INTERVIEW: Nagavalli

Hi Nagavalli, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you! I am doing well. It’s a pleasure to speak with and share my music with you and your audience.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Reach Out”?

Reach Out is a song that I wrote just this last December. Though the lyrics are all in English, you will hear Eastern overtones in the vocals and through the melody, like in most or all of my songs.

I think the winter / holiday season, as joyous and fun as it can be for many, is also a time when loneliness can creep in, especially if one is away from family and friends, missing a loved one, or going through some hardship. “Reach Out” is a reminder to do just that… to make space in our busy lives and reach out to our friends and loved ones or to anyone in need, really.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

Well, being away from family back in India and also, living by myself, I have experienced moments of loneliness sometimes over a holiday season or otherwise. But this last December, when it was getting close to a year since I lost my father, I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the sadness of it all and I really needed someone to be there for me through it. It is around this time that I wrote Reach Out. I guess I also felt like I should sing this out for anyone who had experienced or might be experiencing anything like what I was at the time. To reassure that one is not alone in what they are experiencing, that there is a friend who understands what one is going through and would be there to support them.

Any plans to release a video to go along with the single?

Yes! It’s being edited as we speak and I hope to release it in April!

The single comes off your new series of tracks – what draw you to do a series instead of an album or EP?

I released a full-length debut album, titled Eastern Soul, back in 2012. When I was writing “Reach Out”, I didn’t have a definite plan to release a series of singles really. But as I was working on this song in the studio, I enjoyed the experience and the process of recording and releasing a song as it comes, in the moment. I think the current media/formats available to release music make this approach quite feasible as well.

How was the recording and writing process?

The lyrics came quickly and in the few days that my co-producer, AJ Vallejo, took to return my call, I was on melody # 3 for the song, which is what I ended up recording! J I was grateful that he took his time to text me back.

With some experience now, I have a fair sense of how I want a song to sound when I walk into the studio, while still keeping my mind open to new arrangement ideas. I sang some Eastern scales to the musicians and both guitarist, Matthew Read and violinist, Haydn Vitera weaved some beautiful music around that, including the soulful guitar solo that Matt played. I am also a fan of vocal improv, so I tend to use that in my music fairly often. I feel that sometimes, such vocalizations can convey so much emotion even without any words. And AJ and I definitely leaned towards keeping the overall arrangement simple and soulful. AJ, as a producer, surely gets my pulse. I am happy, almost child-like, when something clicks in the studio!

How has India and your new home, Austin, music scene and culture have influence your music and do you try to blend both cultures and sound together?

Surely. I grew up learning Indian classical music from age 7 and also, was a fan of other genres including semi-classical and devotional music as well as Bollywood; I had some limited exposure to western pop/rock. The live music scene in Austin, the idea of playing in a club or even a coffee shop or a listening room was fairly foreign to me. In my earlier years in Austin, I would sit in, on occasion, with the talented world music artist, Oliver Rajamani. As time went by, I was yearning to do more, and even feeling restless about it. I never knew, prior to having spent a couple of adult-life years in Austin, that I was actually capable of writing an original song. I started playing some of my tunes to the wonderful Jazz vocalist and teacher, Suzi Stern and she played a role in encouraging me to put my music out. I figured that staying authentic and true to my musical and life experiences was important. I decided to stick to my own style of writing and singing and eventually called my sound ‘Eastern Soul’. The music and band has mostly western instrumentation – guitars, bass, drums, and sometimes, I have congas and a DJ on the set too. I also work with some Indian instrumentation such as Sitar, Tabla, Kanjira (percussion) on a couple of songs. Fusion is tricky. I let the music flow naturally, and not force anything solely with the end goal of creating a fusion sound. I want the sound to be seamless and it is my humble hope that I am able to do a decent job at that.

Any plans to hit the road?

I am just getting back from a brief hiatus from playing live, and will start with some local shows in Austin this April. I will be working to schedule shows outside of Austin in summer and fall of 2016. My schedule will be up on my website – , please stay tuned.

What else is happening next in Nagavalli’s world?

I will be in the studio next week to start laying down tracks for a new song. Also, perhaps, some further work on the spiritual music album mix. Other than that, I am super-excited that I will have the opportunity to see / hear Jane Goodall on Tuesday (4/5) here in Austin!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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