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INTERVIEW: Eastern Soul, Meditative Musician Nagavalli

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

Doing great here! I am getting ready to release my new album “Immersion” this month and am excited about the release concert coming up at the One World Theatre in Austin (Sunday, Jan 20).

 Can you talk to us more about your upcoming single?

Thanks for your interest in my music! “Ram Naam Ras Pije” is a devotional written by Meera Bai, an ancient Indian saint of the Bhakti movement. I wrote the melody on Ram Naam and we made the choice to arrange it in an open, flowing format as opposed to, perhaps, how I would sing it with a Tabla accompaniment or some percussion in a more traditional setting. Gary Newcomb plays beautiful pedal steel on this song.

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

I grew up learning and singing Meera Bhajans (devotional compositions by Meera bai) in India. When I decided to record an album of Indian spiritual music, it was a natural choice to include a Meera Bhajan. Meera is quintessential Bhakti, absolute immersion in her love for Krishna, in her love for the divine.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Not right now. But definitely a consideration in the upcoming months.

The single comes off your new album Immersion – what’s the story behind the title?

We (Don Harvey co-produced this album with me) recorded this album as an almost-50- minutes of continuous music, with chants and spiritual songs seamlessly stringed together with instrumental interludes. The idea was to create a tranquil, immersive, meditative experience for the listener (and ourselves). Hence the title, Immersion.

How was the recording and writing process?

We recorded the music on this album as one continuous piece, starting with just voice, a drone, and sitar. Even though the basic melodies and song structures are set, a lot of this music is improvisational in nature. When the keys/synth and pedal steel musicians came in to the studio, they too were able to get into a space where they sat down and played on the tracks for 50mins straight. So the album, I feel, came together organically.

Your Indian roots has been a large part of your music – how would you say you got back into this roots with this album?

Unlike in my first album where I blended east-west songwriting / vocal styles, with most of my lyrics in English, the vocals and lyrics on this album are very Indian-traditional. I have also used Sitar and Indian percussion, especially the Sitar is very prominent in the album. So, this album is very reflective of the music I grew up around, that I grew up learning. The element of fusion on this album comes from instruments like keys/synth and pedal steel.

You got to string different Shlokas chants and Bhajans – was there like a selection process?

Indian culture is rich in chants and spiritual/devotional work by ancient saints. I grew up in this culture, learning classical and Bhakti music. So when I decided to record this album, I gravitated towards picking chants and compositions by specific saints whose names and writings have been very familiar to me.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

The lyrics and melodies on this album are very Indian/traditional. Given the multi-cultural environment that I grew up in, in India, and now living in Austin, the live music capital, I think the music I writes is, in a way, very reflective of my collective experiences.

Any plans to hit the road?

I will be playing at the Prasada festival in California in July this year and am working to set up other tour dates at this point.

What else is happening next in Nagavalli’s world?

I am getting ready for the album release show on Sunday, Jan 20 in Austin, TX and am very excited about doing this concert. I hope to tour further with this album in 2019. I also have plans to start work on my third album soon.

Listen here

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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