Singer/songwriter Anoop Desai didn’t win as a contestant for the Fox hit series American Idol, but he earned the notice of enough fans to help him launch a recording career. Born and raised in North Carolina, Desai always knew he was musically talented. During his years at the University Of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Desai was a member of the UNC Clef Hangers, an all-male acapella group. He also performed a solo rendition of the song, “She Has No Time,” which was recognized with the “Best of College A Capella (BOCA) ” in 2007.
After graduating college in 2008, Desai auditioned for a slot on American Idol’s season eight. Desai performed a rendition of the Boyz 2 Men hit, “Thank You,” which sent him straight to Hollywood. For weeks, Desai sang classics from the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Brown, Willie Nelson, Usher, Bryan Adams and Cyndi Lauper. Despite being criticized and described by Idol judge Simon Cowell as a yo-yo (in reference to alternating between strong and weak performances), Desai garnered enough support to continue into the Top 10. Even though he was eliminated in the Top 7, Desai won the support of many, including talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and country singer Keith Urban.
So what’s next for Desai in his post-Idol life? “It's primarily going to be radio, we'll definitely be traveling the country for that,” he told Uinterview exclusively. “That's going to be very interesting because we're putting together some acoustic arrangements of all the songs, which I'm very excited about that.”
- Q: What was your experience like on the Idol tour? - Uinterview
- A: It was amazing. We were in rehearsal for a month, we were on the road for two and a half months, but we got to go to pretty much every city in the country and were singing in front of thousands of people every night. We were all better friends for it. It was a lot of fun for me and hopefully it gave me a taste of what touring is going to be like for my upcoming stuff, too, and if I can reach that level of success, I think that would be pretty cool.
- Q: Did you form any lasting friendships with the other idols on the tour? - Uinterview
- A: Oh, sure. I talk to all of them pretty regularly actually. Kris is one of my good friends and Adam is one of my good friends. Matt and I still stay in touch. I talk to Megan, I talk to all of them.
- Q: Is there one memory that really stands out from the tour? - Uinterview
- A: Honestly, when I went to my home shows in Greenborough, North Carolina, I got such a great reception from my hometown and that will be one of the memories that stays with me for the rest of life. I stepped out on stage and there was an ovation for a couple minutes. That really brought me to tears so that was amazing.
- Q: You've moved to L.A. and you're recording now. You plan to release a single every few weeks, why are you doing that? - Uinterview
- A: Actually, I've been cleaning out my suitcase for the last two or three months, mostly. I have a base in LA for most of the time now. We're just finishing up mixing and the production on the single "My Name," which is coming out in March, and then the EP All is Fair comes out in May. Right now, we're just doing promo for that, trying to finish up the mixes and everything for that project. The plan is to release a new five or six song EP every six months. Just because we want to keep content fresh, and we want to keep people, we want there to be a constant stream of interest. It's a lot more work than a traditional album would be, but I'm working hard to do that so I can keep my fans happy and everyone happy and so I can grow as an artist and so that people can see that evolution as it happens. The single coming out is really huge for me so right now we're just trying to make that the biggest that it can be and trying to keep in touch with my fans and my friends and family and everyone.
- Q: "Your Name" sounds like you had a Bollywood influence. Is that intentional? - Uinterview
- A: Yes, definitely intentional. Brandon Rogers and I were writing what would become this song and we had sort of the basis for the beat. I was like that's cool but what if we added some sitar in there to really make it pop and as soon as we did that it started speaking to me a lot more and that's the goal, to just make a great, unique record that people are going to love listening to. I think with the popularity of Bollywood and Slumdog Millionaire, I think it's time for a record like that to come out, a record that uses Indian design and an Indian artist, and I'm lucky to be the one to break that.
- Q: Being Indian-American, do you want to make that central to your brand? - Uinterview
- A: I would never want to be distant from it because that's my heritage, and I'm really proud of it. The more and more I write and the more I grow up, the more I realize that that heritage is important, that a lot of people don't have. I want to be known as an artist first and the fact that I'm Indian-American, I don't think it's the only thing that will define me. It's definitely not the sole descriptor of me and my brand, but it's definitely something that I want to come out in my music because I think that it makes my music more honest if I'm honest with the public about where I'm from and what makes me tick.
- Q: Can you tell us anything about any of the other tracks on the album? - Uinterview
- A: "My Name" is the single. I wrote a couple tracks with Brandon Rogers who is a season six American Idol finalist, a couple great tracks which were co-written by Chris Rich, who is an American Idol finalist. I wrote with Josh Hope, out of Nashville, who has worked with a lot of American Idol people. It's sort of keeping it in the family to some degree, but also I'm very excited to work with Jerry Connor who co-wrote most of J-Shawn's album. It's a new experience for me and I'm lucky to get to work with these people. The single "My Name" is kind of clubby and we definitely want to remix that and things like that, but the rest of the album is a pretty pure pop record. We went about writing all of these songs around a specific instance in my life. The title of the EP is "All is Fair," and the concept of the thing is sort of talking about my experience with women, my relationship history basically, and that concept has definitely produced different sounds. The "My Name" record is talking about a time in my life when I was going out every night and doing that whole thing and there are some more somber tunes on there and some happy tunes on there. There's a tune called "Senses" which was co-written by Chris Richardson and Brandon Rogers which was a really fun, almost coy, Michael Jackson-ish tune which I'm really excited about. I think what people are going to see is that I'm not a one trick pony. People are going to find a lot of different feels on this record.
- Q: Your background is from doing a capella in North Carolina. How does that inform what you're doing? - Uinterview
- A: I think they give me an ear for harmonies and vocal backing. I would love to explore a lot more of the a capella arrangement style on the next EP. I don't think it's necessarily a defining part of this EP although tight harmonies definitely are. It definitely informs how I sing things in the studio, my backing tracks in the studio. It's a different type of voice that you use to sing backing vocals and everything like that. And I'm working also with David Mekish, a friend of mine, a great writer, a talented guitar player, and he was also in the a capella group with me. I'm working with him on a few songs for the upcoming thing.
- Q: One of the big controversy last season was about Adam and his sexuality. From behind the scenes, what did it seem like to you? - Uinterview
- A: One of the things he says is that he was never not openly gay, which is definitely true. We knew that he was gay and so did everyone else that knew him. I think that it was actually pretty admirable on his part because he didn't use it to take advantage of the situation while he was on the show. I don't think he wanted to hide from anything. He was there to sing and perform and that's exactly what he did very well. It wasn't a big deal or secret revelation to us.
- Q: What are your plans after the recording is done? - Uinterview
- A: We're putting together a promo tour right now. It's primarily going to be radio, we'll definitely be traveling the country for that, and that's going to be very interesting because we're putting together some acoustic arrangements of all the songs, which I'm very excited about that. After that, yeah, a full-fledged tour of the United States and I definitely want to hit South America and Southeast Asia and the UK because I'm very lucky to have a lot of dedicated fans there, too. Last summer was an experience being a touring musician and it was fun. Honestly, it's sort of cool to just travel around the country and sing. I'm hoping to do that again.
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