ATX Interviews Music

Eastern Soul Artist Nagavalli Shares Her Story Behind Her New Album Release “Immersion”

From Mumbai, India, Nagavalli is an Austin-based musician who harmoniously co-mingles sounds of both the East and the West. Described as “Eastern Soul,” Nagavalli’s music is a blend of east-Indian soul with sprinkles of rock, pop, and trance. Truly one of a kind, Nagavalli is an artist who delivers harmonious melodies that feel both otherworldly and tranquil.

Nagavalli released her newest album “Immersion” on January 18 and will be celebrating with a performance at the One World Theatre on Sunday, January 20. The show will begin at 4:30 p.m., and special guests will include Patrice PikeOliver Rajamani, Ginger Leigh, and sitarist Indrajit Banerjee. Tickets for the show range from $35 to $55, and the show is open to all ages. To purchase tickets, please visit http://www.oneworldtheatre.org.

Nagavalli

We had the chance to interview Nagavalli prior to her album release and chat about her history with music and aspirations.

To begin, can you tell me your story? How did you come to creating music?

Nagavalli: I grew up in India and started learning classical music right from the time I was about seven years old. I moved to Austin sometime in late 2000 and came here for a technology job. I originally came to this country for grad school and didn’t quite know how to get started initially. I was sitting in with this one music artist Oliver Rajamani for first few years and then gradually started writing my own music and found some players. I write this particular style I describe as “eastern soul,” which is a blend of pop, rock, and soul with eastern overtones and more traditional Indian music. I started playing in town after finding some good players around mid-2009, and I’ve been at it since.

For those not familiar, how would you describe your sound?

Nagavalli: I tend to blend a couple of different styles. I dabble across a range of music. Everything from traditional, semi-classical Indian music, to a mix of pop rock. There are Eastern overtones and some elements of trance. I tend to write lyrics in English, so most of my original songs are in English. When it comes to vocals and the melodies themselves, I tend to blend the styles. A lot of times I play with a regular band with guitars, bass, and a drummer, and then I will bring in some Indian elements such as intense percussion and whatnot.

The new album is actually more of a back to roots album for me. It’s a continuously recorded piece of about 15 minutes and has very traditional vocals. The songs are all Indian spiritual trance and what I call bhajans, devotional compositions that were written by ancient 14th, 15th century saints, Kabir and Meera Bai. This new album has very traditional vocals with traditional sitar and percussion. There’s an element of fusion that comes in the new album, and it comes from synth, piano and pedal steel. In this particular album the fusion comes from the instruments.

Your sound is definitely something new and exciting for Austin. What feelings or emotions do hope your music emits to those who listen? 

Nagavalli: A lot of music for me, and especially performing in front of an audience or even putting a song out, is about connection. I think if I’m able to connect to the audience at a deeper level, that’s what the aspiration is. I really wanted “Immersion” to be a calming, meditative experience. All the music that I wrote, even the compositions, the lyrics themselves, come from existing compositions written by these ancient saints. It is my innocent, small way of introducing the richness of Indian music to a broader audience.

And, what does your music mean to you personally?

Nagavalli: I started learning music very early in life. I initially came here for a technology job, but I always had it in my mind that even though I came from a distant country, I would eventually find someway to express myself through music. It’s one of those things, that the absence of doing it is almost torturous. It came to a point that it was not a choice anymore to not write, to not play. I’ve also realized that I do want to play in front people, I can’t just sit at home and write music and be completely content with it. Which is why I say it’s just perhaps connection that that one looks for. It’s one way of connecting to the world around you, and I do that through music.

IMMERSION_COVER_ART.png

You have a new album coming out. Can you tell me more about the album?

Nagavalli: I recorded and released my first album here in 2012, and I titled it “Eastern Soul.” It had some spiritual and more traditional music from India, but a lot of it was me writing in English and blending pop rock with Eastern overtones. I always knew that my second album would be a follow-up. I actually started recording fairly early the first album, but things came up and I ended up spending substantial breaks in between until I got to a completion point.

It took some time to get the right people involved who would understand how to take this music and mix and master it to what I wanted it to be. I started with just a drone and the sitar and some percussion and we just played it in the moment. A lot of the sitar you hear on the album, it’s a lot of call and response. And most of it was actually played in the moment. I sang the line and the sitarist would follow.

Interestingly, once we had the scratch track, I brought in the western musicians who played synth and pedal steel, and they also got into the same place. They heard it. They tried a few things, and then once they got into it, they just sat there and played the entire album. It ended up being this really organic experience. I did go and read up on some of my vocals of course, but how the album came together was really organic. It was a lot of brilliant musicians sitting in, just playing in the moment and how they felt.

What are you looking forward to most about performing this album live at One World Theatre?

Nagavalli: I’ve played at One World Theatre before with a couple of other artists over the years, and I’m really excited to be presenting an album release show with my own ensemble for the first time and do my own concert. It’s a celebration, really. To share something that you cherish and that connects with people. Hopefully I’ll be able to present a show that folks will also be able to connect to and enjoy.

What is next for you after this album release?

Nagavalli: I have a couple of songs that I have in mind that I would like to record. I would like to do another album with songs written in English and then mix in the more traditional Indian music. It would be another album, but hopefully it won’t take another seven or six years!

For more information on Nagavalli and where to catch one of her incredible shows next, visit http://nagavalli.com. You won’t want to miss her upcoming performance at One World Theater! 

Catch up on all of the Shuffle Online music coverage here.

Advertisements

One comment

Leave a Reply