ve never known, I’ve never done anything else. I mean yes I’ve had the odd Saturday job here and there but my career kind of just like kicked off with Bombay dreams and this is all I’ve ever known. You know its hard, its not easy and you try to be positive, trying to just challenge yourself and be passionate about things, but it kicks off a lot of stress and perseverance. As much as I am grateful there have been a lot of talk along the way and a lot of people have been cynical of whether people think I can even sing. People that doubt your support around you that’s a number of things that have to keep you going, you know it is hard and there are days where I just think ‘ah maybe I should just get married and have kids’. Laughs but then I’m out and I’m performing and I’m loving it and I think this is what I want to do. Particularly the music industry it is very political, it’s not easy, the industry itself is run by men, that is where the politics for it and for that reason you’ve got to have a very strong support team around you along with my friends and family who are amazing. Without them I don’t know how I would do it sometimes. I don’t know what I would do they keep me moving.
Have people said that you’re the new kid on the block? It’s not about how talented you are, its about a number of things, having a good variety of people that believe in you and really execute your vision you know. There’s always going to be that underlying Sinicism that people can be small minded. It is ridiculous particularly in this day and age regards to the mainstream, they have some really fantastic response in regards to mainstream press and mainstream TV so in regards to that its been really good and really positive, but because there hasn’t been anyone break through in the Asian community, and its taking someone like Jay Sean to really get through the mainstream, it is possible and its frustrating. Jay Sean is a great singer but its also about songs so if you got great songs people relate to your songs and they listen to it, then that can make a huge difference, and we’ve also passed the stage in the Asian community where parents think singing and dancing is not a profession.
Do you get any negativity from Asian communities? Not at all because the they see me and that I’m on their favourite show like eastenders, performing on the national lottery and if anything their proud because I’m out there and you can’t knock anyone that’s actually out there and doing it. I’ve had real great support from the community of all generations because its an industry that is very fickle and took a lot it of hard work and perseverance to make it, so you can understand why it can be scary because its hard and its not guaranteed what you will receive from it, particularly financially.
We are loving the east meets west fusion. Are you here to set the trend? I think its all about individuality right, and when it comes to clothes I’ve always been a huge lover of clothes but I’ve never really followed fashion. I like to create my own things because I hate it particularly when your going to events and wearing the same style of dress as somebody else. So for me it’s about creating my own vibe even for instance when I was on loose women, I bought a dress from miss Selfridges and got some sari material and just added to it. To be on a show like that and being seen by millions of people is really important to me, to be representing what I am about and I represent multi cultural Britain and I want to represent it in my clothes. Indian fabrics are so beautiful and not to utilise it in some way would be silly so for me its just about colour and fabric. The stuff that I love is a bit more edgy and represent this in my clothes as well as my music and when you fuse it together that’s what you get [laughs].
Congratulations as well for being featured in Bashy’s video. Did it take something like this to break down boundaries as an Asian Woman? Yes definitely, I mean Bashy called me because I met him in the studio and we was working with the same producer, this guy called naughty boy. He basically works with people like Chipmunk and he’s amazing. He basically just called me out the blue and said listen ‘I’m going to shoot my video and would really love you to be in it’. You never really see black and Asian people together in music videos or representing particularly artists. You never really see that kind of mix, firstly I think Bashy’s really cool, and he’s doing his thing and he’s an artist that works really hard and yes I suppose its that movement of breaking down barriers and representing multicultural Britain. I’m just trying to do stuff that people wouldn’t particularly expect but then again show you respect and Bashy is someone I respect as an artist and we’ve all had great fun and we all had such good fun.
Do you think people still might be judgmental till this day about an Asian girl being featured in a video along with Bashy? I think is that right for me and am I happy doing this and I do it with conviction.
We see that your acting career is still on a high with ‘Four Lions and It’s a wonderful afterlife’ … I was still filming eastenders so was going between something so mainstream and commercial, and into something so gritty, dark and cool filming in Bradford. And with Riz Ahmed someone I would call a friend, and I also respect and is a huge talent he’s so bright and amazing and Chris Morris directed the film who is respected within the industry I was really excited that I was going to be working with him. To be honest I hadn’t really seen his work but when I did he is known for being quite controversial, so I was a bit nervous about that, I didn’t know how this film was going to be perceived and translate to people. So I did it and I’m really pleased with the outcome that I had an opportunity that I could be part of that. And its one of those films that cult classic and its not project, films like that don’t really come round that often and it was great I had an opportunity to work with again Riz. I have worked with him for the third time, from being his sister to being his girlfriend and then his wife so that was fun.We slowly progressed, who knows next I’ll probably end up being his aunty or something.
