Popularly titled the ‘Pajama Popstar’, Shirley Setia has garnered commendable acclaim in a short space of time. When she released her cover of Tum Hi Ho, it became an overnight hit and churned a whopping two million views on YouTube.
The cover eventually helped her bag a contest by T-series. Today, the young Auckland-based singer has over 1.7 million subscribers on YouTube. In the vivid world of digital content, she is pitched as one amongst the top content creators across streaming channels and has recently released her second single Tu Mil Gaya.
Her career kickstarted almost five years ago when the then high school-going Shirley met singer Shreya Ghoshal and told her that she would like to sing. Shreya advised her to upload videos through YouTube to help her connect with the audience in India. Following through on that advice, Shirley’s covers have seen over 23 million views, all the while juggling her coursework in Marketing and Information Systems as a student, and working part-time as a radio jockey.
Soon after, Shirley took the plunge to move her base to India, welcoming more of the country’s music industry. “It was definitely a bold move, and it was scary for sure. I still feel scared sometimes, but I feel that after a year now, I’ve just slowly started to ease into the thought of Mumbai being like my second home. But since I did not know anyone in Mumbai, to begin with, it was pretty scary and uncertain as to how things would fall into place or whether they even would!” she reminisces, looking back at the tumult of emotions she encountered before deciding to move to the country.
Things have changed now, and Shirley has embraced the many facets of India. “I’ve become a lot more independent and mature now. My parents still live in New Zealand, so to be so far away from home and working in a completely new environment with new people can be challenging mentally and emotionally. But I feel that I’ve become stronger in those aspects over the past year,” she says.
The industry has been very exciting, she adds. “Bollywood and its people have all been super welcoming towards me. It makes me happy to see so many folks like myself around out here who are passionate about what they do,” she tells us. Shirley still has her fangirl moments whenever she meets composers or singers whose songs she has grown up listening to like KK, Sachin Jigar, Pritam or Arijit Singh! But with her successful entry into Bollywood with Disco Disco from the movie A Gentleman, Shirley has become a star in her own right.
Her family has been her biggest supporter and has unfailingly appreciated her hard work and dedication to chasing her passion. Music, she says, changed her life. “The most obvious change of all is that I am no longer living in New Zealand after being there for most of my life. And moving back to India for a profession that I had never dreamt of having as a kid. It has given me a purpose to live now, to make people feel emotions, and it’s honestly the most beautiful change that has happened in my life so far,” she adds.
Shirley’s experience across music has also evolved over time, diversifying into concerts and live performances. She hopes to tour the US very soon, after featuring as an artist during the Armaan Malik concerts. One of her biggest collaboration lined up is an exciting one with Atif Aslam and DJ Chetas.
With her career peppered with impressive stints across the bustling music industry in India, the young singer has come a long way. A hint of certainty and a lot of positivity and excitement, that’s Shirley Setia for you.
And she has a special message for all her fans who are simply crazy about her, “I love you all, deeply and from the bottom of my heart. I am what I am today because of you, and I will be whatever I will be because of you.. so I truly hope that you stick along with me on this journey of ours. #TeamShirley, we are family ❤.”
A lover of bright lights, travel, and inspiring reads, Sneha is fascinated by the flurry of life and indulges in writing about the world's quirks!