INTERVIEW: VENTS - Shambhu
Hi Shambhu, welcome back to VENTS! How have you been?
Thank you, I’m feeling wonderful as we launch my fourth album, Lilac Skies. This album took me year to
create, with 10 new songs, including a few (Lilac Skies and Basis of It All) that I wrote back in high school. After launching 3 albums into the New Age market, there’s a lot of meaning for me in an album that highlights my roots in Jazz and Blues. After recording an acoustic album, Soothe, for my 3rd release, I wanted do a live, in-studio album that included more of my jazz and blues songs with my guitar doing lots of the heavy lifting. That was the concept for Lilac Skies. I wanted the chance to again work with Brazilian drummer/percussion Celso Alberti who added tasty drums and percussion across the album and advised on sound production. This is also the first album where I scored and arranged the tunes, and we managed to record the ensemble cuts in one day, which still blows my mind.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Lilac Skies”?
Lilac Skies is the album and title track. This song opens with a bright, optimistic tone in a laid-back Brazilian flavored groove. Reflecting on a sandy beach under the sun. It features myself (guitars), Frank Martin (piano), Celso Alberti (drums) and Kai Eckhardt (bass). This core ensemble just crushed it track after track. I later added Premik Russell Tubbs on flute.
Here’s a video of the recording session for Lilac Skies at Fantasy Studios
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Lilac Skies was the very first jazz tune that I wrote and transcribed as a kid in high school; it’s still the opening song in my old songbooks. Why did it take me decades to record this beauty? (Big smile) I’m definitely looking at a few more of the songs that I wrote in that period!
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Yes, I just released a gorgeous video for Lilac Skies working with producer Matthew Shell. Immerse in the beautiful images of lilac skies rolling into shots of the recording session.
Why naming the album after this track in particular?
I was debating titles for the album. While gazing at a lilac sky sunset – it just occurred to me – that’s it. It spoke to me. Lilac Skies means infinite love. Lilac is the color of love. And sky represents the infinite and endless possibility to achieve our hopes and dreams. As a title, Lilac Skies pairs well with my music and feeling of optimism that flows through it. My music is also visually evocative. A listener may complete a song with one’s imagination. I have hundreds of comments from people who see things when they listen. Close your eyes, get into it and let go. Now tell me what you saw. Reach me at Twitter or Instagram @shambhumusic or Facebook @shambhumusichome. Use the tag #lilacskiesvision
How was the recording and writing process?
The writing process started with jamming for hours late at night and early mornings, and recording everything — over a period of 6 months. The more time I spent digging for songs, the richer were the results. I learned the lesson to better songs = play longer + focus deeply; there’s an exponential return. After a while, the creative faucet opened. I went from dry to holy cow! I left the surface of my mind and entered the intuitive realm. Then the music that flowed through me was more interesting and inspired. For a while it was exciting to wake up and sit down and jam in the studio, because I was channeling songs like Inspired by the Nightand Seeing You Again – out of nowhere – on one particularly fortunate morning in January 2018.
When I am starting to play, I clear my mind with a short meditation. I put on the headphones, press RECORD in Logic, pick up the guitar, and just start playing. Everything is correct – I accept every sound as meant to be, even when it sounds awful. That’s usually a trigger to try something else. Over time, songs emerge. I will often add a few guitar parts and a bass and piano or pads when a song idea is hot.
I also write songs to relax and it’s the songs that relax me. I create meditative sequences that I jam on and it puts me in a trance. It’s soothing. I dose myself into calm and end up with very nice songs. Other times, I will hear a melody, so I pick up the guitar, and create a song. Those are ways that songs appear. Sometimes I play them whole – like Inspired by the Night and Seeing You Again. Other times, they take weeks to finish.
I also craft the songs in live performances. Playing live is a great way to figure out how to make a song work. And right before I go into the studio, I produce home studio versions – simulations of the full track versions – and spend time listening and understanding the possibilities of the song. Once in studio, prior to reading the charts and recording, we listen to my prototypes.
In the recording studio is where I make final choices for a song. For example, we doubled the introduction of Lilac Skies during the recording session – because the song needed it. When a song is ready to record, it flows off the paper as naturally as wind and water exist, and it records and plays organically. In the studio we aim at organic production values and record complete performances. I may add pads and additional guitars in post-production. Dochas, for example, has a 12-string acoustic/electric guitar which I added in Switzerland during a summer vacation, thanks to my friend Panchajanya Burri. I recorded the lead track for Inspired by the Night on May 31st, while visiting Maui on the morning of my birthday.
How did you go on balancing all your different influences together on this particular record?
I grew up studying jazz guitar from 7 years old through high school. I played rock, jazz, soul, and blues in a variety of bands. I studied theory and composition at the Manhattan School of Music and took private lessons from avante garde jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille and jazz arranger Dr. Maury Deutsch. At 21 years old I learned how to meditate and as a result, over time my music transformed into a more soulful and reflective experience. I began to write and perform music that listeners found calming. And I saw how music could inspire a deep inner connection, and help folks move from depression and anxiety into more peace and calm. Over time I changed my goals to focus on writing beautiful, soulful music that was based on my heart feeling. And I started recording them with brilliant musicians and super high production standards, and arranging them using the principles I learned from Dr. Maury Deutsch.
It’s my heart feeling that unifies the rainbow of musical styles. Whether I’m lightly touching a melody, driving a lead or laying down a bed of chords, at the core of every note in a conscious way – is my heart — a kindness, a humility, a respect for Nature, and a feeling of giving a song just what it needs – and that’s enough.
And songs and note have deeper stories too:
Unspoken Words – When we cannot find words to convey our love, the heart overflows.
Dochas – Irish for Hope – Life challenges many nameless people and my heart feels compassion. Times are tough, and hope is key. This song reflects determination. Life will get better if we believe it will. Never stop. Be resilient.
Blue Whispers –This is a relaxed blues with a big sound. It’s a slow dance with the Cosmos, heart-to-heart, or with your dearest.
Pondering When – Big decisions? Which voice inside to listen to and when to act? When we’re circling around life choices and our minds are working on it, we’re pondering when.
Inspired by the Night – Reflecting on an amazing story. It’s a 7:35 minute story.
Seeing You Again – The verse is in 5/4 and 6/4, and the chorus is in 6/4. LIfe flows with unexpected twists and turns.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs?
I’m inspired by Nature and by reading soulful words of spiritual Teachers (Paramahansa Yogananda, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dalai Lama, Buddha, among others). I grew up learning meditation from Sri Chinmoy whose teachings are rooted in India’s Vedanta. As songs emerge from the silence of my mind, meditation has been a valuable friend.
Any plans to hit the road?
This is the year for touring and making that work.
What else is happening next in Shambhu’s world?
I just launched The Hamptons Sanctuary, a gorgeous AirBnB private apartment rental in the Hamptons (Westhampton NY). It is adjacent to 50 acres of Nature Preserve, near the town and pristine quiet. It’s also where I create music. Please come visit! You might get to hear a concert under the Lilac Skies!