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INTERVIEW: Anjali Ray

1. How would you classify your music?

I’m not sure I will ever perfect this answer – not that that’s a bad thing, because it’s good to evolve and keep your sound fresh. But the constants in my music have always been a feminine voice, organic piano-based instrumentation, and cerebral lyrics. On a good day I like to call it “pop music with a heart and a brain”.

2. Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

They are varied and disparate, though the one thing they all seem to have in common is an organic sound. Some are obvious, such as Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos. Others, such as Mark Knopfler and M.S. Subbalakshmi are less so. I’m lucky to have had exposure to a diverse range of music, from classical Indian songs to rock, but every time someone moves me it’s usually one signature thing. For Sarah, it’s the way she sings and phrases her words, which I feel are so respectful and elegant. For Tori, it’s the way she can make a piano sound both delicate and powerful at the same time. Mark Knopfler can make a guitar sound like a human voice. M.S.Subbalakshmi’s singing inspires me to just close my eyes, not worry about who is listening, and just sing with devotion and abandon. It’s a truly brilliant musical world, and ever changing.

3. What do you want fans to take from your music?

Music, for me, has always been about communication. I’m at my best when I’m trying to connect over a serious topic. My previous album, Indigo, was very focused on the tumult of early motherhood and emerging from what was for me a dark, uncertain space. My latest album is squarely and unabashedly in celebration of activism – specifically feminism. I know that’s a bad word in some spheres, and that bothers me. I would want listeners to know that I am unapologetic about female empowerment, however long it took me to get here.

4. How’s the music scene in your locale?

Well, I live in LA, so… it’s tough. The market here is very saturated, and it takes a certain level of commitment to be able to reliably get work as an original musician because of the competition. Everyone is trying to “make it”. However, it’s so diverse that there are also a ton of niche markets and projects that one can find to keep busy and well connected. I’ve been lucky to find that here, specifically with my Indian music background. And if you need a player of even the most esoteric instrument or art form, you can find it here; the talent pool is an embarrassment of riches. But original music is difficult to market here, and nearly impossible to make a career of without other sources of income.

5 & 6. What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?

I recently went to an Ani DiFranco concert which left me feeling so inspired – and not just because her performance was amazing. The strength of a concert is in the audience response, and this audience was in lockstep with the performers on stage, both musically and thematically. I wouldn’t even call myself the most committed fan of hers just because I don’t know her music well enough to say that, but the live experience was intense. My own shows are most successful if I have a small and intimate enough audience that I can actually tell the stories behind the music and connect personally. I’ve never been good at doing that with large crowds. Room for improvement. 😉

7. Is there a song on your latest CD release here that stands out as your personal favorite, and why?

This is a tough one – it’s like picking which one of your kids you love the most. But the song I love sitting down and playing the most is “Illicit”. It heralds a woman’s secret desires as a natural and beautiful part of life, as opposed to just sinful and something that should be suppressed. I can’t think of a better way to interact with and harness those desires than to put them to music.

8. How have you evolved as an artist over the last year?

I’m more sure of myself, mainly because of the plethora of mistakes I’ve made in my musical career. I’ve learned to harness every faculty I have, from negotiation to project management to a sense of humor, in order to push my career forward and enable me to make music the way I want to. Artistically, I’m really enjoying collaborating with others in various fields, be they producers or other musicians. Nothing better than trusting someone with your art and seeing them run with it and make it better. It’s like one day I woke up and realized that I didn’t need to keep dreaming about being a singer, because I already was one. It may not look exactly like my childhood dreams, but it ain’t bad.

9. If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

Chopin. That guy was insane.

10. What’s next for you?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. I don’t plan farther ahead than a couple of months, mainly because I have two kids whose plans generally structure my own, and a fairly significant day job. I’m looking forward to releasing this EP. Maybe a show or two. Write some more material. Let’s see what the breeze blows my way.

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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