Being on a hiatus from indie scene, ex – Motherjane vocalist Suraj “The Singing Sensei” Mani is all set to release his first solo album ‘The Tattva Trip.’ After diagnosed with ruptured disc in his lower back last year, he had no option but to retire from Motherjane and it was a huge blow for all Janiacs.
During his operations and therapy sessions he was almost isolated from the outside world. In that time he wrote some tunes and now will be releasing 9 songs + a novel along with the album. The album speaks of his personal experiences, likes and issues that came along with his journey.
Here, in this interview he talks about how the songwriting process came about, future plans and how to cut through all the crap life throws at you and keep doing the things that you are passionate about!
IMR: Hello Suraj Chetta! Thanks for taking out time to talk to IndianMusicRevolution. Before starting the interview, we all would like to know, how is health been treating you? We really missed you because of you going on a hiatus because of back pain.
Suraj Mani: Hi indrajeet, thanks for asking. As of right now I have good months and some bad days, so I guess you could say my health is good and can definitely get better. I’ve missed you guys too. Shall look forward to doing well planned appearances as the fates allow me.
IMR: Okay so, you are all set to release your first solo album. Can you just give a glimpse of what we can expect in the album like the title, theme, concept etc?
Suraj Mani: Well, I have gone off the beaten path with the concept and delivery of this album and it is definitely different by todays standards. While the name of the album is still under wraps, what I can tell you is that it captures what I have been going thru over this challenging phase in my life.
IMR: How the lyrics writing, songwriting has come about for the album?
Suraj Mani: Oh well, I’ve always been the type to write about my life in my songs. Most of the time I explore my psyche, issues and likes through my music and that is what I have done again. The thread is a journey that I have taken and how the songs lent themselves to it.
IMR: Your back pain forced you to leave Motherjane. Stupid question to ask, but how much do you miss Motherjane as the band must be like a family for you?
Suraj Mani: Well I still have a ruptured disc in my lower back and hence lifestyle challenges. One of the hardest was that my 10 year association with Motherjane came to an end with finality. You see the band lives in Kerala and I in Bangalore, guess 10 years of bus ride for practice took its toll on my injury and it is no longer a viable or doable option. I miss the guys and what we did together, but I’m glad we did all that we did, bcos I’m proud of all that we achieved as a team.
IMR: Can you tell us the other musicians who have worked on the album?
Suraj Mani: Sure (smiles). I’ve always been blessed to have worked with some amazing musicians and this time around God’s been good to me. This album has me as the singer/songwriter & composer along with the genius of Alwyn Fernandes (guitars/addl percusions/arrangements & music producer), Aman Mahajan (keyboards/piano), Cajetan Dias (strings), Keith Peters (bass), & Suresh Peters (drums). We had a blast and I was awed to see how much we achieved in the time we spent together.
IMR: Here comes the toughest question for you… could you tell us what is the genre of the album?
Suraj Mani: Ha Ha. Not really. But I have had to move away from the frontman of a super rock group into a singer songwriter mode and so maybe that would give you a clue. One thing that notably happen was that the songs have become the real heroes as does tend to happen with singer songwriter types.
IMR: Have you got any record label deal for the album? And what are your thoughts on record labels as most indie artists prefer releasing music on their own.
Suraj Mani: Well I am an indie artist with an indie label – Aum-I Artistes. I’d rather deal with my fans directly rather than some corporation that brings nothing to the table. What an artist needs first is recording facilities, packaging, administrative help and most importantly money to create his/her art, put it out there and recoup investments. With conscientious fans it is possible and once you really reach that fan base you’re set.
IMR: You are known as Sensei. So, could you please tell us your influences who drive you write lyrics, compose music.
Suraj Mani: Life inspires me. I write about things as I see them and sometimes how I’d like to see them. I tend to read a lot of stuff and veer towards zen, art, human psychology, marketing etc. I guess all that shows.
IMR: How Suraj Mani is different from Motherjane vocalist and a solo artist now?
Suraj Mani: Well like I said, I’ve accepted that I’m no longer the frontman of a rock supergroup and gotten into a simpler singer songwriter mode. I do play the guitar now and I know how to play exactly 17 songs from start to end (which includes new stuff that I have composed). Just 17, as of today. (Smiles). In fact I would struggle to do a christmas carol.(laughs)
On a more serious note, having an instrument to noodle around with adds a new dimension to one’s songmaking abilities. So expect my new album and with god’s grace, many more to come
IMR: As you have mentioned in the Motherjane Rocumentary that you like reading. Can you please tell us your favourite authors, books?
Suraj Mani: It is not the author as much as the subect that interests me and hence I read everything from Osho, to John Gleick to JK rowling. I just picking up books. I’m a compulsive book buyer actually, if I walk into a book store I’ll walk out with one.
IMR: Any new music you have been listening lately?
Suraj Mani: Frankly no. And I’ll tell you why. The more I’ve wondered about it I’ve realised it must be because of how music is popularised these days. Songs are promoted on visual mediums like Youtube and Facebook and hence what society really consumes as music today are just videos which have a viral quality. I’m sorry to make a general statement, but remove the video and you’ve got really poor stuff floating around.
In fact I was just telling a friend of mine as we were listening to some old favorites that none of those songs really lent themselves to great videos. They were ‘viral songs’ and the visualisation was left to the imagination. With regards to music I wish things would go back to the days when people would recommend a song that could stand on its own without the props of visuals etc etc.
For me, the main dish is the song and people are spending more time designing the menu card than the food. The result? : people like me have stopped eating out. (smiles)
IMR: You are a professional musician past 12 years (I guess). So how Suraj Mani is evolved in these years? And what do you aim to achieve in future?
Suraj Mani: Well yes. I have done 2 albums with motherjane and now I have a solo album coming up in the first week of december 2012. As I said I have another 8 songs which are to go into the next album and many are being written as I go thru what I go through. It is nice to live a bit before releasing music because then the music becomes an expression of what is important to you.
IMR: Well, here we come to the end of the interview. It was really pleasure talking to you. Looking forward to experience some great music that we have been craving for a long time!
Suraj Mani: My pleasure and my regards to all your readers out there. The action for my next albums starts on my Facebook page , so be there. I promise you something different!