Versatile songstress’ voice soothes, simmers

By WilliamPrentiss

Upright bass, mandolin, violin, accordion and acoustic guitar are not the usual set of instruments heard in most modern bands. But then singer/songwriter Ami Saraiya is no ordinary musician. The Chicago native has a habit of eschewing genres and following her muse to wherever it takes her.

Saraiya first tuned into her musical inclinations when she started playing the piano at age 5. Over the years she kept playing, but went on to have several other jobs. She currently works as a nurse at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center to pay for her passion. The Chronicle talked with Saraiya to learn how she makes her music.

The Chronicle: You have a lot of variety in how you sing and the instruments you use. Is that deliberate?

Ami Saraiya: My taste just varies. A lot of these songs have collected over the past three or four years, and I guess they captured different moods when I was writing them. There is maybe one or two rockers on there, which I always enjoy doing, but I also love doing the more mellow tunes as well. I guess it captures all my different tastes. I don’t know if it was really purposeful. I think it happened to be the songs I’ve written in the last few years that I really wanted to record. I worked with Mark Messing for half of it. He produced half of the songs on the album. He does stuff with Mucca Pazza and has done a lot of film scores. He’s an amazing string arranger as well.

The Chronicle: How do you decide what instruments you want to use?

AS: Most of it, I think, [through] working with Mark. I mean, I play accordion and guitar and normally we have an upright bass player and a string player. I also worked with Ehsan Ghoreishi who produced a couple songs that have two accordions on them where I’m playing and he’s also playing. I don’t know, I guess it’s a lot of people I’ve met through the years. I thought it would be amazing to work with them and record.

The Chronicle: What differences are there between your live show and CD?

AS: I feel like we’ve gotten pretty close to it. The guitar player is background vocals, so there’s not too much difference besides the horns. Some of the more magical-sounding introductions may not be in the live performance, but I think it goes over really well. We’ve put together a pretty cool band we’re working with now.

The Chronicle: What’s your musical background?

AS: I learned piano at 5. I was in the choir. I started as a music major at Indiana University doing music education. I was doing more classical stuff, then joined my first rock band sophomore year of college. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing ever since. It [was] mostly just singing, then I picked up the guitar a few years later, then

the accordion.

The Chronicle: Critics classify you as a folk artist. Do you consider yourself a folk artist?

AS: I don’t know what I consider myself. I guess there are some folk elements in there, but I don’t try to put myself in any one category. I think I just play what I enjoy playing. I guess somewhat singer/song writing stuff, but I’ve always been more tied to the music. I love wonderful lyrics, but for me, lyrics are almost the most difficult part to come up with. For singer/songwriters usually that’s the main thing, the poetry and writing that are coming across.

The Chronicle: What do you want the listener to take away from your music?

AS: That’s a hard question to answer. I guess I just want people to feel what I feel when I’m making it. Just really falling in love with music and enjoying it and being in that moment. That sounds so cheesy.