Deesha Sarai is a Canadian based artist who is not only a singer, but also a lyricist and music producer. Prior to pursuing music full-time, Deesha was a straight-A student in law school. However, eventually her love of music and drive to make it helped her succeed in the field. By 2006, Deesha had made quite a name for herself – independently released 2 singles, won several songwriting competition accolades, written for a major label artist, and had become a constant on the now defunct MTV Desi. That same year, Deesha released her debut album, “Life Less Ordinary,” which was nominated for the 2007 Juno Awards as Best R&B/Soul Recording of the Year. Gaining momentum and fans over time, in 2008, one of her song’s was featured in the Oscar-winning film “The Wrestler.” Deesha’s second release came out in 2010. Deesha shows that with drive and talent you can tackle any field! Check out my interview with this talented gal below!
Deesha: My sound on this new album can best be described as retro-electro-pop.
Roopa: If I understand right, you graduated law school and then post-graduation opted to pursue your true passion – music! First, just wanted to say thank you for giving those of us in law school hope that we can still make time for other pursuits! Secondly, how did you muster the courage to tell your parents that you were going to take charge of your own destiny and pursue music instead of law? Were they supportive of your choice? Did you always know this was a passion of yours?
Deesha: That’s very sweet of you. Music has always been my first love but growing up my parents always considered it a ‘hobby’ and to be honest, because of the lack of support it ended up being something I mostly did privately. With school things were different. I always loved school. I was a straight A student and my parents’ pride and joy when it came to academics. I received a lot of encouragement and of course it felt amazing to be appreciated for something you were good at. So I kept at it and eventually ended up in law school. All the while I was quietly working on music in between everything else. I was ultimately really unhappy with my life and the path I was paving for myself. I decided to do what made me the happiest. I quit my job and became a starving artist. My mom was pretty supportive. As long as I was eating, had a roof over my head and was happy she was happy.
Roopa: Each song of yours has a slightly different vibe than the others. I love the beat on “Got me sayin”! It reminds me of the popular “Apne to Jaise Taise” from Laawaris. However, your tunes with a more jazzy vibe and slower beat are also fantastic. Which song is your favorite?
Deesha: My favorite song is actually the very last song I wrote for my new album. The song’s called Mr. Mister and it’s pretty much the coolest song I have ever written. It’s VERY different than anything anyone has ever heard from me but then so is most of the new album.
Deesha: I actually produce as well, which is what I’m most proud of because its my biggest challenge. In terms of what inspires me that’s easy…life. Most of the time the songs are about my own life experiences in some shape or form.
Roopa: Did you make a conscious choice to sing your tunes in English, and not go the typical desi route? Was it hard breaking into the Canadian music industry? Tell us a bit about your journey.
Deesha: Actually singing in English wasn’t a deliberate choice. I was born and raised in Canada and so English was the language I spoke the most growing up. Don’t get me wrong I also speak Punjabi fluently…in my house my dad was pretty strict about having us speak Punjabi at home and I’m glad he was so hard on us about that. As an artist thought it’s very important to do that which is 100% true to yourself. I LOVE Pop music, R&B, Hip-Hop and naturally that’s what inspires me the most to create. I create the kind of music that speaks to me the most. That doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t sing in Hindi or Punjabi it just means I won’t do it unless it makes sense creatively for me. If its a dope idea I’m down to do it. I’m not gonna lie, it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, long before the scene that exists today existed. Creating the kind of music I create actually has made it very difficult to gain support from the Desi scene on an independent level so trust me its not some deliberate attempt to be cool. As far as breaking into the Canadian scene…I don’t really feel like I have yet, at least not in the way I’d like to.
Roopa: What genres of music are your favorite?
Deesha: Pop, R&B and Hip Hop
Roopa: Which songs do you keep on repeat on your iPod and which artists are your favorite? Your sound and ability to adapt to any genre and style of music reminds me of the greats like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houstan. Are you a fan of either of these singers?
Deesha: What I’m listening to changes so often…I’m a bit ADD that way. But my most recent favourite is the Santogold album. I found it to be the most inspiring collection of music I have heard in a long time. Growing up I listened to a lot of Mariah and Whitney, especially early Whitney. I had the lyrics to all her songs written out in my homemade notepad and I would take my little ghetto-blaster into the bathroom and have my private karaoke sessions.
Roopa: Which artist would your dream collaboration be with? Will we ever see a Nelly Furtado-Deesha collaboration since you’re both amazing Canadian stars? Personally, I think a Deesha-Brandy collaboration would be amazing too!
Deesha: To be honest I don’t know who my dream collabo would be…I’m still trying to get me right.
Roopa: You may be the only desi artist, besides the Slumdog crew, who can claim credit for involvement in an Oscar winning flick. Your song “Let Your Freak Out” was prominently used in the Mickey Rourke film “The Wrestler.” What was your reaction when you heard about your song being used in such a big movie? Did you have a chance to meet the cast?
Deesha: It’s funny because when the song was chosen for the movie it was still an independent production with no major behind it. Then next thing we knew it got picked up by FOX followed by a slew of Oscar nominations. It was the most exciting phone call I’ve received to date. Unfortunately I didn’t meet any of the cast.
Roopa: Female singers like Mariah Carey, Cher, Aaliyah, Jennifer Hudson, etc. have seamlessly made a move to the big screen. If you could transition from music to becoming an actress in movies, do you think you would take the leap?
Deesha: I’m not sure about that one. Right now I’m focused solely on writing and producing and being the best I can be at that first. I don’t want to be a jack-of-all-trades. But one day, with the right opportunity, I would totally be open to it.
Roopa: Is there anything else you would like to add to your fans and UA readers? Which “deesha” are you going to pursue next in the world of music? Any previews for your fans?
Deesha: Of course I want to thank my fans for their continued support…without them I would be like that tree that falls in the forest that no one hears. I can’t wait to take them on this ride with me…we’re all going to have so much fun together! Album should be out really soon.
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