Musings from a Musician–Interview with Zain Lodhia (Part One)
EC brings you this interview with a talented rising musician from Chicago–Zain Lodhia. Zain shared with us his intimate journey trying to negotiate meaning and value in the complex world of music. You can find more about Zain on his website or Facebook page. In Part One, we asked Zain to share some basic information about himself and his overall experiences.
1. What was your ‘aha’ moment that made you realize art was calling you?
Art and specifically music have always been a passion of mine. It wasn’t until college that I got to nurture the creative aspect of it, and even then I was still only experimenting and using it as a way to pass the time. During my senior year I had an abundance of free time, so it was at that point that I picked up guitar and opened myself to a whole new level of creative expression and outlet.
After graduating, I was very uncertain with the direction my life was heading and struggled to figure out how music would play a role. It was an obvious and deep passion which I wanted to integrate with the rest of my life, but I realized I couldn’t just do it any which way. Throughout history, art has been and will always be a defining pillar of a society’s culture. Therefore, engaging in any type of art comes with the responsibility of not only representing who you are, but also where you’re from or what you belong to.
It’s with that mentality that I found myself making the conscious decision to not pursue art simply for the sake of art itself, but for the sake of reconciling who I am with who I am supposed to be. Honestly, there was never really an “aha” moment. Instead, it’s an ongoing process I still struggle with today and I expect it to continue throughout the rest of my “artistic” career. Every opportunity and opening that comes up has to be met with the question of, “What is the real purpose for me doing this?”. God willing, I will do my best to make sure the answer is always something more than just for myself.
2. How were you introduced to your specific art field and were there any mentors or specific programs that gave you a push?
I first started creating music with one of my best friends, Rishi Gupta, during my sophomore year of college. We were both heavy into the genre of hip-hop and started dabbling in production and songwriting. The deep roots we had in our respective faiths played a major role in helping us connect spiritually, and we both wanted to translate that positivity into the music we created. It was during that time that I first attempted to sing (I have never had any formal training) and Rishi’s encouragement and support in that developmental period are major reasons I am where I am today. I owe him big time for that.
Another crucial meeting came about 6 months after I had picked up guitar. I was still navigating my way through learning my new found passion as well as exploring the creative outlet of songwriting when I met a fellow musician (and guitarist) Raef at a show in Chicago. A down-to -earth and extremely humble brother, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with him afterwards and found out he had learned how to play the guitar mostly through the Internet and YouTube. Seeing another person accomplish so much on their own was truly inspiring and it gave me the confidence to continue learning and sharpening my skills.
Alhumdulillah I’ve met many people along the way who have pushed me in the right direction or given me the right piece of advice at the right time. I can’t say I’ve had a consistent mentor or been part of a program that guided me, but I do know that it definitely would have made a huge difference. It’s why I’m such a big supporter of what EC is trying to do.
3. If Hollywood made a movie about you, what would the title be?
The Best of Both Worlds
My parents came to this country as young adults pursuing the American dream. Hailing from completely different cultures and practicing different faiths, they simply made it work and proved how powerful love, compassion, and respect can be.
As a kid growing up its difficult to see that, but as an adult now I have a great appreciation for the household in which I was raised. It was a blessing to be able to see the love and respect on two different sides (three when you count the American culture I am immersed in). Most of the hatred born in this world comes from a lack of understanding and fear of that which is different from you. We let that blind ourselves from seeing the basic humanity inherent in each and every one of us. I’m very thankful my mind was opened at a young age by being exposed to so much from all of my different backgrounds.
4. Did you ever second-guess your decision? What was pulling against you? What kept you going?
I second guess it every day. There are times when I think to myself, “What am I doing with it all?”, wondering why I ever pursued music in the first place. Unfortunately, unlike others I never grew up with the dream of making music – I kind of fell into it at a much later stage in my life. I’ve come to realize the blessing in that though, and how it helps keep me grounded and focused on what’s important. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful for how far I’ve come and where I’m at now. God willing, I plan to continue pursuing this as far as it will let me go. A big part of that was the realization that by telling my story, if somehow or in some way I could brighten another person’s day then it is all worth it. There have been countless times where a song made me feel better or helped me through a tough spot. In many of those cases, the artist who wrote the song probably didn’t even know I existed let alone was aware of how their art had positively affected me.
In a similar manner, if what I do can help someone, somewhere, at some point in time, then it’s completely worth it. I understand that I don’t control results and can only give my best effort. God willing, that will always be good enough for me.
5. What is your most defining moment to-date, the moment that makes you feel what you do is all worth it?
At my biggest show to date, someone approached me after my set and made a comment that got me thinking about my mentality in approaching music. She said that “God blesses people with talents, abilities, and passions for a reason and that its up to them to make sure they don’t waste it or use it irresponsibly.” We kept in contact as she is an aspiring singer herself, and shortly after that meeting I received a heartfelt email about her plans to start recording some of the songs she had written after seeing me do it.
It was one of those moments where you realize what you do has an impact on others. If all I can be is an inspiration for others to pursue their creative passions and find ways to express themselves, that’s more than enough for me.