I came to music quite late. I started doing it in a serious and focused way at age 24 when I moved to San Francisco. And at that time, I became immersed in this community of artists and musicians from many different parts of the world and also many different artistic disciplines who were thinking about the ways that music impacts a community, a city and kind of bigger and bigger concentric circles.
So I started organizing as part of the Mission Arts and Performance Project and then I became the co-director of the Red Poppy Arthouse. And all this was right at the beginning of my musical career. So I never had a time when music and cultural activism weren’t side by side. Those early days sort of set the template for me in terms of how that would look. So I’m always going back and forth between kind of cultural projects and then periods that are more about creating music and touring and recording. And sometimes those things overlap and sometimes they’re quite different.
In terms of growth as a musician, I just felt like a big leap happened over the last kind of year to year and a half. I think that a lot of that has happened because of the touring I did with the Nile Project and the time I spent with that ensemble playing with 14 musicians from the different Nile countries. And that was a project that I co-founded in 2011.
There were two levels at which I really grew. One was that we had a four-month U.S. tour last year, and I just had so many musical ideas on that tour that I couldn’t do anything with at the time. … When I got to the point where I was composing music last June … I just had so many places to start from.
But also, I really grew as an arranger in thinking about how certain melodies belong to certain instruments. … Or what is the type of melody that makes for a good chorus? It’s kind of a different melody than it should be in a verse. And what are those relationships? …