Murphy’s Law was in full swing the day singer-songwriter Aditi Saigal aka Dot. was recording her new EP at Bangor University, where she was pursuing music and creative writing.
She joins A Humming Heart over Zoom from her home in Cardiff, Wales, a cup of tea in hand.
“This EP was due in a week as a project for my degree. Most of my bandmates had driven up from Liverpool. We’d booked the University Hall for two days to record. And we turned up to find that all the studio equipment was gone!” she narrates.
What followed was a frantic search as the group scrambled around campus. Luckily, they could source a mic and drum kit. “The automated gates malfunctioned just when we needed to bring the drum kit out. We called the security personnel, and they had to bring someone to fix it,” she recalls.
By the end, they were left with only about four hours to record all six tracks. Despite the stress, Aditi calls it the best experience, since it was her first collaborative effort of this scale.
I thought, ‘Whoa, what the hell’s going on?’ It was such a shock
The 22-year-old became somewhat of an overnight sensation in 2017 after posting her breakout hit ‘Everybody Dances To Techno’ on YouTube. Today, the video boasts nearly over four lakh views. Thousands were drawn to her whimsical artistry and unassuming presence. Her playful take on the jazzy and swing styles of yesteryear was a breath of fresh air to listeners.
In 2018, a handful of follow-up tracks and a nationwide tour later, she went quiet, just as quickly as she’d shot to fame.
“When all that stuff happened, I thought, ‘Whoa, what the hell’s going on?’ It was such a shock,” admits the artist. She kept her head down and continued working towards her degree. And the final-year-project, i.e. her forthcoming debut EP, Khamotion, completed right when the pandemic rolled around.
“I knew I wanted to polish and release it. I’m glad it’s something new, not just me recording myself like before. Those songs had their moment. They are what they are because they were recorded on the phone. This new album is a completely different sound,” she states.
Since then, she’s also moved to Cardiff, a melting pot with a burgeoning music scene. She tells A Humming Heart about how she stumbled into a jazz bar one afternoon and soon found herself performing onstage. “It was one of the best nights of my life, very small and quaint and happening. I felt this tiny, tight-knit community. I feel really creative being here,” she muses.
Advent of Khamotion
The seeds for the album were planted in 2019, a year before that frenzied recording session. “It was a slower, more intentional writing process. The nature of the assignment required a lot more thought and involvement, including an overall theme and a connecting thread through the songs”, explains the singer-songwriter.
She’d also test out some material at her open mic nights at pubs in Bangor. Another breakthrough came when she met James Gair, a Welsh film composer who served as the recording engineer, sound engineer and guitarist on the project.
The idea for an EP based around motion came to her while on her daily bus commute to campus. “I lived in a town called Menai Bridge, which overlooked an island kind of thing. That’s where it started clicking, and I wrote the starting riff of the title track on the piano,” adds Aditi.
This new sound is evident on the singles that she’s released since, including ‘This Train Home’ and ‘Taxi Fare’, which are much more production-heavy, featuring layered vocals and complex arrangements.
Much of the other material on the album is inspired by her life in Bangor. “I find the most ordinary things the most amazing and exciting and beautiful,” she says. “I don’t think I’d ever be purely a musician because I’m inspired by all the other things I’m doing, like my work at the nursery with the kids.” she explains. She is currently working as a teaching assistant for special-needs children, while pursuing a Master’s in Education, studying curriculum and policy.
Recreating the breakout magic
Aditi also stands out for her ethos as an artist, rooted in three core principles—authenticity, inclusivity, and community. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters in the quest for numbers these days. In many ways, Dot. represents an anomaly in the universe of streaming and all that it is built on.
It is not too surprising that she was reluctant about hiring a promotional strategist or following standard release cycles, fearing it would impede on the artistic process. “For example, now, I am interested in sort of following this folk music writing in Hindi a little bit. If we had a crazy release schedule, I wouldn’t be able to take those liberties and do random projects that just come to my head,” she explains.
With her upcoming work, she hopes to once again harness the organic audience that bloomed in 2017. With relatively no marketing efforts, those tracks cut across age and gender lines, and her team is careful to retain this part of the Dot. brand.
For her track ‘This Train’, she put out a call for crowdsourced footage to use in the music video. “I don’t think if I had done a promo drive in a traditional way, we would have got such a dedicated bunch of people who are so in sync with the music and totally get it. And that’s all I want,” she says.
Building a community and engaging meaningfully
This emphasis on quality over quantity also made her tap into Patreon. It became a platform to fundraise while creatively engaging her listeners as a community. “It’s such a lovely thing for me. I’m able to talk directly to people, and they vote for what they want,” she explains. This month, it’s personalized lead sheets with a unique message. “It’s so different from being like, ‘Okay, here’s the music. You listen, and you pay me for it’.”
However, Aditi consciously moved away from Patreon’s model based around exclusivity. She did away with tiers entirely, had a pay-per-creation set up, and kept the subscription charges to the bare minimum needed to break even. Whatever she makes is invested back into the music. The singer-songwriter is currently saving up to buy a DAW. “I want listeners to be able to support me in whatever small way they can”, she adds.
Like with other areas of her life, she’s attempting to explore the connection between music and activism. Last month, she participated in a COVID-19 relief concert held in partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation, a non-profit bringing digital access to rural communities.
When she sought a more direct way to get involved, founder Osama Manzar suggested a potential collaboration to help bring folk artists into the limelight. “I knew I could learn so much because it wouldn’t just be about me putting them on for a section of the song, but sitting and learning from professionals about what makes their folk theirs and incorporating that,” she says.
Feeling more inspired than ever, she can’t wait to tip her toes back into performing and the new opportunities coming her way. “I want my music out there because I love the things people say about it. I love the community feeling I get from it.”
Currently, a live stream for the EP premiere is in the works. Once the rollout of Khamotion is complete, Aditi hopes to return to India, pandemic permitting, chase her passion for its indigenous dying arts and get back to performing.
She also teases the final track from the collection. “‘Rush’ is a culmination of the whole project. There are a bunch of lyrics and melodies from my other songs snuck in there. Try to see how many Easter eggs you can pick out!”
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