Here at The Young Folks, we fully support artists that are either just starting out for the first time or making their comeback after some years out of the spotlight. Case in point: Sonali. Sonali has taken a 2 year hiatus but now she’s back with a whole new sound. What was once primarily indie folk has turned pop with hints of her indie folk roots coming into play now and then. You’ll definitely hear the difference from her EP Wake Up circa 2014 versus her latest single, “Forever.” Within those two years, not only did she mature but so did her sound which she was able to find before her break even took place. However, there was a small of a chance she wouldn’t have even made a comeback in music and enter an entirely different playing field.
Not to fear, she figured it out and she’s back. For good. Keen on learning more about her? Check out our interview with Sonali where we talk about her experience in the music industry, her battle with Chronic Lyme Disease, and how she (like a majority of the world) is a huge fan of Stranger Things!
TYF: For our readers getting to know you, tell us a bit how you got your start in music! How did you know this is a career you wanted to pursue and how’d you go about chasing your dreams?
Sonali: When I was three years old, I very boldly informed my parents that I was going to be a singer, they just didn’t know I was serious! It’s never been a hobby for me, I’m really not sure why I felt that sense of purpose at such a young age. I started with classical voice and music theory lessons when I was six, and as the years went on I just kept picking up new instruments, and eventually songwriting. I started professionally releasing music and building my fan base while I was in college.
TYF: Was there or is there a certain musician’s career you’d love to emulate? If so, why that person?
Sonali: I’m inspired by so many different artists for different reasons, but I do definitely want to carve my own path. From a branding and marketing perspective, I really admire Taylor Swift. I love the relationship she has with her fans, and that she appears to be a very genuine and real person. I think people are craving that sort of authenticity, not some outlandish far fetched brand that’s harder to relate to. I don’t know how to be anything other than myself, so I hope to bring that same thing to the table! From a songwriting perspective, my two biggest influences are probably John Mayer and Ed Sheeran, I don’t think I’ve gone a single interview without finding a way to bring them up!
TYF: As you’re navigating your way through the music industry, what’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
Sonali: Patience, and to never give up. That sounds horribly cliche, but it’s true. This definitely isn’t an easy career to pursue, you’re constantly getting conflicting advice from people, and there are way more doors closed than opened. I also have the unique challenge of being a female of Indian descent, there isn’t exactly a whole lot of representation for us in pop music, but that’s a barrier I’m very excited to break!
TYF: You took a 2 year hiatus so welcome back! In that time, what did you learn about yourself and did that ultimately change your perspective on what type of music you’ll be creating?
Sonali: Thanks! I was unexpectedly forced into that hiatus when I started struggling with my health (I was later diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease), and while I did learn so much about myself during that time, as well as gain a plethora of songwriting material, I think my shift in my own personal music taste started before that. I went to the Clive Davis Institute at NYU Tisch for college, and at that time I was creating folk pop that you can hear on my last EP Wake Up. There were a lot of students at NYU who were more into electronic music, and I slowly started becoming influenced by that. I still absolutely love and listen to folk and country music, but I found myself more fascinated production wise by bands like The 1975, LANY, and Halsey, and I incorporate more of that in my music now.
TYF: What was it that motivated you to continue on as a singer-songwriter versus pursuing a completely different career path after your hiatus?
Sonali: During my struggle with Lyme I wasn’t feeling like myself at all, and for a period of time I had completely stopped playing music. I wanted nothing to do with it, and started working a more traditional job in business. It didn’t feel right or make sense at all, that something I loved so much I suddenly had zero desire to participate in, but I was hoping it was a symptom of my illness. Luckily that eventually passed, but I’m glad to have gone through that experience. I don’t take music for granted anymore, and I value what I do even more than I did before. I honestly couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
TYF: You have your own struggle with Chronic Lyme Disease, how do you go about keeping a positive mindset despite everything?
Sonali: Some days can be harder to do than others, but I’ve always been a very strong and positive person. That probably comes from my family, especially my grandpa. I could fill pages with all the serious and often life threatening health issues he had to face, but every single time he handled them with such grace, accompanied by a huge smile and lots of jokes. I was lucky to have him as a role model growing up, and I think by facing my obstacles similarly I’m honoring what he taught me.
TYF: Your new single “Forever” is beautiful. How did that idea of the song come about and how did it all eventually come together?
Sonali: Thank you! I wrote that song about a year and a half ago while I was seeing someone. When you think of dates you usually think of something big and fancy, or at the very minimum at least leaving your apartment, but for me one of the most romantic things I experienced was this night where I did absolutely nothing with someone who meant a lot to me. We just hung out in my room all night and talked for a gross amount of time, we didn’t even leave to get food, and as horribly boring as that might sound, it was perfect. I hadn’t felt anything like that before and I wanted to capture that feeling in “Forever”.
TYF: You do in fact create wonderful songs. How do you keep your ideas fresh and non-repetitive to what you’ve heard from previous singers?
Sonali: Thank you again! I don’t think that’s something I consciously think about when I’m writing. I try to keep the focus on telling the most authentic and personal stories I can, because it’s that level of intimacy that resonates with people. So many of the same lyrical themes are explored over and over again in music, even if you go back decades ago, and I don’t think that will ever change. There’s a reason love (and breakup) songs are so ubiquitous. What makes a song fresh is your own personal take on a universally relatable theme, and sharing your unique story and experience.
TYF: When you’re not busy creating new music, what can we find you doing?
Sonali: Incessantly snapping pictures of my adorable dog, Scooter! Just kidding (not really). I’m very into living a healthy lifestyle. It was kind of forced onto me a bit with my Lyme Disease, but I’ve really embraced it now. I have a ton of food allergies that make it hard to eat out, so I’ve been learning a lot about cooking food that’s healthy, adheres to a bunch of strict guidelines, and also somehow tastes good. I do a lot of yoga and pilates as well, so much of this stuff relates back to my Indian heritage which is great to learn about. I also probably watch way too much TV if I actually get my work done, but I can’t help myself (Stranger Things is sooo good)!