By Gamal Hennessy
NCI: Talk to me about the philosophy behind your music. Is there an underlying thread that you put in every song?
ML: My music has always had a strong spiritual connection. It started in the Sikh temples where I performed with my family as a child, and it helped draw me to NYC from the UK when I got older. A lot of my personality and experience shape my lyrics. There are elements of every song that are a bit autobiographical and come from some events that I lived through and had to express. In the end, the music is a guiding force and the songs are an expression of release.
NCI: Do you feel there is an analogy between your introduction to music in the Sikh temples and the musical education that many R&B singers grow up with in American churches?
ML: I think they are very much the same. The focus of the music moves from more religious to secular, but the emotion is the same. The music parallel is the same.
NCI: The lyrics and tone of your songs express a lot of pain from lessons learned. What role do you think hard times played in your growth as an artist? What role do you think that plays in the development of an artist in general?
ML: The songs that I chose for the current EP were written a couple of years ago, after I lost my mom and was going through a bad breakup. The emotion of those days enhanced those songs. When I first recorded them, artist friends of mine praised their lyrical strength. That helped me find my artistic voice. But I don’t think it is the same for everyone and it’s not the only way to create music. John Legend has a lot of heart felt songs that don’t come from his personal experience. I’m sure I can write a song about a situation I haven’t gone through personally. The inspiration can come from personal experience, but that’s not the only source.
NCI: How has living and performing in New York influenced your sound?
ML: Living in New York has helped me build a musical family and the opportunity to work with my favorite producer, Stuart Matthewman. It has also given me a chance to work with people like Jay-Z and meet amazing professionals on every level. It is also tough because New York is a rough place to perform. New Yorkers don't have time for anything. If they like you they will be at your show when it starts and off to the next spot as soon as it is over. If they don't like you, they will let you know about it, quickly.
NCI: Tell me about the first time you played in front of a crowd in New York City.
ML: I played at Life for my first real New York show. It went well. I opened for Mark Ronson and Diddy was in the audience. I had a live band and there were a lot more people there than I expected. I was really proud of the performance and of the songs, but I was probably a bit over the top with my theatrics.
NCI: No worries. A bit of over the top theatrics was a regular part of the show at Live. Are you planning more live performances for 2013?
ML: A lot of things are coming together since I started performing at Rockwood again. I've got a lot of good feed back from the EP and the video. I'm hoping to turn that into more shows and another LP down the line, but nothing is set in stone yet.
NCI: What aspects of nightlife culture do you enjoy experiencing when you're not performing?
ML: I started going out years ago with promoters who eventually became owners of places like Butter, 1OAK and Double Seven. I was very lucky to experience nightlife at places like Marquee, Lotus and Life. I don’t spend too much time in clubs anymore. Now I’m very into the restaurant and lounge scene at places like Darby where live music is at a restaurant. There are so many choices in New York and so much to do that I can always find something different. That is one of the amazing things about New York. It can draw you in and keep you forever.