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Roshni Baptist: Country Comeback

The Mumbai-based singer-songwriter draws from heartbreak, big-city blues and Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ on her acoustic debut album ‘Unbound’

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Nabeela Shaikh Sep 12, 2016
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Roshni Baptist. Photo: Ara Alexander

Roshni Baptist will release her debut album ‘Unbound’ on September 23rd. Photo: Ara Alexander

When she was just about wrapping up her graduation in the late Nineties, singer-songwriter Roshni Baptist toured with her local band Fire and Ice for a year, all the while hiding the fact from her father. “He had absolutely no idea I was part of a band,” recalls the Mumbai-based vocalist. “When he got to know about it he gave me an ultimatum: ”˜If I catch you even going for one more show, I’ll throw you out of the house’!”

That’s when Baptist decided to quit a passion she had been pursuing since her preteen years in school and church choir, and take up an “ordinary” nine-to-five job instead. But the performance bug kept coming back to bite her””whether it was during her time working the front desk at The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, or whilst she was sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line. Aboard the Florida-based cruise line, Baptist had a “nerve-wrecking but fabulous” performance, owing to the fact that she was an “Indian girl standing up there performing to an all-American liner.” (Many of the American musicians she played with on board would eventually contribute to her debut release.)

A few years later, Baptist made the decision to return to India and take up music full-time (“I thought to myself, ”˜Why can’t I give it one final shot?’” she explains), which led to dubbing sessions for Disney movies and jamming with Mumbai-based musicians like Nikhil D’Souza and Jose Neil Gomes, till she finally had enough material for her own debut album.

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Now, on Unbound, Baptist channels much of the country music she grew up listening to via her father’s vinyls (Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton), but she also “pays tribute” to younger pop artists like John Mayer, Shania Twain, Taylor Swift and Sara Barailles. The album, which releases on September 23rd, began taking form around 2013””“thanks to a broken heart,” she reveals. “I think that’s the best fodder any artist can get! Be it a painter or writer or singer. I wanted to get over that and didn’t know how to express myself, but I felt writing it down in a song made it easy.”

But apart from penning quiet heartbreak warfare on tracks like “Never Wanted You,” Baptist also looks to other forms of inspiration for the eight-track album: “People Always Leave,” for example, is a dedication to “her dearest and best friend” who’s stayed on even when others have come and gone. “Why Worry” sympathizes with “a singleton coming into a big city” and the craziness about living in a city, while “Fix Me” is inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Says Baptist, “I set out to make a music album but in a way, the album has helped me learn so much about myself. I think I’ve grown a lot with the making of this album.”

 

Listen to “Never Wanted You,” the first single off ‘Unbound’ below.

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