Name: Delia Meshlir
Nationality: Swiss
Occupation: Composer, singer, songwriter
Current release: Delia Meshlir's Calling the Unknown is out via Ba Da Bing!
Recommendations: Nala Sinephro – Space 1.8 (music); Fanny Desarzens – Galel (book)

If you enjoyed this interview with Delia Meshlir and would like to know more about her work, visit her on Instagram, and Facebook.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started music first with piano lessons, then I wanted to sing so badly so piano only became a support for my voice and a tool to write songs. I listened to a lot of Prince, because of my mother being his number one fan … Soul music such as Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin. Kate Bush, Madonna.

I love dancing, so music has always spoken to me physically and I found that singing was the best way for me to connect sensually with music.

Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?

I see waves, often. Music is full of sensuality. I see musical fluids that goes through my body, like blood and oxygen. Like a fuel it can expose my emotions to myself, like a therapy.

I usually write songs in a cathartic way. It often gave me answers on questions I had in the past or in the present, without really realising I was asking them. They were just inside, waiting to come out!

The way I write and I perform music is sincere, I have to feel this is the right thing, I really work hand to hand with my instinct.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

It’s a path were I’m learning to know myself. The more I listen to me the more I am making the music I like and that reflects me and gives me joy. There are a lot of encounters that have given me self-confidence. Also exploring other forms of arts like video, photography, sound design and more arty experiences. I am always challenging myself, learning new skills and experience them in front of people, even at an early stage. I think we always learn and we can never be perfect, so I don’t mind trying things that I don’t totally control …

But it has been hard sometimes to give that much energy to an artistic life because of the struggle of money and time. It’s not that easy to give yourself entirely to art when you don’t earn money from it. I never had doubts on the path I have to follow, but sometimes on how to follow it.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

I am not an entertainer. I don’t like to speak about myself, so I guess through music I found the right way to do it. But I do love sharing experiences, it makes us stronger and gives us a sense of solidarity, I try to share that in my music. I am also in love with nature and the blissfulness of it, I spent a lot of time walking, listening to the birds, watching the wind passing through the trees.

I am an observer and this is really influencing the way I make music. Every song is a movie, there’s a scene something is happening in it and I feel it and describe it. I love David Lynch movies, I love mysteries, I love it when you feel something but you don’t entirely catch it, it’s floating …

Also I listen to a lot of Spiritual Jazz such as Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, and most recently Nala Sinephro. I love the idea that a song can give you the power to travel, in your mind. Music brings images like lucid dreams.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

Love, cause it is so powerful, so central in our lives. I have written a lot on self-confidence and self-love, because it’s the key to love others. I’ve struggled a lot with self-esteem and the more I expressed myself musically, the more I learned to love myself, follow my path and trust my instinct.

I see art as a form given to us equally, and it should elevate and serve us, bring us joy and playfulness. It’s a tool we use to know ourselves better and to propagate love and togetherness.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I listen to a lot of music, old and new, I have not given that much importance on when the music has been released, much more on what it does to me. I’m never trying to do something original, everything has been done, many times and it can be blocking for me to try absolutely to innovate in what I do.

I tend to not listen to music when I know I’m going to compose, I want to drain my mind and be in an empty space I can fill with myself, my music, what I want to say. I find it hard sometimes to be aware of everything that is being released because it leads me sometimes to discourage myself to do my things, cause someone has done it better than me already. And of course, this is just untrue. We’re individuals and as individuals we all have our paths, our vision and our footprint on what we do and how we see and feel the world.

So I guess, everything is always original if it comes from a sincere place.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

My voice, the electric and folk guitar, the piano and my home studio. And recently the tenor saxophone I’m currently learning to play and that inspires me a lot.

I am now arranging my songs with a lot of virtual instruments stuff and it brings be an overview on where I want the song to go. With those tools I can create an ambiance, a scene and then work on that with my band.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

I sleep a lot (10 hours per night), I usually try to do 30min of yoga on my good days. Then I eat breakfast, it’s my favourite food so I never skip it, and it’s a moment when I can be alone, do my things, listen to podcasts so I take my time and I love it.

After that if I’m not working at my paid job, I usually do some admin stuff, mailing, social network stuff, promo etc ... Then I go for a walk, and I practice guitar / sax and work on my music (if I feel like it).

I never push myself to create if I’m not in the mood. I don’t believe in discipline for creativity, but I do believe we can provoke it by learning songs from others, practicing or playing old songs I’ve never released.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

For instance, for my album Calling the Unknown, at first, I didn’t know clearly what it was going to look like. I always jam with myself, record some ideas on guitar or piano with some lyrics but nothing definite, just a suggestion, a direction. And I accumulate a lot of them and sometimes I do a whole song that is finished in one shot (like in one hour) it depends. But after all this research and jam, I go deeper in the process and I listen everything and try to see what can fit and I try to see it as a whole piece, as an album.

And then I work on the songs I’ve chosen specifically with the lyrics, the arrangements, the title, the image it emerged from it. And I construct everything from the visions I have, I explain it to my partner, Steven Navid, who records all of my demos and work with me on the project. He has recorded and mixed the album, and he also plays the guitar in my band.

We really share a lot! I trust myself but I love sharing what I do and having the opinions and ideas of the people I trust and love.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I start alone, like I’ve explained before, jamming with myself and creating the scene. After that I find really helpful to have some insights from my partner. But the song and lyrics are usually already done. It depends a lot on what I’m working on, sometimes if I’m blocked or if I don’t see where an idea can go, I love bringing it to my band and working on it together.

But most of the time, I have a precise view on what I want to do and where I want to go so I tend to do it myself and then explain to the band how to play the idea.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

I think music and arts bring joy and insight on what is going on into people’s mind. It allows us to gather, to share emotions without talking. To free our minds. I’m not really sure that music can change the world, it’s a bit tricky, but it can definitely change people.

If there weren’t as much music in our societies, as we have kind of seen it during this pandemic, we would be less inspired and creative. Creativity begets creativity. Arts accompanies us in our lives, it’s linked to our memories, our encounters, our pain and our joys. It marks our lives and liberate us.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

Creating is powerful, it’s a therapy. If I hadn’t had the chance to write songs after the death of my grandma I would have gone insane or felt really lonely. It has helped me so much to process my emotions. And by sharing that, I am sure it can help others.

I don’t think it has made me understand death, but it has helped me to heal. I’m don’t know if music is giving answers, but it gives an emotion to share. We are all human beings, we go through more or less the same thing, and by music we can feel less alone in what we’re experiencing in life.

There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?  

I’ve got not much to say on that topic, I am not a geek, at all, and I understand science through nature only. Music touches me more through the physics of it: how the sound is produced and all of that.

But I see how science can be attracted to music, in an arty way. That said,  I’m not fond of artificial intelligence in music!

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

The mystery of my emotions, of myself. Music as though it can and should be playful, it is still really deep. And it reveals things I don’t fully understand and which I’m even not aware of. I sometimes see or understand things I’ve put in a song really later on. It’s spooky, like messages you send to your future self.

And that’s what I love with art that is so different from other day to day tasks is that you’re in another state of mind, you’re connected to something else …

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

Well yes, to me this is connection. It’s spiritual, something can touch me and not you, cause we’re different and that is the beauty of it. Some music can make me dance, cry, feel powerful and others feel nothing at all. It’s strange, I love this inside chemical mystery.