Spiritual growth is often framed in terms of ascension: rising up above the seemingly trivial matters of the world, communing with other dimensions. Yet for many, true enlightenment occurs when one is able to be on the ground, in the present, connected to the people around them. It’s the latter achievement that Orlando, Florida-based indie-folk singer-songwriter Aisha Badru has come to value over the years and celebrates with her latest EP The Way Back Home, out December 3 via Nettwerk.
Badru spent the bulk of her 20s traveling through Bali, India, and other spiritual destinations. “I’m someone who is very flighty; I’ve always felt like I have to travel to this place or that place to find myself and find the meaning of life,” she says. “I was really just searching for something better than what I felt my life was, but I realized when I was traveling that that wasn’t the answer — that the meaning of life was something that was with me, not necessarily something external that I have to go on a voyage to find.”
As she came to understand the value of “grounding and sinking my roots into a life of stability and consistency and committing,” Badru did a 180: last year, she bought a home with her partner, with whom she has twins. “That feeling something was missing helped me get centered and really ask ‘What am I really looking for?’ and I think what I was looking for was a sense of security, which was ironic because what I was doing was insecure, like traveling. I was trying to find somewhere I really belonged.”
The notion of learning to stay in one place is perhaps one many nowadays can relate to. Even as restrictions lift, we’ve been forced to find roots, sometimes in places where we didn’t plan to plant them. So, Badru’s single “Rooted” may be encouraging to those who think they’re stuck but could actually be building a foundation. Against gentle guitar strumming, twinkly chimes, and hopeful synths, she softly sings: “Plant your feet upon the earth/Know your value, know your worth/Take a breath that’s long and deep/You’re carried by the ground beneath.”
The folky single “The Way Back Home” speaks to similar themes of building a home and staying there, and also holding the space for those who aren’t as grounded: “Go ahead and see what you need to see/I can only hope that you think of me/And when your feet are tired and swollen/Follow the sound of this melody,” she sings against soothing acoustic guitar, bass, and drums. Similar to her 2019 single “Water,” the song speaks to the ability to find peace and acceptance within yourself when the world around you is chaotic and unpredictable.
Another single off the EP, “Rebirth,” uses mellifluous spoken word poetry against piano and drums to describe the painful process of personal transformation and the larger evolution of humanity, with inspiring and thought-provoking lines like “What if God is here undercover hidden within each other?”
“Graves,” the first song on the EP, has a darker sound, with dramatic violin and cello telling a story about the parts of ourselves we “bury” because they’re too painful to look at. On the atmospheric “Home,” she sings about how the people we love give us a feeling of stability, and on “Worthwhile,” she describes navigating COVID times against simple piano: “Trust that the dark days are gonna end/First the old has to fall for something new to ascend.”
All in all, the EP is about “understanding the deeper meaning of the things that happen to us in our lives and looking at them from a perspective that helps us move forward in a productive way, as opposed to getting caught up in the bad things in life,” says Badru. “It’s about really interpreting these things from a different lens so we can move forward and feel alive.”
Badru released her first song, “Waiting Around,” in 2016, and after being picked up and used in a Volkswagen commercial, it now has over 40,000,000 Spotify streams. She released her first full-length album, Pendulum, in 2018, and recently performed at The Big Quiet with Deepak Chopra in Brooklyn, which helped her understand the impact she hopes to make on the world. “I want to serve the role to people that Deepak serves for the people that he touches,” she says. “Going back to my first EP, it was a lot of me just dumping out my suffering and my feelings and my sadness. Now [I’m] reaching this point of: How can I be someone that can help someone feel better, help someone feel more secure in their experience?”
The Way Back Home marks a big step in that direction, as she inspires listeners to value people and connection as they define home for themselves — and to keep a steady, peaceful center no matter where their current home is or what’s going on around them.