Sooraj is a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, composer, and arranger from Mumbai, India, who released his highly anticipated album titled “Here We Go,” and it begins with a jazzy and groovy introduction with the single “One Last Dance.”
“One Last Dance” has a funky flare with a fast-paced tempo and various of different transitions through the instrumental spectrum. I like how Sooraj starts the album off with a danceable tune that can get us in the mood and prepared for the next track. After dancing alongside to “One Last Dance”, “The Actor” plays. “The Actor” sounds like a cruise-like groove with a melodic introduction thanks to the strings and chords from the acoustic guitar and bass. Sooraj keeps his delicate voice intact to keep serenading us.
After “The Actor," “Fairytale” begins with a more jingle-like intro. The guitar melody sets the tone and setting for the song to be more subtle than groovy. The aura and energy of the fairytale are actually delightful, although the tempo is slow, and the aesthetic can seem melancholic. Next, “Nemesis” kept the whole upbeat and bright vibe going with a striking hook that can become addicting for some. I like how Sooraj changes the speed throughout the song. It gives the single a more multifaceted appeal.
The next song, “3am Conversations,” was the most fitting ballad to be included on the album. I say ‘ballad’ loosely because when you envision ballads, you tend to envision the emotional conviction of depressing lyrics and emoting sad sensations throughout the song; however, this ballad is more contentful. Just a natural comforting joy, the same comfort you receive during 3 am conversations with a companion--ironic, right?
After the relaxing song transitions out, “Awake” transitions in. “Awake” immediately begins with its natural jazz roots being apparent. I like the whole aesthetic of the album so far. It’s highly positive and progressive, but it has catchy melodies and tunes, proven with “Awake."
"Awake" has an eargasmic hook thanks to the melodic and canorous delivery Sooraj gives us. Mentally paint a vivid image of yourself on a cruise, enjoying the breeze from the ocean and eating expensive steak while listening to exquisite music. That’s the image Sooraj gives us during “Awake.” My favorite part in this song was when he carries his voice into a piercing high note. The beautiful whistle falsetto showcased his vocal dynamics and range.
The next song, “City Beat,” begins with a military-sounding drum rhythm before the folk-like guitar acoustic matches the tempo. "City Beat" seemed to be the leading single on the album as it really drives forward the entire component. Sooraj album has been about nonstop images and painting various different settings for his listeners and City Beat propelled that forward. Sooraj includes two love-bop melodies, “Grow” and “Someone Who Cares,” to demonstrate his vulnerable side and show he has the ability to intune himself with his emotions and serenade us with authentic lyrics personalized to him but relatable to the world.
The final track, “Infinities,” and the bonus track, “Afterlife,” was the perfect closer to the album. Both songs sort of felt like a reflective piece of memory. I think by this time of listening you’re indulged into the album so it was great to give us a song that evokes our imaginative thinking and get us remembering moments that were great in the past, just like he gave us moments that were great in each and every song on the album.
Sooraj, what was your initial vision for the album?
Before I released the album, I’d been writing and performing my own songs for a long time. It was only natural that I should see some of them put together and presented to the world. “Here We Go” is a culmination of five years’ worth of musical exploration, songwriting and discovery. I wanted to make something that I could pop on in the car or at home or wherever and say, “This sounds pretty good; I’d love to listen to more!” The album is essentially a snapshot of who I am as a person and as a musician.
Did you find any challenges during the creation process?
I think the most challenging part of the whole thing was the mix process, where we went down into the little details. I had literally one person - my friend Navneet Rao, who was the line producer and mixed and mastered the album - doing the whole mix and fine-tuning it to a point where both of us were happy. We went back and forth on so many things, and ultimately came out with a final product which we were happy with. He fell seriously ill, too, in the middle of the mix sessions, so the whole album release was pushed back by almost a month and a half. But I think the time spent on it was well worth it because it’s turned out just how I envisioned it.
How do you determine which songs to be selected for the finalized album? Were there any you recorded that didn’t make the cut?
Determining the songs was done in consultation with people who knew almost every song I’ve written and performed - my wonderful band here in LA, my amazing band back in India, my line producer Navneet Rao and a couple of my other friends. We recorded only after we made the final selection, but there were definitely one or two songs which were a wrench to let go of. But they might just be part of album number two, you never know.
How do you manage to be versatile while sticking to your style?
I think the key here is to be hummable but not annoyingly so. If you find yourself walking down the street humming something, that means that particular song has got you, no matter what the genre is. And I think that’s what works in my favour - that most genres do have their own way of being memorable, but if it’s something you can hum to, you can be as versatile as you like, and it’ll still be memorable while walking down the street.
I try to put little melodic and rhythmic hooks into every song that I write, but not overuse them. About being versatile - I think that’s where my music production background helps because I’ve been doing work and listening to so many different styles of music so often that having songs that are different from each other, or even a “genre-bending” song, if you please, is something that I automatically enjoy.
Any favorites off of the album?
My personal favorite, and this has been backed by my band here in LA, is the second track, “The Actor.” This was a song written about Hollywood and my observations about people on the boulevard while walking to school and how everyone seems to just be playing a role in a script that’s not their own.
The way the song grooves is literally my daily walking speed on Hollywood Blvd every day. And the band does a fantastic job of bringing the song alive — Phung with his steady groove, Igor backing him up on the bass, Kruttika with her soul/jazz-inspired electric piano and Kazuki with his beautifully melodic guitar solo. We all love playing that song the most, and I think it’s the one song that Nav and I spent the most time on while mixing.