Aisha Badru

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“I feel like we live two lives at once,” says Aisha Badru, the singer-songwriter whose whispery observations have evolved, in just three short years, into evocative assurance. “For me, it’s that image of what I thought I was, and then watching that person die by the hand of truth. Being reborn.”

Her The Way Back Home (out December 3, 2021 via Nettwerk Records), her third EP, is the sonic equivalent of a comforting hug. It feels like an antidote to her sweetly melancholic debut, Pendulum, which negotiated her underprivileged upbringing. Along the way, Aisha’s humanistic confessionals have won more than 100M+ streams, a fanbase in Europe, and the praise of publications (such as NPR, who celebrated her “warm and inviting” approach). While writing The Way Back Home, she says, “I knew exactly what to say without thinking about it. It was as if I was writing exactly from my heart.”

Still, she gently reminds us that this courage has been hard-earned. The Way Back Home’s most stirring track, “Rebirth,” is a spoken-word piece that builds into a joyous melody, capturing her personal transformation (“Buried beneath the earth / Covered / Forgotten / Destined to rise again”). “I used to have very low self-esteem. I thought I needed other people to validate me.” Aisha truly believed life was finite, that it opportunities would never present themselves to her. She was wrong.

“Rooted,” a spacious sound bath of atmospheric synths and meditative vocals, honors the transformation she had to instigate herself. “Plant your feet upon the earth,” she sings. “Know your value, know your worth.” In adulthood, Aisha was a restless world-traveler, looking for the next place to be. These days she lives contently in her house outside of Orlando, Florida, with her partner and twin toddlers (one boy, one girl). “I never really had roots,” she explains. “We’re planting seeds and starting a garden. This is home. I’ve never felt this sense of home.”

This has also impacted her songwriting process. In the past, she would tinker for days on her guitar until she found a song, then send it to UK producer Chris Hutchinson to add flourishes. These days she’s focused on the storytelling itself, reversing the process.

“I’ll just drive around until the kids are asleep. I’ll park by this lake, listen to an instrumental that Chris sent me, and write to it very easily. It just comes to me like a jolt of energy.”

If “Rebirth” is the EP’s soul and “Rooted” its hearth — the title track, the earthy, folky “The Way Back Home,” is its heart. “When I was younger, I really needed to leave home. I moved away. I was always trying to find something better. All the things I needed to learn, I ran away from,” she says. This narrative continues through “Home,” a remembrance that’s as melancholic as you’d expect, written from the perspective of the person who once ran away, returning home. And “Graves” is Aisha confronting her past — a push-pull between ethereal vocals and sweeping strings — looking back at how far she’s come: “Still back there is a box with our name / Where we buried the pain, the blame, the shame.”

“My music career has healed a huge part of me,” she says. “I have had to face every single insecurity about myself pursuing this life path. I’ve had to face my fear of public speaking and performing, talking in front of a camera, of my own insecurities being exposed, doing photo shoots. That has been incredibly healing.”

It all coalesces, ever-so-optimistically in “Worthwhile,” a lullaby to life. “Trust that the dark days are gonna end,” she sings. “I know things out there are a little wild / It is all worthwhile.” It’s a capsule of our turbulent recent history — riots, COVID, climate change, the border crisis — that comes together, remarkably, as a sun-salutation to motherhood and resilience. “My perspective has changed,” she admits. “There may be moments in time where things hit the fan or seem impossible. But these things can bring us together. I appreciate life itself.”

Perhaps the most resonant theme threaded throughout The Way Back Home is the overwhelming sense that this second life of Aisha’s has only just begun. “I feel like that’s what my whole life has been, leaning into those uncomfortable feelings,” she says. “But that’s where the medicine is. I’m constantly leaning into this discomfort, and it always turns out well.”


IMC Features:

September 21, 2021: Rebirth

February 10, 2023: Lazy River