In the spotlight – Abi Nav

In the spotlight – Abi Nav

Abi Nav is a 24-year old Boston (USA) based singer-songwriter and recording artist. Abi weaves stories with his songs. His influences include John Mayer, Pink Floyd and Radiohead. His raw, self-aware lyrics, coupled with his ability to write unforgettable melodies make him a songwriter to look out for.

I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that shaped them. What can you tell me about your background?

“I grew up partly in New Jersey and partly in New Delhi, India. I struggled with an identity crisis at some level growing up as my parents are from India and I was raised an American. I didn’t truly find my voice until I started doing music for a living. I’m actually currently in LA for about a week and a half for work. Feels great to not be in the freezing cold for once this time of the year.”

When were you first introduced to music?

“I was introduced to music at a very early age; my dad was an avid music listener, and so I listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, Queen, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin growing up.”

Do you come from a musical family?

“Everyone in my family was doing different things than music but I think they were more interested in music than the average person. They all sang a little bit, so to answer your question, yes I come from a family that was extremely interested in music, but none turned out to be musicians.”

What was the first single or record you bought?

“The first record that genuinely captivated me was a record called ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ by Pink Floyd; my dad had already bought it a long time ago. It’s still in my opinion one of the most incredibly well crafted pieces of art I’ve ever heard, along with ‘OK Computer’ by Radiohead. The first record I personally bought would probably be ‘Room For Squares’ by John Mayer, later on in my teenage years. That record changed my life and really was my gateway into songwriting.”

What are your fondest musical memories?

“Well this one time in middle school I had a crush on this girl (yeah yeah it always starts with a girl – laughs), and this kid in my class had a guitar and all the girls in the class just flocked to him. The little, naive Abi thought the only way to get the girl he liked would be to learn how to play the instrument. So, I picked up the guitar and over the next year managed to find my way around it. The funny thing is I never got the girl, but instead got my whole life in music.”

When did start making music?

“Music started as a coping mechanism for me as I had a rough childhood and whenever I felt overwhelmed, I would just lock myself up in my room with a guitar and just play and sing. I always sang; everyone in the house was a singer at some level and so I sort of just grew up doing it. When the time first came for me to really express how I was feeling, I felt like a guitar wasn’t enough. I was always into poetry and writing and so I decided to try and write my first song when I was about 17. Everyone I showed the song to liked it and so I started taking it more seriously.”

Photo by Cole Nelson

What can you tell me about that first song you wrote?

“It was called ‘Words’. I don’t think it was a bad song, it was just very rough around the edges and I had a lot to figure out and work on back then. It’s a song about the love story of a couple and when I first wrote it, I just wanted to tell a story, albeit a sad one. Thankfully it’s not out anywhere, and no one has managed to find it on the internet (so far :P).”

Is there a song you wish you’d written yourself?

“That’s such a great question. Definitely ‘Stop This Train’ by John Mayer. It’s as close to artistically perfect a song can get. That song taught me that less is more. Every time I play that song for people I inevitably introduce it as the song I wish I wrote.”

Are there any artists you’d like to be compared to?

“A lot of my earlier songs were compared to John Mayer’s early music. I wouldn’t say I specifically like to be compared to other artists. I think it’s very important to be original, and the way artists do that is how they try to be like other musicians; it’s how they fail to sound exactly like someone that makes them unique and original. I think with my latest release ‘Devil With No Name’ I’ve sort of moved one step closer to the sound I’m going for, and it’s a constant process.”

What can you tell me about ‘Devil With No Name’? What inspired you to write this song?

“‘Devil With No Name’ is a song that arose from the feeling of not being good enough. As an artist I’m always questioning whether or not I’ll ever make it, and I wrote the song when the feeling overwhelmed me. I just wanted to write a song that connected with anyone who has ever been in a place where they’ve asked themselves whether or not they’re good enough. The song’s eventual message is that everyone is different and no two people have the same experiences. That’s what makes us unique, and there’s no point in trying to be like someone, because they are they, and you are you.”

What can you tell me about your creative process?

“Ah I’ll try my best to answer that. There’s songs I’ve come up with in 20 mins, and songs that have taken hours, even days. I usually start with a guitar part – as I started as a guitar player and write lyrics separately. I then sketch some sort of melody around the lyrics and the guitar part, modifying everything a little bit wherever needed so they all come together in the best way possible to convey what I’m trying to say. Do that over and over and you get songs! I hope I broke it down and made it sound simple enough.”

You are releasing another album in the first half of 2022. What can you tell us about the upcoming album?

“All I can say at this point is that it’s a big step forward in terms of the sound and message I’m going for as an artist moving forward, and it’s definitely going to be my best work so far and hopefully everyone will agree? More news about the record soon.”

Do you have any hobbies that contribute to your musicality? Like a hobby that rejuvenates your creativity?

“Not particularly. One thing that contributes to my writing and sound is definitely listening to a lot of music and constantly asking myself why something in a particular song works/doesn’t work.”

“On a side note I also like playing chess a lot, but it hardly ever helps me write better songs. (laughs)”

Photo by Ben Pu

If you could open a show for any artist or band, who would you pick?

“I’ve lately been listening to Madison Cunningham a lot. I think she’s an incredibly talented songwriter, and has similar roots as me. Opening one of her shows would be a dream come true!”

What’s your favourite song to perform?

“My favorite song to perform would probably be this song I wrote called ‘Dream’ or the song ‘Neon’ by John Mayer. Both of these songs are fairly hard to play and sing and that’s what makes them incredibly interesting to play for people. I feel like I’m always improvising a little bit every time I play these songs, especially ‘Neon’ as it’s literally the hardest song I’ve had to learn how to play and sing.”

What’s your favourite performance and why?

“Ah that’s a tough one. If I had to pick one it would probably be ‘Comfortably Numb’ (Live at Pompeii) by David Gilmour from Pink Floyd. David is probably my biggest guitar hero, and his ability to make the guitar sing is so unique. Every note he plays really just penetrates your soul. He taught me the importance of playing three notes and meaning them, instead of playing crazy, incredibly fast lines, that people are impressed by, but don’t really remember. That performance is such a great example of that.”

Why do you think music is important?

“Music has the power to heal; it healed me growing up, and it has the power to heal everyone going through whatever they’re going through. Music is a gift, and no matter what level it’s involved at in our lives, if I had to pick one reason it’s important, it would be that.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“The best piece of advice I’ve probably been given is that when an opportunity comes your way, always say yes first and think about how you’ll do what it takes later. In most cases, saying yes will push you to do things and deal with problems you had never imagined would come your way, and the more you do that, the more you’ll grow as a person. That definitely stuck with me.”

We already spoke about the upcoming album release in 2022. What are your other plans for 2022?

“Just continuing to make a lot of music, and hopefully go on tour to support the new record later this summer!”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool 20? 

“At this moment probably the song ‘Parallel Universe’ by Nomden! Great songwriting, it reminds me so much of the Beatles! Been listening to that one lately.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“The song I’d love for you to add is the song ‘Animal’ by my buddy Danny Corbo. It’s a beautifully written song, and definitely gets me in the feels. He’s an incredible songwriter and this song deserves to be heard by more people!”

(Photos by: Ben Pu and Cole Nelson)