November 10 2013
Anousheh Khalili has been playing music since as long as she can remember. Having learned to play piano as a child, she began writing music in her early teens and performing with her first band in high school. She has in inherent love for songwriting, which is more than apparent in the haunting music she makes today.
Anousheh first moved to Richmond, Virginia in 2001 and in 2005 recorded her first solo album, “Let the Ground Know Who’s Standing on Him” on local label Triple Stamp Records. Around that time she was approached by the DC-based DJ duo Deep Dish to sing one of their new tracks, which ended up shooting straight up the charts in the UK and around the world. Following the success of “Flashdance”, they collaborated on a follow-up track, “Say Hello”, using Anousheh’s original piano and lyrics and melody, and became an even bigger success. “Say Hello” was nominated for a Grammy in 2006, losing the award for Best Dance Recording to The Chemical Brothers.
These days, she’s back to doing things on her own, including releasing an EP with her new band titled “The Trouble I Find” and working on a new full-length album.
How do you describe your music?
My musical style is constantly evolving, but it always comes down to me and the piano. I write all my songs on piano first, and have a bit of a love affair with minor chords and dark undertones. I try to juxtapose this side of my music with catchy melodies and layered arrangements, but when it all comes down to it–I’m still a child of the 90s. Love some angst.
What makes you want to make music?
I make music because I love it. Life is not the same when I’m not writing songs. I also believe that music is an important and universal art form, and I’m honored to contribute to something that has the ability to connect us all.
What do you love about being a musician?
Having such a strong creative outlet, and performing. There’s no other feeling quite like connecting with an audience, it’s a strange rush that can’t be replicated.
Is there anything you don’t love about what you do?
Performing. Ha – it’s a love/hate thing. It’s an amazing feeling but also completely terrifying. Also, hauling gear to shows, and having to make music business decisions. The worst!
What challenges have you faced?
I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006–and this simple fact threw me into a 2 year spell of writer’s block. I am managing just fine with the disease, but creatively I suffered a LOT. Getting back into songwriting was like an exorcism, but I’m glad I got past it.
The other doozy was my decision to sign a record deal with one of the DJs in 2009. It was kind of a bad deal and a bad decision, and I stood in my own way for a long time–stubborn to the end. When I finally conceded that the record deal was done, I was able to move on, relieved and wiser for it.
What have been your proudest moments?
The moment I heard the masters from my latest EP. I felt so accomplished to have completed it, and so proud of my band. The other was at a show in Costa Rica (while on tour with DJ Sharam) in 2010. It was an outdoor festival, and I went onstage to perform “Say Hello” to a crowd of 4,000 people. To my astonishment, the crowd sang along with every single word of the song, as loud as they could. It was such an amazing and overwhelming feeling, I’ll never forget it.
What do you hope people take away from your music?
I hope that people can relate to the emotional content of my songs, through either the melody or the lyrics. My lyrics often illustrate more general emotional concepts, always rooted in a personal truth. I try to make my songs meaningful and smart, without dictating how to interpret them. You won’t ever hear me write a song about something silly, I’m probably always going to be ultra serious. Again, I blame 90s grunge–it’s what I grew up on!
Where did you grow up and how long have you been here in Richmond?
I went to high school in Fredericksburg, VA. Before VA, we lived in Maryland, New Mexico, New Jersey and Washington State… my dad liked to change up his jobs! I came to VCU for Art School in 2001 and fell in love with Richmond. I’ve been here ever since.
What is your favorite neighborhood or area here?
AHH that’s hard. I love the Forest Hill Area where we live now. It’s still in the city, but it feels quaint and quiet. Architecture-wise, I will always love Church Hill. We lived there for a couple of years, and we still go up on nice days to the overlooks and to look at the beautiful Victorian row-houses. It’s such a unique Richmond neighborhood, filled with history but also a sense of community. I always take out-of-town visitors to Church Hill, it’s one of my favorite ways to show Richmond off.
How do you spend a typical Sunday?
I love a lazy Sunday off, especially after all those years of retail and restaurant jobs! My ideal Sunday: Donuts from Sugar Shack or pastries from Sub Rosa for breakfast. An afternoon visit with my friends the Vassars, at their log cabin. Their house is so serene, and I really enjoy snuggling their son (their 9-month old is weirdly calming, like a tiny Buddha). Then back home for a nap and homemade dinner (made by me, I love to cook!). I would end the evening with some nerdy TV time with my husband and the kitties.
Where is your favorite sandwich in Richmond?
Sandwich: Classic Cuban from Kuba Kuba. Hands down.
Best cup of coffee?
Coffee: Blanchard’s Dark as Dark, brewed at home, with a little soymilk.
Anousheh lives in the south side of Richmond with her husband, Wil Loyal of the band Homemade Knives and owner of Triple Stamp Press, and her two cats Batman and Monkey. She is joined by bandmates Marcus Shrock, Tyler Crowley, and Matt Morton. See more from and listen to Anousheh here.