What drew you to this album (still untitled) of Tagore songs?
Besides Bollywood songs, I don’t get time to work on albums, even in Hindi. When this opportunity came my way, I just jumped at it. I’ve been dying to do an album and to start that with Tagore songs is even better. I’ve loved every Tagore song that I’ve heard and the fact that I’ll get to sing them with such an arrangement, interested me. Both Soumyojit (Das) and Sourendro (Mullick) have turned them into beautiful, ethereal-sounding tracks. The typical sound is broken with the help of musicians like Stefan (Stoppok). A jazz-like base without losing the authenticity of the original compositions is a great combination.
How familiar are you with Tagore songs?
The first time I sang Tagore songs was in Calcutta three years ago. After that I’ve sung them in Bangladesh and at the Anandabazar Patrika show in LA (Ananda Utsav). Two of my favourites are Ektuku chhonwa lagey and Tomay gaan shonabo, which I chose to sing for this album.... I’ve always been attracted to Bengali music and have a lot of love and respect for Bengali composers. I love their soul.
Did you need to prepare differently for this album?
I heard 20-odd songs… versions by different artistes like Lopamudraji (Mitra) and Hemanta Kumar… and then I picked seven songs. I wanted to go through them, understand the meaning, know the details behind the compositions and not sing it like any other song. Language wasn’t a difficult area because I’m used to singing regional songs and can grasp dictions very quickly. But what was difficult was to let loose and not think. If you think too much you try to do too much with your voice and I don’t think Tagore songs need any kind of improvisation when it comes to the melody line.
Some dos and don’ts in the studio for you. Also, some memories.... My room shouldn’t be too cold. I hate that when I’m singing in a booth. I also like the studio to be nicely lit up although you can’t really ask for all that and throw tantrums.
I’ve been singing for 17 years now… there are various memories. The moment I walk into the studio I’m on a different trip. My friends and colleagues consider me a very funny person, cracking jokes all the time, especially after every take. I mimic (laughs) and I have a lot of one-liners too…. Once inside the studio, I’m quite easygoing. I don’t switch off my phone either. I’m married now and I love to see my husband’s name flashing on my phone (smiles).
You got married to music composer Hitesh Sonik last year. Is it all about music at the dinner table?
No, no, no… a big NO! We’re both doing music all day. If we sit and talk music again, it would be so forced. We just talk about our lives together, which is more important. He doesn’t judge my music or me and I don’t either. We love each other too much to do that.
How has life changed after marriage?
I’ve known Hitesh for 12 years. We liked each other so much that it felt we could be more than friends and decided to get married. It happened gradually. So, nothing’s changed. But yes, it’s been 11 months that I haven’t watched any television. There’s no need because we have so much to talk about, so many things to do. After getting married, I realise that I’m free to do anything. So I’ve been doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do but never had time — working on my independent album after nine years, listening to all kinds of music and also dancing!
I’ve always loved to dance; I try a bit on stage while performing but I’ve started taking formal lessons for the first time. I thought it would be a good way to prepare for tours, good for my fitness and something I want to carry on with because it makes me happy. I’m working on hip-hop and free and feminine moves.
What keeps you busy besides playback singing?
Right now I’m preparing for my tour of the US, Canada and the Caribbean. I leave on March 27. So rehearsals with the band, dancing and lots of recordings keep me occupied. Otherwise I watch a lot of movies, go on drives and read. I’ve recently started reading... right after I got married. Isse pehle main kabhi padhti nahin thi, I found it boring. My husband introduced me to reading and I realised how amazing it is. I started with The Alchemist and then I read The White Tiger. Currently I’m reading Michael Jackson’s biography.
Do you have a riyaaz and voice-care routine?
No, not really. Sometimes I sing in my car while driving, sometimes I don’t sing at all but I do listen to a lot of music... I don’t refrain from anything. If I feel low on energy before a stage show, sometimes I have a chilled Coke.
Which singers do you find most promising?
Shruti Pathak has a nice voice and this Bengali girl… Monali (Thakur)... And among boys it’s always been KK and, of course, Sukhwinder Singh!