Do you still want to venture into acting as well as singing? Is it all abit too much? I think having the diversity is been really great for me because I’m a Gemini I get bored really easily but at the same time picking up project that you feel passionate about, that you feel you want to be part of and you know I feel really blessed to have certain opportunities to come round. If a project comes up its great to have the opportunity to even be part of those, but there's some things that come through that I don’t do. But music has always been my passion and at the moment I’m trying to focus on that just I’ve given a lot of time to acting and its got me here in my career but in the midst of that its always been there - I’ve always worked hard to keep moving and keep that creativity going.
You must shock people with your stunning vocals … For me music holds emotion, people can relate to music all over the world, its an international language, the way that I feel when I hear music is so powerul and I want be able to hear my music and have that same feeling and to effect people in that way whether is to make them happy or sad, for them to feel that they are relating to a song of mine or to help them through dark time or tough time through there life that to me is phenomenal. I think its about representing to a wider audience, and not just one community but a number of communities. When you are part of the mainstream you can do that so having that type of show such as eastenders it does reach out to every communities and has been fantastic. When I walked down the street I get people of all races and generations come up to me. I think for me its more about to strive for that having mainstream recognition but its also for my community to be proud and the support because I am part of a community and I’m proud to be part of the Indian community but its also about representing worldwide.
Is marriage and babies in the pipeline? Well if I'm to have children and to have a family I will and yes it’s definitely something I would love one day but not right now. I think you have to be ready, you have to really know, what you want in that time of your life but I don't think you’re ever really ready to be honest. And I see how hard it is, marriage is not easy, it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of patience, and your not just thinking about yourself, you got to think about someone else but then having kids they need to take priority in that time of your life. I have friends and family that are married and they would like to come into my world and experience my single life [laughs].
Your shimmy dance move was a craft! Oh my 2010 chutney wine, that’s what I call it my chutney wine, no not at all - me and my friend were in my living room mucking about when I just got the mix to shimmy and I was playing it to her. We were prancing around in my living room and dancing, we started just doing that move and that was it. I tried to get Mumzy to do it but he’s too cool for school.
You were on loose women, gmtv, the national lottery - you were the first Asian’s to perform on the lottery … That’s huge, I think it was such a good opportunity to be on that show, not to be taken lightly in years to come I’ve had that opportunity. We were so excited and fortunately the producers of those shows were really excited to have me on and I think also the fact of coming off eastenders helped and some of the producers on the shows had seen me on Bombay dreams or seen some of my other work so there were actually really excited to have me on. And also they loved the song shimmy so it calls kind of worked out in that sense. At least no matter what happens I can say I was the first Asian performer to be on a show!
On loose women it looks like you really enjoyed yourself… I was really nervous because I watch loose women, its quite bright, intelligent, you don’t what they are going to say or ask because they talk about anything and everything so I just thought ‘please don’t ask me anything gritty, I really don’t want to talk about it’, you just never know but oh my gosh they were all really lovely. It seemed to go really quickly but actually when your on there it goes really quickly but I had such a laugh and they were really interested in me and just let me talk.
How do you think people took to Shimmy? Was it what you hoped for?I didn’t know how people would react, you just hope it gets some even if it’s recognised. The worse is to get no recognition but I’m just excited to have the opportunity to get something out there and so many people have that dream to get the opportunity to release a single and get out there and perform on those TV shows. I was just trying to see where it took me and try not to think about it too much otherwise I’d go crazy. Its one of those things people either like it or don’t - you cant please everyone. Obviously the people with a good response have really loved it and been really nice and some people have not really been into it but that’s okay, you cant really expect everyone to like what you do.
