On the day that Mili began recording her album in Los Angeles, her unparalleled crew of musicians entered the studio. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta was coming in from touring with Sting and guitarist Michael Landau had just got off the road with James Taylor. Also in the studio were pianist George Whitty (who has recorded for the likes of Brecker Brothers and Celine Dion) and bassist James Genus (a common face as part of the Saturday Night Live band and bass player to tunes by everyone from Herbie Hancock to Chick Corea).
She says, "That it all came together was like a dream playing out in real life. To be in a studio in LA; surrounded by the best musicians in the world, arranging and playing my songs! It was the universe flowing through that studio. Those moments felt so right, like it was always meant to be. And I remember thinking, 'With love like this, it has to show in the music.' And I think it does."
Singer-songwriter Mili wrote and composed Written in the Stars and released it on December 15th, 2017, not just marking the realisation of a dream, but also the first step towards being heard by a global audience. When she was in Los Angeles, she also shot a studio performance video for the airy ‘Dream Like a Skylark’, the centrepiece of her album. Being in the same room as musicians who’ve worked with the likes of Sting, Frank Zappa and more, Mili says she definitely felt the reality of her dream. “This was the first time I was putting myself out there as a songwriter and It is truly satisfying when you are living and performing in the moment, watching all that you’ve worked so hard towards materialising right in front of your eyes with the best musicians."
If you've ever heard Mili speak, then you already know that the music she makes is all about joy. The 10-track Written in the Stars showcases pop, jazz, and funk in different hues but with an unmatched level of exuberance. Every song bears a unique sound that unmistakably belongs to Mili. “The very intention was for people to listen to the album like an event, like a movie or a book,” she says. And her influences that let her hone her voice and songwriting? They range from legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby McFerrin, Sting, Steely Dan and Aretha Franklin. She says, "I've been open to all kinds of music – pop, rock, R&B... but listening to jazz just opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me as a singer and songwriter."
The diverse draw of music for Mili came from being around music from India and the West from early on in her life. she notes, “The sound of the west fascinated me, hearing what each musician contributed, the harmonies, the hook lines, the solos, groove, everything. I never knew that I was listening to music with this perspective until I started writing songs.”
In India's music landscape, of course, it didn't take Mili too much time before she was picked to lend her voice to the country's top composers. She took up the opportunity and gained fans for songs like Badari Badariyaan & Yatra from the show Coke Studio@MTV, 'Meethi Boliyaan' off Kai Po Che! composed by Amit Trivedi and Tamil song 'Parakka Seivaai' off Ambikapathy composed by A.R. Rahman. Mili says, “Not being the conventional film music singer and to be accepted for my individuality, it felt great that they became hits!"
Even with Written in the Stars, Mili has seen her own music reach out far and wide to people from different parts of the world. Messages received from a listener goes a long way, especially when it’s from all around the globe.
She says, "I get ideas and inspiration actually anytime, anywhere. People, stories, moments, situations... Writing songs is such a personal experience. It’s about following my instinct, and when it all finally aligns, it only validates the very purpose of what is meant to be. That is the greatest freedom and life experience I’ve had with songwriting."
"That it all came together was like a dream playing out in real life. To be in a studio in LA; surrounded by the best musicians in the world, arranging and playing my songs! It was the universe flowing through that studio. Those moments felt so right, like it was always meant to be. And I remember thinking, ‘With love like this, it has to show in the music.’ And I think it does."
It is a sentiment echoed by the musicians themselves.
"Oh it’s a fantastic experience! I had a great time doing this. Not only it was fun to do, but musically really rewarding because the music that Mili brought to us I think is really diversified and has real integrity and musical value that I think a lot of us, especially us musicians, want to hear and want to participate in.
This record is something that you know, people need to hear! It needs to live. This music is like an injection of medicine into that mainstream. It comes from an artist who’s taking their work seriously but having fun with it, making an honest statement, and it’s fun too! It makes you feel good!
My message to the listener is to just put it on, listen to it and just open your heart and enjoy it because it will make you feel good!"
It's a combination of good people, good vibes, good music, good instrumentalists that have played on it and good songs. It’s incredible to be a part of it.
Look out for it! And be prepared to enjoy yourself and enjoy the music. It's got some good stuff on it.
They captured something that a lot of artists, singers/songwriters don’t do, with the music, with the lyrics, it appeals to musicians, it appeals to music lovers across borders, it appeals to everyone! That’s what I like about it!"
"It's been great! She writes really great tunes and they were very inspirational to work with. I had a bunch of good ideas for sort of how to orchestrate it and how to put it together. They have a very strong vibe so it was easy. I think it's gonna be a great record from start to finish."