BSCkids recently got the opportunity to speak with pop singer Sonali. She spoke with us about her single, “Nothing Left,” as well as her musical inspirations and her charitable work.
Sonali is not just a talented singer, she is also an accomplished musician. The multi-instrumentalist who plays keyboard, drums and bass, is a scorching lead guitarist who wields an impressive arsenal of instruments. She is also an incredible giver. iTunes sales of the entire Speechless album are being donated to Smile Train, an international charity that provides free cleft surgery to hundreds of thousands of poor children in developing countries. Sonali recently released her single “Nothing Left,” that is sure to be a fan favorite. You won’t want to miss out on the beginning of Sonali who is well on her way to being a worldwide sensation.
When did you decide to be a singer?
Ever since I was three years old, I knew I wanted to be a singer! That’s probably every three-year-old’s dream so no one took me seriously, but I was confident! Music has always been my passion and now it has blossomed into so much more than just singing.
Tell us about your new single, “Nothing Left?”
I’m really proud of “Nothing Left” because I think it’s a great blend of pop, rock, and R&B, all of which I’m definitely influenced by. I’m also excited that I got to include a guitar solo, which I wrote and played, because a lot of my favorite songs are very guitar driven. What’s interesting about “Nothing Left” is that a lot of people view it as a break-up song, but it’s actually not at all. The song is about betrayal by a close friend, and realizing that someone whom you once thought you could trust with anything can actually let you down the hardest.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Musically, I am inspired by so many different styles. I love everything from 60s singer-songwriter/folk music, to classic rock and heavy metal, to a lot of contemporary pop hits today. I love listening to all kinds of different music because I can then combine it to form my own distinct sound, which is what I aim to do. In terms of what I write about, I am just inspired by living life and being surrounded by great friends and family. These people inspire me every day in all kinds of different ways, and that’s where I get most of the ideas for my music.
You are enrolled in school as well, do you find it difficult to be a singer and a student?
I’m enrolled in the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU Tisch, which is a very prestigious and highly selective program. As a result, the coursework is very demanding, but I absolutely love it! The faculty and students are incredibly kind and talented, and the learning never stops. But with only twenty-four hours in a day it definitely gets difficult to manage everything going on. Luckily, I really love what I do, so I can’t complain!
Tell us about your work with the organization SmileTrain and why you chose to work with the charity?
I was on vacation with my family one summer, and I first hand witnessed a little girl being ostracized because of her cleft lip. She was so cute and innocent, and the horrible manner in which she was treated really hurt me. About a year later, I came across a documentary called “Smile Pinki”, which explained what exactly the SmileTrain does. I was shocked to find out that a forty-five minute surgery costing only $250 was all it took to completely change someone’s life for the better. When I heard that I knew I had to do something to help. As a result, 100% of the proceeds from the sale of my EP Speechless go straight to the SmileTrain. It’s great to be able to use something you love to do to help other people.
How supportive have your friends and family been about your choice to join the music industry?
My family is so incredibly supportive, there’s no way I’d be able to do this without them. They have been 100% behind me from the beginning, and it means so much to me to be able to share this journey with them. My friends are also really supportive-the best way to share music is through word of mouth, and my friends are constantly doing that for me and I’m so grateful. They’re also really understanding of the fact that this career path demands a lot of work and is very time intensive, so I’m not always available to hang out. It would be really easy for them to get angry about that quickly, but that’s never been a problem for us.
What is your song writing process?
I don’t really have a standard format I always follow, it changes according to my mood and the lyrical content of the song. Normally, I begin with the lyrics and melody of a song, and add the chords and instrumental parts later on. I think it’s cool to let the lyrics and melody dictate what kind of mood the instruments should convey. The one thing that I absolutely always do however is use pencil and paper! I know it seems completely outdated in a world of computers now, but every single song I have ever written is with my black composition book and pencil. I feel like songwriting is too personal to just type onto a distant computer screen, if that makes sense.
Do you write about real life experiences?
Yes, all the time. I think those are the most authentic! I either write from personal experience or I am inspired by the experiences of my friends or family. I usually like to give it my own philosophical spin – how I would have dealt with the situation.
You also play a variety of instruments, which one do you love playing more than the others?
That’s a hard question because they’re all so different and I love them all! But I guess I would have to say my favorite is guitar. It just has such a beautiful sound and there’s so much you can do with it, the learning never stops. I also just recently bought my first acoustic guitar (I’ve been playing electric for years) and I’m obsessed with it!
If you could meet any celebrity who would it be?
I would love to meet Ed Sheeran. He’s such an inspiration to me, both as a songwriter and as a performer. His voice is angelic and his lyrics are so beautiful, he’s definitely a big role model for me.