How does it feel to be representing Asian communities and Asian women … It’s something that I’ve always tried to do so for me having that opportunity was amazing, and when I found out I was going to be on these shows it was a mile stone for me because as a child its what I’ve been driving towards. I was pretty aware of the mainstream and there was a lack of women from our community that represent on mainstream or women that I actually aspire to because the women that I actually aspire to or watch were women in our communities such as Bollywood stars and they were more fantasy, I couldn’t really relate to them and you wouldn’t really think about seeing them down the street down Ealing road, so for me it was about having the aspiration to be that girl you would see down the street but at the same time on television.
Who would you like to shimmy with? Barack Obama - I saw him on a talk show and he come out dancing to ‘crazy in love’. He walked down and he was dancing and I thought he could really dance, so yeah Barack.
You’re no longer with your label ‘Mercury’, what happened? The music industry is so political and sometimes when your with a major label their vision is not necessarily what your vision is, and there can be a lot of conflict and I’m not really about doing things that I’m not very happy with or taking a direction that I’m not happy with so it was best that we parted. Because particularly, with record labels sometimes they can keep you there for quite a long time and the artist might not be happy with it and not leading the direction they want to go, and your career suffers for that. I think it was really important I got out before it got to that point because there were things that did happen during the time that we were promoting shimmy that the label didn’t do, for whatever reason and that can become very frustrating so its about working with people that are really, really on your side.
So not hard feeling then? Forme its always about paying attention to detail and when you take your eye of the ball then I don’t see the point. Artists get really excited about being with a major label, and I was very excited but when your in it it’s a whole different experience let me tell you that. It’s not easy with a lot of different opinions and its hard being independent, I know people that are independent even though its hard and you’ve got to work hard your in control so there are a lot of pros and cons of being with a major and being independent. There are so many artists that have left their labels and gone onto other labels and labels before them I mean Alicia Keys was dropped from her label until she was picked up again and then did her thing, you know Destiny Child, Billy Ocean, four labels before he got his hits and got out there, there's so many artists its happened to over the years. It’s part of the process I mean its great to be signed to a label such as mercury, but I realised their not the right label for me.
Your new album is called Constant Craving. What do you personally crave apart from chocolate? Music, but apart from that a café latte with two brown sugars.
So your album is still going to be released … Well the album has been my driving ambition so to finally have got my album together it was very exciting and I loved the process of it, as well as being so creative and for people to hear and enjoy it as much as you. The album is much of my influences growing up and the reflection of my personality, you know young, but also my sensitive side. Its co written most of the album as well so some of the songs that are written are experiences of my own, and stories from what my friends have told me that they’ve experienced so its quite an elective mix. So its not like you know people that have heard shimmy shouldn’t expect every song to be like shimmy, because I wouldn’t be happy with doing an album with every song sounding the same. So its up beat as well as a big balance.
You must have received quite a lot of compliments for your video shimmy, especially the male fans, no? No, well they haven’t told me, not directly to me.
You’ve got this thing about grime artists, first Bashy and now Skepta …I don’t know they keep contacting me, they obviously like Indian girls [Laughs] maybe its something different. No basically the power of this earth and the power of twitter, because Skepta, is a very well respected grime artist on the scene who’s just recently did a grime mix of ‘hello good morning’ puff daddy’s mix, which he was contacting by puff daddy by twitter to do that and has really had great response. On Twitter Skepta posted ‘who would you most like me to see collab with?’ and quite a few people put me and I saw it and I didn’t think anything of it so I thought there's no way he’s going to get me to do it. So he sent me a message saying ‘would you be interested in collaborating on my next single’, called ‘Cross My Heart’ and he sent it to me and I loved the beat and I sent it to my song writing partner and we basically got these lyrics sent it over to Skepta. And he loved it and literally this all happened in a matter of three weeks. His label loved it and it got its first play on Saturday, this weekend gone on Tim Westwood’s show. We’re shooting the video this week its interesting we’ll see how that goes.
Excellent and with your image a part of your career how much do you have to keep in shape and get to the gym? No I do palates, and I go to the gym, I wouldn’t say I’m a fanatic because I don’t get excited about going to the gym. To be honest I prefer going to the classes that are kind of music driven and have got music playing like the aerobics and body pump classes. I just keep a really balanced diet -I just can’t be doing late night eating.
Skepta's new single Cross My Heart out next month