Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The 10 Questions I Forgot to Ask Vivek Shraya While on the 401

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I met Vivek Shraya years ago, but it wasn’t until we drove to a London Pride event this year that I learned more about him. In the forced intimacy that only a five-hour trip in a speeding vehicle can provide, Vivek and I discussed books, relationships, family, spirituality and life in Toronto. I was really impressed and curious about his ability to write, play music and make films.

By the time we returned to Toronto, I felt like I’d made a new friend. But there was so much more to know! Here are the 10 questions I forgot to ask Vivek while on the 401.

1. What came first? Music, writing or film?
Music!

2. Is one your true love?
Music is truly the love of my life.

3. Why?
Nothing fills me with more happiness or pride than singing and creating songs. It is also somewhere I can turn to when I need a safe space, where emotion can exist pure and uncensored. That said our relationship is very fraught, especially when I start getting consumed by the business aspect, and I often joke about the need for us to have some kind of couples therapy.

4. How does writing, film making and music work together in your creative process?
It is really exciting switching back and forth between mediums but I do love when they intersect. Each medium compliments and even strengthens the other.

Working on the music for my short films, for example, has made me a better musician because it has allowed me to use that muscle but outside the traditional songwriting format. In scoring, the visual informs the sound. In my last short, Ache In My Name, the music features me kind of rapping which is something I have never done on my records (and probably never will!) but in the context of the short, it was an effective means to convey that message. I love these kinds of opportunities to explore a medium in new ways and to be challenged.

5. Does one medium ever hinder you from working in another?
The only “hindrance” is that while working on one particular project, another medium doesn’t necessarily get the same kind of attention. I haven’t been writing as much as I would like because I have been focusing on other projects. But again, I don’t see this as a negative thing, because I am always learning new skills and techniques which can only enrich future efforts.

6. How is promoting a film different from promoting a song or your book?
Promoting music or the book involves some kind of presentation or performance aspect which can be a vulnerable experience. In the last year I have done over 40 book readings and given its personal nature, each reading has an element of re-living the events described in the book. Promoting a film, whether via online or film screenings/festivals, is a really great alternative because I don’t need to be on stage, embodying the work. It has the chance to live and breathe on its own and people attend/watch and get to make connections to the piece on their own. Most film festivals are also promoted extensively, which is an added bonus, because unlike music shows, there isn’t the same pressure on the artist to fill seats.

7. Are the audiences the same?
Audiences always vary, but after years of playing in noisy clubs and cafes, I have been very seduced by environments where screenings and readings take place as audiences are so quiet and respectful. They want to be engaged.

8. Your favourite tour stop?
Last year I had the life-changing opportunity of taking God Loves Hair to India and there was something very special about doing a reading for Bangalore Pride.

This is where my mom was raised and also our family language is the one spoken in Bangalore (Kannada) so it felt a little like a homecoming. I loved seeing the juxtaposition of Kannada signage with western rainbows during the Pride Parade.

9. Name a tour city you wish you could visit.
I would love the opportunity to take my work to Europe, mostly because I have seen so little of it!

10. What are you working on next?
I am currently recording a new EP that will be out this fall, entitled 1:1. It’s fragile and intimate, a completely different direction than my last two efforts, which have been electro-pop. I also just started working on a new short film which I hope to complete by the end of the year. I have also been writing again and I am sure at some point it will evolve into something more tangible.

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Vivek Shraya is a Toronto-based artist and arts educator. Winner of the We Are Listening International Singer/Songwriter Award, Vivek has released albums ranging from acoustic folk-rock to electro synth-pop, driven by tight hooks, powerful vocals, and incisive lyrics.

God Loves Hair, his first collection of short stories, was a 2011 Lambda Literary Award finalist, won the Applied Arts Award for Illustration in 2010, and is currently being used as a textbook at several post-secondary institutions. Vivek also creates and delivers workshops and guest lectures about writing, art, gender, sexuality and homophobia.

Vivek has performed and read at shows and festivals internationally, sharing the stage with Tegan and Sara, Dragonette, and Melissa Ferrick, and appearing at NXNE, CMW, and Word on the Street. His music has also been featured on the TV show Degrassi.

Seeking Single White Male, his first short film, is being screened at festivals throughout 2011. A second short, Ache in My Name, is available to watch online.

Vivek’s sixth record, 1:1, is slated for release this fall.

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UPCOMING TORONTO EVENTS
10 November 2011 — Toronto, ON
1:1 EP Release Party.
Holy Oak Cafe; 8:30 pm.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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