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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
The first time I ever sang was in my second year of university in Waterloo, and it was at an open mic as a little challenge to myself. I used to go to this pub to watch a house band play with anyone who wanted to sing. It was a new experience for me. Prior to university I hadn’t ever been to pubs or live unplugged venues. I was more of a nightclub/DJ kinda guy (in my teens at least). After a few months the house band was no longer there and it was a regular open mic. A friend of mine was learning guitar. We both loved Guns n Roses. So we just said “hey, let’s play Patience by G n’ R”. And so we did. That started a love affair with singing, though initially only covers…
If I hadn’t gotten into music, I’m pretty sure I’d be focused on a professional career. When I reflect about my state of mind before getting into music, life was a job. I had to make money, get married, buy a house, and have kids. That’s what I believed. While I may end up with all of those things, life isn’t a job for me anymore.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Two things - I am an actor and so whether it is auditions or training, it’s a constant part of my life. The other thing is posture. I used to “work out” - now I simply focus on problem solving where I feel imbalances in my body. It’s a journey, but it helps me understand how and why I interact with the world the way I do, and how I would like to move forward.
How long has your band been around?
I started writing and performing original material in 2007-ish, but between 2011 and 2019 I wasn’t really performing any original material. I was working on “Surrender”. Pauses. Changes. Making the videos. Putting together the music and videos has been healing in a way. I guess I work things out through the creative process.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I am based out of Toronto, but grew up in Montreal and went to university in Waterloo. I hadn’t ever heard live acoustic music before university. It was the first time I had seen live acoustic music. It made me revisit music I had liked when I was younger - notably Guns n’ Roses. I went out and bought some used CDs and that really began a new kind of connection to music for me. I really heard the words. I was so curious about Axl’s voice. I loved their stage presence and it just made me want to find my own version of that.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
My artist name is a combination of my first and last legal name. I’ll keep it at that :)
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
A few years ago I got to play at Mississauga Celebration Square as part of the first India International Film Festival Awards (IIFA). It was huge. There were just shy of 10K people outside. It was a beautiful day. I was first on the bill and because it was an Indian event, I was to perform some Hindi songs as part of my set. Not only had I never sung in Hindi, I don’t speak it particularly well (I’m South Asian). In addition to that, I had a half dozen string players from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on stage performing with a full rock band. Three Hindi songs. Three covers. Three originals. Outdoor stage. Large stage.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
There’s the above mentioned show at Celebration Square.
I played at Revival as part of Canadian Music Week back in 2010 and that was an incredible experience. It’s such a great venue. I go there often for shows and house music parties.
I’ve always wanted to play at the Mod Club and Phoenix Concert Theatre. I’ve seen cool shows there. Budweiser Stage…too many to list. And that’s just in Toronto.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
This is a tough one. I think about venues, time periods, and genres. So many bands and musicians I would love to share a show with. There’s the dream show (artists that are no longer with us), there’s a show where I’m the different act on the bill, and there’s a show where you have a bunch of artists that have their own sound and that’s the fun. And everything in between.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
More of a question than advice - why are you doing this and what you are hoping to get out of it? That might trigger some useful thinking and decision making. I have to ask myself why I am doing things to help me focus and decide on whether I am willing to make the investment of time and effort.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
To my point above - asking the question “what do you want to get out of this?” and “why are you doing it?”. That said, maybe if I thought about it and hadn’t spent the time I have since, I may have decided to do something else. I don’t know. I’m here now, and it’s as a result of everything I’ve done and not done. I would have liked to have taken better care of myself, but that’s where I was and got me on the path to where I am now.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
“I Choose Love” means the most because it is the song that hits home the deepest. I wrote that song so quickly because I really believe it was sent to me as a prayer for what I’ve been working through in my life. It’s as if it were simply placed in my brain for me to download and write out.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
“I Choose Love” because of what it represents - singing that really gives me life, and also the song of mine people connect to most.
“You Can’t Stop Me” and “Break It Down” are two other songs that people also appreciate because of the message. Regardless of what kind of music you like, those songs will speak to you. It’s clear. It’s universal. It hits you.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Whenever I intend to sit down and write music, I usually come out with a lot of nothing. I remember spending a weekend intent on finishing a song that I had started ten years earlier. I was using rhyme dictionaries, a thesaurus, images - anything to help me get through the song. And while I finished it (or a draft of it), it didn’t feel organic. And by that I mean I kinda hated it.
For me, I need to capture ideas - whether it’s lyrics or melodies as they pop up in my head. So if I’m in the shower and something comes to me, I have to voice memo it once I get out, or it’s gone. I start a bunch and every once in a while I will revisit and see if I have any more ideas to include.
There are the occasions where a song will just get “downloaded” into my brain. “I Choose Love” is an example. “Break It Down” was similar, though over a longer period. Most of the songs I end up performing or including on any release are ones that really came to me organically.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
When I reflect on my songs, mostly they speak of my experience with myself; the battle I seem to go through in my mind. Working through it and moving forward. And doing it with love.
“Sometimes the pain can take control. Sometimes I get lost in the sadness of my soul. Sometimes I can’t see what’s right in front of me. Sometimes I feel like I can’t even breathe. So I’ll put my hand on my heart. Breathe in a new start. Get out of my head and say to myself - I choose love.”
Accepting myself - learning to - is where I’m at in my life and so that’s what I’m singing about.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
My “band” is really just me and my co-writer and producer, Adrian. We talk through things, but in the end if I really wanted something a certain way, I can have it that way, though I’m very open through the process and it usually is a back and forth until we find something that works. In the end, it really boils down to what feels for the song and what it is saying.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Now that the world is opening up I really want to build the live show and get back into the clubs. The world has changed. People have changed. People have moved. In a way there is a reset, or fresh start that is required. I don’t think people will go out as frequently as they once did, so for me I want to be more thoughtful about how I approach live performances. Yes, there is more music to record, but for now, I really want to get out there and let the music connect me to whom I need to connect with.