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Artist Profile: Interview with Nishi

Lawyer, writer, web designer, and singer--any one of those callings is surely demanding enough for one person, but Nishi manages to follow all of these passions. An example of the modern Renaissance woman, Nishi balances a full-time job practicing personal injury and insurance defense litigation with writing and singing her own music, defined as a blend of "Indian rhythm, American pop, alternative rock, and bluesgrass". She's performed at venues throughout Manhattan, and her demo CD features six of the (over 250!) original songs in her repertoire.

Encouraged by her family to pursue her musical talents, Nishi has been writing songs and performing on stage since she was a teenager. One of the most compelling qualities of her music is its range, in every sense of the word. Her popular dance song, "Steal Your Heart Away", has been described as strikingly "Indian" in its rhythm, and the tender "Nightingale's Song", written for a beloved grandfather, has the poignant cadences of a Celtic ballad. Her voice is soft and sweetly alluring in one song (India West called it "light and airy"), and then surprisingly deep and stirring in the a capella track, "Hope For Us".

Beyond that, her lyrics have the rich emotional immediacy of an artist who writes and sings from the heart. Nishi's musical career is one to follow.

Having written over 250 songs is an amazing accomplishment! What was the first song you wrote? Are there any that you are most proud of?
I first seriously began putting pen to verse in my high school years and saved everything I had ever written, finely editing and re-working them in the years since; that is why, so many years later, I have such a large catalogue of songs. The first complete song I ever wrote was at age 14: a dance number composed during a thunderstorm called 'Hypnotized.' The song is about the mesmerizing effect a love interest had upon me and is a rain dance song, incorporating elements of thunder and lightning as symbols of the raging intensity of the emotions I had felt.

How do you think your musical style has changed over the years? Do you see it changing in the future?
My musical style has become much more sophisticated, influenced by my changing interests in artists, bands and genres. When I was younger, I listened predominantly to 80's and early 90's dance music and, being South Indian, was always immersed in Hindi and Malayalam music. Today, I am all about alternative rock and world music, especially haunting Celtic ballads. Life experiences have also changed the style of my music. Painful love experiences have helped me to create some very dark and angry pieces. I am certain that my musical style will continue to evolve.

People really seem drawn by the Indian edge to your music. What do you think sets Indian music apart and makes it "Indian"? Are there elements of Indian music that you are especially drawn to?
Indian music is so diverse, using instruments and sounds "native" to India. In one song it could be the infectious dance rhythm and beat, a pulse driven by the dhol drum and the tabla. In another it is the prevailing serenity and calm of the sitar, the sounds from the jungles and forests of India. It is these unique qualities that sets Indian music apart.

For people who are new to your music, which of your songs would you most like them to hear? I.e., which do you think best represents your music, especially given your wide range of songs?
No one song can best define an artist. Humans are multi-faceted beings and when we choose to write music, the songs composed showcase whichever facets and emotions we wish to divulge at that time. However, that said, of my songs currently released, 'Steal Your Heart Away' would be the song I would want a new listener to hear first because the music reflects my Indian origins and the lyrics my powerful central emotions of love, power and lust.

What do you enjoy most about singing/writing/performing music? Is there one aspect of it that comes easiest to you, or that you find most fulfilling?
Writing a song is cathartic - a fulfilling, healing and rewarding experience in itself. I feel great satisfaction and joy when I have written a piece to perfection. Singing and performing it perfectly, however, is where I find the culmination of peace. Nothing makes me happier than to write a work to completion and perfect the melody and my performance of it so that the listener hears exactly what I have intended.

What do you think makes a good song or performance?
How strongly the song relates to you and your heart. To perform a song well, you must connect with it, it must be something you feel and can see yourself in. To write a good song, it must be genuine and showcase the truest parts of your soul. The strength of personal identification with a song and performance is what makes one song/performance mediocre and another stellar.

What do you wish someone would ask you about your music?
Why do you write songs and music? Because it is one of the things I was born to do.

What is the most challenging thing about being a musician? What encourages you to persevere despite the challenges?
The most challenging thing about being a musician is finding the time and the means (i.e. income and talented accompanists) to pursue it to the utmost. I am encouraged by my own works, by the merit of their melodies and lyrics, and by my own talent when I sing them to the fullest of my potential. I am encouraged when someone reads or listens to one of my songs and identifies with it, or finds peace and joy in it.

It must be wonderful to have your creative goals supported so warmly by your family. Some Asian Americans (or non Asian-Americans, for that matter) feel that their parent would rather see them follow "safer" pursuits, and this is very disheartening. Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians who don't have familial support?
To follow your dreams. No matter who tells you no, no matter if they say you have no talent, do not ever stop believing in yourself. Amazing things happen when you simply believe and keep trying and never, ever give up: dreams come true.

To learn more about Nishi and to sample her music, please visit
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