CHAPEL HILL - Anoop Desai returns to the Triangle Saturday, July 14, to play Local 506 in Chapel Hill.
The 25-year-old former “American Idol” contestant finished sixth in the show’s eighth season and is touring in North Carolina and Atlanta this summer to promote, “Oowee,” his new single, along with a new EP released this fall.
Desai grew up in Chapel Hill and graduated from UNC in 2008. During his tour he’s debuting new music, which is more pop, R&B, electric and dance oriented than what fans aw him sing on the show and before as a member of UNC’s Clef Hangers men’s a cappella group.
We asked him about his tour, new music and what it’s like to try to make it in the music industry after the Idol spotlight dims.
Q. What has life been like since “American Idol”?
A. It’s just a different type of work, really. Some people have the illusion that after Idol you have a couple things handed to you. Although there is certainly name recognition after the fact, you still have to work on who you are as a musician and everything in the music industry which is a whole other can of worms. I’ve had to do a lot of on-the-job learning.
Q. What kinds of industry things specifically have you had to learn?
A. There are people you need to know, how the business works, how it operates, everything from royalties splits to what’s out there. You can’t just listen to music, necessarily, just to listen to it. There’s always something to learn from other people, from other acts music wise, performance wise.
Then, of course, you have to be able to take care of yourself in the industry, meaning how you make those connections, how do you go about doing what you want to do. After you’re off “American Idol” [it] isn’t as simple as being on a TV show and singing for a minute and a half every week. There’s intricacies associated with it. It takes time to learn. It takes time to be accepted in the industry as a real musician and not simply the product of a television show.
Q. What was being on American Idol like?
A. It was an extraordinary platform. You look back and say, ‘Wow that was cool.’ But, let’s put it this way, the entire process lasted for me [for] about a year, so it was a year out of my life. ... It was wild, don’t get me wrong, (but) ... I always tell people the music industry and “American Idol” are completely different things. One is a TV show and one is a business; you have to approach them like that.
Q. How long does the American Idol buzz last? What is it like when the buzz wears off?
A. I’m still lucky enough to have fans from the show not only here but across the world. It is gratifying. But for me, again, I never wanted to rest on my laurels because I sort of realized a TV show is a TV show and everything you do past that is what you do past that.
I think just because of where I finished there’s nothing really that I set out to rely on from the show. For me it’s just been a process of keeping the fans I have engaged and really making new ones by getting better at what I do and making new music and partnering with people that I feel share that vision and binging more to my fans and then getting attention elsewhere as well.
Q. What is the vision for the new electronic sound you have?
A. In a nutshell, it’s a lot more fun. It’s more fun to perform. I think before, especially after “Idol” and until now I didn’t really have a sense [of vision], I was just getting better as a writer.
Everything I’ve released ever has been either written by me or co-written by me. It was just the process of discovering, “all right I like these songs, I don’t like these.” I think I finally hit a point where I finally understand what I like to write, what I like to listen to, the shows I like to go to. I don’t think there’s any better way to identify yourself than with the things that you like.
It’s more electronic, its more tempo, it’s a little dancier, but at the same time, the gift that I’ve been given has always bee my voice. I’m not ignorant to that fact either. I acknowledge that’s a lot of what people like to hear from me too. In a certain sense it’s balancing act, it’s getting inspired by other people. I think it’s definitely more current, more fun.
Q. Why do you write and perform music?
A. Frankly, it’s what I get up and want to do. I’m in a studio every day I’m writing something new every day. ... I’m always someone who wants to be challenged. I get satisfaction from rising to a challenge and doing something I can be proud of in the face of anything. Especially with music, it’s so open-ended, it’s a challenge in and of itself. It’s a challenge because you don’t’ know what the challenge is. It’s fresh, it’s interesting. I’ m so inspired by music that I hope to get to the point where people are inspired by me and my music and what I’m able to do.