Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part interview with Nirinjan Kaur and Matthew Schoening. You can also read Part 2, where they offer a sneak peak into their creative process and collaboration, as well as their hopes for listeners of their new album To the Heart.
After playing music and touring together for years, Nirinjan Kaur and Matthew Schoening have partnered to produce an album unlike anything they have created before. To the Heart features songs representative of their experiences together on tour, traveling and meeting people around the world, and connecting with the Sacred, in all of its forms.
We were lucky enough to catch up with the dynamic duo and learn about this brand new beautiful collaboration. We can’t wait for you all to experience the depth and pure joy of this symphony of sound.
What was your inspiration for this album?
Nirinjan Kaur: Matthew and I have played together and toured together for several years. I have greatly enjoyed the music that has been created and have felt so excited to share it. I met many incredible people around the world, and received inspiration from them, as well as from my own personal life. These things touched me and inspired me to create music with Matthew that would be enjoyed by many different people.
Matthew Schoening: This album was inspired by the experience of touring with Nirinjan, coming from such different backgrounds, while having a similar message and intention; to help us all drop in, quiet our thoughts, listen to our hearts, let go, breathe, and heal our lives in our daily practices, whatever they may be. This can be done in countless ways. In the case of this album, the modalities are mantra and music.
We all have our stories, and Nirinjan and I took a look at perspectives on life, things that work and don’t work for us, and relationships that we have with others based on differences. Underneath, we’re all looking for the same thing. We all need help, but it just comes from different forms. This album takes you on this journey: focus on the breath, expand your awareness, heal your broken heart, see your healing clearly, and experience the bliss once you get there. Our track order is very intentional and directly translates how we like to work together, as well as our personal relationship and commitment to each other, to cut the BS, go underneath all of that, and see it through to the end. This album is a great example of getting clear on how to be open and letting all of life unfold.
Another big message found in the album is to walk the talk and actually do it. We both come from different backgrounds and different ways of dealing with everything, different technologies for getting through life in a good way. We don’t just talk about it or write a song about it, this is actually what we do in our lives. The result is a very authentic and honest relationship with each other both personally and musically. This translates into an album that represents that. Pure, raw, authenticity — and people feel it.
The people I’ve played the album for really feel it. Because of this different perspective, it seems to appeal to a wider variety of people. I’ve intentionally played it for some music friends of mine who don’t generally listen to Kirtan. They want to keep listening and are more interested now than ever before. That was one of our intentions. That common ground that we all share. To the heart. This is what this album is, the heart. It’s definitely a way in which people can learn about each other even more and be open.
What makes this album different from the rest of the albums in your catalog?
Nirinjan: I would say that it’s more accessible to the main stream audience and the kirtan audience alike, compared to my previous albums. It’s different in more ways as well, musically, but that’s hard to describe. You just have to hear it!
Matthew: My personal catalog does not have any albums with vocalists, so this will be a first for my fans and supporters! This album has an equal focus on mantra and music. The two go hand-in-hand of course, but often times mantra music is very heavy on the mantra and the musical portion takes a bit of back seat, making it less appealing to people who do not know mantra. We hope to introduce more and more people to mantra who would otherwise not know about it, or be interested in it, while giving people who gravitate towards mantra an unexpected musical treat. Building a bridge!
Can you share a story from the making of this album?
Nirinjan: We were recording in the living room of my house, and we kept having to re-record parts because my dog was chewing his bone in the background!
Also, we wrote Suniai during a sound check for our concert in Chicago. We had no idea it would end up on an album, but we are so glad it did. We wrote it with the intention to play it during the Kundalini meditation called “Meditation to Heal a Broken Heart.” We did, and we played it during that meditation for the whole rest of the tour.
Is there something that your fans would love to know from the making of this album?
Nirinjan: This album is a true collaboration. I feel really happy about how the music turned out, that it beautifully represents what Matthew does, and what I do, both in totally new ways!
Matthew: Due to family and guests being in the house all summer, my studio time for recording was generally between 11pm and 5am, so I would work on editing during the day and then record all through the night. Also, I intentionally do not fix most of the imperfections during takes. Imperfections are usually where the soul resides.
Are there any special contributors to this album?
Nirinjan: My husband Siri Amrit Singh helped tremendously with the creation of this album. I was pregnant for much of the process, and he really stepped up to help out in many ways! I’m so grateful to him!
Matthew: Our respective partners. Siri Amrit is Nirinjan’s husband, and he has been paramount in the successful release of this album. My partner, Hetty, has been a huge support for me through what was sometimes a grueling process of meeting deadlines.
Learn more about Nirinjan Kaur and Matthew Schoening’s new album in Part 2 of our interview.