The singer-songwriter on healing, connection and her debut album Lucid.
Raveena’s music feels like a safe haven. Layering delicate percussion, ethereal strings and her angelic vocals over slow-rolling R&B-led rhythms, the Indian-American artist has created her own dreamy sonic landscape where time and the chaos of the outside world stand still.
First making waves with four-track EP “Shanti” in 2017, Raveena’s spent the past two years putting together her debut album Lucid, released earlier this summer on the last day in May. Documenting her own experience working through trauma and rediscovering herself in the process, the eclectic record offers a fearlessly open, all-accepting space for love, community and healing.
Having just embarked on a US tour this September, we spoke more with the singer-songwriter about her influences, hopes for the album and what a Raveena show is like live.
Hi Raveena! Let’s rewind to when you were younger. What role did music play in your life growing up?
It was my everything! Music has been a huge healing presence in my life ever since I discovered I could sing around age nine.
“Shanti” made such a huge impact. What was that recognition like for you?
My life has really changed in the last year. I am so grateful to wake up and create art every day, and I don’t take any of this time for granted. This was always my calling and I will be sure to soak in every bit of these days where I am living for the sake of music. I was working so hard trying to balance a day job and fund and work on my music before “Shanti”, so when people started recognizing the music it felt like a gigantic blessing. I think I was on a cloud for the first few months when things really started to change.
How have you developed your sound and direction on Lucid?
I never attempted a full-length album before Lucid, and one of the most crucial parts of making a full-length record for me was telling a story from start to finish, and creating a cohesive body of work in terms of sound and lyricism. I think Lucid really did that in the way it pieced 12 songs very seamlessly together, to ultimately tell a story of surviving trauma and healing. I think I really tapped into my womanhood on this project, exploring deeper tones in my voice and harder parts of my life to visit in the lyrics.
Lyrically the project encompasses so much – can you talk us through the main themes running through it?
The album tells a story about my youth – about the traumas from that time of growing up, but also the pockets of light, self-discovery and messy first loves. I think the lyricism of Lucid is a place where I really grew since “Shanti”. I had been trying to figure out a way to talk about abuse and assault from a transparent, grown and healed perspective, and I think I was able to finally achieve that in songs like “Stronger” and “Salt Water”. I think “Still Dreaming” is my favourite song off the album, and that song was about capturing this moment of transition between being a teen and becoming an adult, and wanting to stay in that pocket of time forever.
Is writing music a cathartic process for you?
Absolutely. I process everything through music and would be half of a human without it.
Is it intimidating to write about delicate, highly personal situations and put them out into the world?
Only before I put the record out, did it feel daunting and nerve-wracking to put those stories out. After putting out the album and then my story in June, I feel so light and liberated. I feel seen and embraced with love. Those stories really don’t carry as much weight as they once did.
How does it feel to have your audience connect, and feel healed by those lyrics?
It makes me sad that so many other people have been through similar things, but I’m so happy that my vulnerability can allow for a space where people can feel free to open up and heal those parts of themselves. It’s really about creating a community of love through the music.
What sounds does the album draw from?
The album is often categorized as R&B, but honestly, we were listening to a lot of experimental, indie, and rock records as well. Feist, Sade, Kadjha Bonet, Asha Puthli, and Björk were some of the big influences for the album.
Your visual identity as an artist is so strong too, from your videos to album artwork and Instagram. Where do you take visual inspiration from?
Psychedelics and all the colours of the rainbow! Old Bollywood! Surrealist films from Lynch and Wong Kar Wai! There is so much gorgeous, underrated, otherworldly shit constantly coming out of the East and I’m very excited by their colours, ideas and vibrancy.
The video for “Stronger” is really impactful – can you tell us more about the process of making the video?
I worked with a female director for all of my videos of this album [Danica Kleinknecht] and she helped me take these stories and rough visions for all the videos on the project and mould them into full productions. I had this initial idea ever since I first made “Stronger”, where I wanted to start this video with this contemporary dance sequence with male dancers (artfully) strangling me and I would continuously try to escape them. Chris Emile, the choreographer, and the dancers did a stunning job of translating this vision in my head into real movement, and the end result of our dance sequence came out way more beautiful than anything I imagined in my head.
What was the most powerful part of making it for you?
A favourite scene was the one where I’m standing in the tree, with beautiful female dancers around me. I was running so late for that shot, doing hair and makeup and trying to put three feet of extensions in my hair. When I finally came out to shoot the scene, we saw dark clouds slowly rumbling over the hills and knew we were in for trouble. As soon as I got up the tree, I felt rain on my face and we shot the whole lip-sync in one take, with rain starting to pour down on me and the girls so intensely. The camera eventually flew off the dolly and got wet and then we all ran inside. Basically, it was beautiful chaos and I think that scene really reflected that in the end.
Right now you’re mid-way through what you’ve described as “the softest tour of all time” – what’s a Raveena show like?
Honestly… meditations, holding hands, carefree dancing, incense and essential oil diffusers.
How does it feel to perform your music live and what do you want the audience to feel?
When I’m on stage, I feel like a free fairy that was put on this earth to sing and give love to people and I hope people sincerely feel that.
What’s next for you?
I have a really big vision for the future. I think I’m really gonna step into something special in the next few years with the next sound and place I wanna take this whole thing. I’m bubbling with energy right now!