I could not help but be impressed with the tattoos on Gaurav Bali’s arms when I was in conversation, between rehearsals, with the guitarist of NYC based-rock band Eve To Adam.
I had gone in expecting a rock star, with all the attitude and aloofness the term conveys, but Bali is disarmingly warm and friendly. His guitar, on the other hand, is wild and loud, though there are elements of classical music in his compositions.
Music runs in Bali’s veins; he is gold medal-winning sitarist S.N. Bali’s grandson. In the 1980s, when Bali was only 8 years old, he fell in love with the guitar while watching MTV at an aunt’s house, and knew that he and the instrument were bonded for life. “In the video for ‘Jump’ Eddie Van Halen had on these crazy, bright clothes and couldn’t get the smile off his face! Then I heard him play the guitar and that was it … I started taking guitar lessons a week before my ninth birthday and never looked back. My parents soon knew that I wasn’t going to be doctor, lawyer, accountant, or engineer.”
Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Bali took lessons from a number of guitarists including Ed Fuhrman, Latin flamenco guitarist Hernan Romero and jazz guitarist Nat Janoff. Like one of his favourite guitarists, the late Randy Rhoads, Bali believes that the best way to keep learning is to teach others. That’s the reason he’s been teaching for over 20 years and very often, in his classes, he’s stumbled upon tunes that have ended up in Eve to Adam songs. In fact, one of Bali’s students was none other than Grammy award-winner Lauryn Hill!
Bali met the Sassaris brothers of the band Eve To Adam through an ad in The Village Voice in New York and they clicked instantly, Bali completing the band and solidifying its sound. “The writing process went smoothly from the very beginning because everyone brings something different to the table musically. We also figured out quickly that we had a similar sense of humour and we’d be able to spend long amounts of time together, travelling.”
So what is it like to be the only Indian in a multi-cultural band? “The band is made up of two Greeks, a Korean/German and me—and all four of us are Americans! I call us ‘the United Nations of Rock.’ Being in a band with such a diverse range of cultures is interesting, to say the least. You realize very quickly that although every ethnicity has its little quirks, in the end we’re all the same. We actually have an endless supply of comedy material based on our backgrounds, and it gets pretty brutal sometimes! But of course, it’s all in good fun.”
His Indian heritage “I grew up around Indian music so it’s going to make its way into my writing. We’ve had tabla on a track and our new single ‘Run Your Mouth’ has electric sitar all over it. I’m actually hoping to do a remix soon that focuses more on the sitar and maybe add some tabla and other percussion to the track. It will sound amazing…”
Bali’s finds inspiration from many sources: a life experience, a piece of music, or just playing his guitar for hours and hours…in his room, in his studio and at a band rehearsal. Like his favorite bands Led Zeppelin, Van halen and Metallica, he wants to create music that is universally appreciated and accessible to the lay listener.
Eve to Adam has released three albums so far: Auburn Slip in 2001, Antidote in 2003 and Queens To Eden in 2007. Having sold 10,000 digital copies, 10,000 hard copies and 10,000 digital singles, the band has been wowing crowds with their live performances. They have opened shows for many artists like Tesla, Daughtry, and Candlebox.
And there’s nothing quite like performing live in front of thousands of fans. “I like all the aspects of being in a band. I enjoy the camaraderie … I love the writing process: coming up with an initial musical idea, showing it to the band, and then turning it into a finished song. Of course, the most fun part is the live performance, that’s where we thrive. Everyone has their own ‘thing’ they do, and nobody does it quite like the four of us. Being on tour is crazy because when you have a tour bus you wake up in a different place everyday. It’s something that we’ve all fallen in love with and we hope to never stop!”
Stopping is the last thing on their minds, judging from the venues where they have performed. From the legendary CBGB’S in NYC to House of Blues all over the country, there are hardly any arenas they haven’t frequented. Their latest album, Banquet For A Starving Dog, is due to release on September 13th and being distributed by Universal Music Grup. Their single “Run Your Mouth” is going to rock radio in June 2011 with a video following in July.
Even though Bali doesn’t like dishing out advice, he had this to say to young Indians American hoping to choose a career like his, “Any career path in entertainment is a gamble, so you’d better make sure you’re ready to lose sometimes. The most important thing to remember is that you need to pursue it for the right reason: because you want to play music. Period. Any money or fame you’re going to get is essentially out of your hands because there are so many other people involved in making that happen, like managers, publicists, etc. One very important thing I’ve learned over the years is that you need to have the right team on your side. If you’re working with sincere intentions and have a great team behind you that believes in you, the sky’s the limit.”
Follow Gaurav and his band mates on www.evetoadam.com
Anjum Kulkarni is a freelance writer from India.