Everyone is searching for that one form of expression which truly makes them feel alive and authentically themselves. For Meera Desai, it was being a singer-songwriter. Raised in New York, she was exposed to different forms of music but it was Indian Classical music that touched her heart.
Today she is based in Ahmedabad and is creating music and collaborating with different artists. She has released an EP with 4 beautiful songs and has joined the band, Heat Sink. The band released their EP too, with her as the lead female vocalist and co-songwriter. We caught up with her to chat about her music, new songs and more.
Hello Meera! Happy to have you here. Please start us off with a brief bio.
My name is Meera Desai, I’m 24, even though no one believes this because I look 17! Right now, I’m based in Ahmedabad, but I was born and raised in Long Island, New York. I grew up singing in choirs and doing mostly western classical vocal but when I was in high school, I discovered Indian classical music and decided to train in it!
When I moved to Ahmedabad a new chapter opened up for me. I was learning Hindustani classical music full time, I began to write more western songs, and even met a bunch of like-minded musicians and began playing in bands while touring in different cities.
What inspired you to pursue music?
I have been singing since I was a young girl and it came naturally to practice, listen and learn. The first time I saw it as an actual activity was when I took a music theory class in high school and I got scared off. But thankfully, years later, taking Hindustani classical vocal lessons really sparked something in me and I began seeing myself trying to do this full time.
I am involved in so many different types of music. My solo sets are a mixture of pop, folk, and jazz. When I sing with Heat Sink (my band), it’s a lot of rock and pop. But I also do focus on just classical music as per my training.
I have a number of artists who influence my music; namely Corinne Bailey Rae, Ella Fitzgerald, Lianne La Havas, Regina Spektor, Pandit Jasraj, and obviously my past and present gurus, Pta. Tripti Mukherjee and Shri.Vikas Parikh.
Tell us about your very first public performance.
My first public solo show, performing my own music, was at Fangirl Music festival in Ahmedabad! To be honest, I was quite scared – it was my first time and I was opening for Prateek Kuhad. I felt the pressure and on top of that, I got sick and had a sore throat! It’s cliche, but as soon as I stepped on that stage I simply let go of everything. Till today I still believe it was one of my most enjoyable performances – where I felt most authentically myself.
I was always so heavily involved in music that it always took priority over my other responsibilities. I wish I had studied music in college, people always assume I did.
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One of the first songs I wrote lyrics for with @chiragtodi composing beautiful melodies to perform with @heatsinkofficial ! Never thought we'd be on this stage singing/trumpeting it out to such an appreciative crowd! Song's name is Little House 🙂 @protyaych with the magical harmonies! @thefinchmumbai @raagsethi @nayankapdiya @pritul_chauhan @cort.zenox.user @meeramelodies #songersingwriter #thefinchmumbai #originalmusic #song #music #writer #singer #harmonies #vocals #rollingstonein #jazz #jazzlite #ballad #livemusic #sundaynight #heatsink #mouthtrumpet
Which are your most memorable music-related memories?
Well, there are two! Recently I got to see Corinne Bailey Rae in concert, and that has been a dream of mine for years. It was a surreal experience. The energy she emits and the genuine joy she brings to the stage and to each one of her songs was so beautiful. The best part is that, I got to meet her in person, which was a dream I never realized could be fulfilled. She was warm and kind, and I learned a lot about why her music touched me that night.
Another incredible music moment for me was when Heat Sink played at Sofar Pune. During one of the songs, I have this mouth trumpet piece (instrumental solo) which when I performed, I felt so in touch with the audience. There was a point where I played a phrase sarcastically (for humour) and the audience caught on and laughed in unison. It was a moment of unspoken communication that I hadn’t experienced to that extent till then, it was beautiful!
We loved your first original song ‘Divine’. What is it about?
It’s a song about faith, especially unspoken faith. I was looking so hard to find answers in the places I thought they should be – in rituals, religious places, and then I realized that faith looks different to everyone. The spark began at a songwriting club in high school, where a few passionate English teachers encouraged us to not only write, but finish our songs! That led me towards a project in my senior year – to write and perform 4 songs for my class, and that was the push I needed to get these songs out of my head and into the world.
Share with us your journey releasing your first EP “I’ve never been happier to be lost”.
Through the Fangirl music festival, I had the opportunity to meet Raag Sethi, the jazz guitarist and producer of my EP. He agreed to produce my four originals and working with him gave me perspective as a singer and a musician. Since I am not a trained guitar player like him, working with him allowed me the freedom to focus on writing the vocal melodies while he helped me rearrange my songs and focused on the instrumental parts. It was a fun process. When I was ready to go on tour for my EP, I then started working with another guitar player, Shankar Iyer. The songs kept evolving even after they were released, which was really exciting!
How has your upbringing come through in your music?
I grew up learning bhajans sung by my mother, singing old Bollywood songs, then going to learn western classical, and singing in a choir. To be honest, there is still so much that I want to create with because of my background.
But right now my focus is in my vocal delivery, I love singing complicated pieces and making them feel simple and intuitive. Even under this, there is still so much to explore! I guess I always kept the many worlds separate and they are just now beginning to come together. It’s a process of discovery that I’ve held off on, but it’s slowly inevitable!
Tell us about Heat Sink, where you are the lead female vocalist.
I met the creator of Heat Sink, Chirag Todi, through a music academy here in Ahmedabad. Soon enough, I joined them as a female vocalist. In the beginning, we shared a love for jazz but our collaborations slowly swayed toward progressive rock. Genres are becoming more and more arbitrary! I think what mainly clicked was that we both of us wanted to write music that challenged us as musicians, pushed the boundaries yet was fun to listen to.
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Preview of 'Impulse' – second track from our debut EP 'Euphony' releasing this Independence Day. . . 'Impulse' begins with a thought that has escaped a fantasy. Just a single thought, wreaking havoc on an otherwise unbothered mind. As the velvet strands threaten to weave themselves into the fabric of reality, will the thought falter or prevail? . . . #heatsink #impulse #newmusic #newsong #jazz #jazzinindia #jazzmusic #ahmedabad #euphony #indiemusic #indie #indieband #ahmedabad #ahmedabadband #swing #debutalbum #debutep #albumrelease #independenceday2019
Tell us about Heat Sink’s new EP.
We recently released an EP titled Euphony, a collection of four songs that are wildly different from each other. That’s the fun about our band I think, that we can play a really lovely ballad, and then turn around and switch to some hard rock. The whiplash of it is what keeps us on our toes and makes us interesting. We’re not boxed into one genre, we get to express in a bunch of different styles. The entire EP does have this general running mood of hopelessness into eventual light.
My personal favourite is Impulse because whenever I sing it, I feel like a sultry jazz singer from a few decades ago singing an after-midnight set in an underground jazz club. I also love the keys on that, shoutout to Nayan Kapadiya.
Give us a sneak peek into your future projects!
Currently, I am in a period of writing new music which will be released early next year! I’m working on a slightly different sound, something that aligns more with myself right now. And Heat Sink is touring!! Catch us all of September in Delhi and Goa for the Euphony EP release tour!
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