We had the good fortune of connecting with Rohith Jayaraman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rohith, how do you think about risk?
I’ve always been an obsessive planner. I used to think about life so methodically — if a plan was set, it never changed. Didn’t matter if the plan was for 2 weeks from now or 2 years from now. When I joined Berklee College of Music as a student, I’d decided (for whatever reason) that I would finish a year early. I powered through summer semesters, overloaded on credits beyond the limit, and started my music therapy internship at the Children’s Hospital LA (CHLA) by year three. I was proud of myself for sticking to the plan. It was only a year afterwards that I realized how much I regretted rushing college. When I was in LA, I got offered a job at Berklee. It was a move back to Boston that came completely out of left field. I’d made a plan already — stay in LA, apply for music therapy jobs, gig on the side. But I decided to just go with it. I crashed with friends for several weeks, and that entire time I was trying to get a handle on my first full-time job. I was working 60 to 80 hours a week and wasn’t getting paid overtime; I was jumping from couch to couch; and I had to drop all my music therapy plans… plans I still haven’t picked up again).
It’s been so good for me. I’ve gotten to work with some of my favorite artists, create incredibly cool music of my own and with other artists, and I’ve really gotten to settle into teaching private and group lessons. Over the past 5 years, I’ve trained myself to plan without attachment. A friend of mine shared something that I think her grandfather used to tell her: accept everything in life with open palms; when something lands in your hand, don’t hold on to it; if it stays, it stays because it can and because it wants to; and if it goes, it goes; it didn’t want to stay anyways. I’ve tried as much as possible to say yes to everything that comes my way, even if it’s scary and I’m way out of my depth. And I’ve tried just as hard to feel the naive excitement about a new project that inspires me, without setting myself up for disappointment if it doesn’t pan it. I’d say it’s going pretty well — it’s not perfect, but life is a work in progress I suppose.
Just last year, I did something I’ve turned down countless times, but finally decide to run with. I have no experience with production or film scoring, but I accepted a job to score a short film for a director and producer I’ve looked up to my whole life. I asked for a whole lot of help and learned more than I bargained for. It was such an enriching experience and now I’m itching to do it again. Learning to let go has been one of the hardest things over the last decade, and I think I’m finally starting to get good at it.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I grew up singing Indian Classical Music. It was really only in high school that I began to branch out into other genres… I was part of a few choirs and did musical theatre. But Indian music was still my language and it continues to be to this day. I have the most incredible opportunity to collaborate with musicians from all over the world, learn from them, and share my musicality with them. They say it’s always good to be in a room full of musicians who are better than you, and I’ve been lucky to have that in nearly all groups I’ve played with. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, and that I’m still working on implementing fully, is trusting myself and my instincts. Like any other field, music is competitive and it’s very easy to slip into comparing yourself to others, judging your music against theirs, and expecting yourself to sound like someone else. A lot of the music I make doesn’t sound like the music I listen to or the music my friends make when I collaborate with them. The undercurrent of insecurity about something that’s your own is already strong enough without needing to add undue pressure to yourself. I’ve started to become more comfortable with what I create and I hope that one day, I can share my original music with the world without the baggage I’m carrying along the way.
I’m incredibly proud to be releasing my first album of exclusively original music this summer. I hope this is just the beginning of a long journey of creating original music.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
During my year at CHLA, I lived in Los Feliz, so that area is special to me. I lived next door to The Morrison on Los Feliz Blvd. Probably 3-4 times a week, I’d swing by after work for happy hour. I love Mini Kebab in Glendale — great food and super kind people. Pretty much all the Thai food in Thai Town is amazing (plus Harvard and Stone). And I’ll never say no to a good old fashioned In-N-Out Burger. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have to thank my parents for their unwavering support. If they weren’t standing behind me, I wouldn’t be here today.
I also have to thank my partner who pushes me every day to be better. She’s much wiser than I am.
Also big shout out to the film I watch whenever I’m unsure about my future as an artist: Frances Ha.
Esha Nijhoff, Katyayani, Sharayu Mahale, Mike Spencer, Studio Sree