We had the good fortune of connecting with Saransh Desai-Chowdhry and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Saransh, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind my success as a storyteller is my ability to inhabit a variety of perspectives. In my writing and in my work, I aim to be nuanced instead of categorical. I draw from a variety of disciplines, considering the specific conditions and implications of each domain I explore, instead of settling for abstractions.
I’ve learned to come to terms with the idea that multiple things can be true at once, even if they don’t seamlessly integrate with one another. What rings as true to one person or community may be entirely disparate from how others perceive it. Whether I’m writing, working on a business campaign, or supporting an artist, I try my best to honor the notion that subjectivity drives each of our lived experiences and how we connect with one another.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m an interdisciplinary writer, and I thrive at the intersection of storytelling, cultural analysis, and business. My first book, “Soundstorm: Musings on the Madness of the Modern Music Ecosystem,” was published in December 2020. I was inspired to write it because music has always been the lens through which I perceive the world. My creative background is in Hindustani vocal classical music, and growing up in LA and attending college in NYC gradually exposed me to a wide variety of musical communities.
When I began my professional career on the business side of music in my late teens, I noticed that the modern music ecosystem is siloed off into disparate factions. Artists, business leaders, and cultural curators of music often seem to be speaking different languages, despite sharing the same artform at the center of their work. Each of the fifteen essays in my book is meant to be an exercise in bridging the gap between those different worlds, syntheses and frictions alike. In one essay, I analyze the evolving role of award shows like the Grammys in the digital age, when listeners are empowered to carve out their own schools of taste instead of abiding by institutional standards. In another, I assess the complexity of how streaming services like Spotify struggle to balance artists’ and shareholders’ agendas, prompting controversy in the creative community. In another, I profile Blu DeTiger, a bassist and singer-songwriter who went viral on TikTok after years of honing her craft, illustrating the possibility that luck is hard work disguised.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, when so many of the structures and systems that we typically take for granted are being put under pressure, I hope to give music lovers the space to think critically about the music ecosystem’s merits, drawbacks, and lineages.
While writing a book has been a lifelong dream of mine, I never expected to release one just months after graduating college (on Zoom!) Amidst the volatility of the pandemic, I tethered myself to the one thing I knew would help bring me clarity: creativity. By embracing my own discomfort and vulnerabilities, I was able to bring life to a longtime passion project. I’ve learned that in order to nurture and sustain any project in the long term, it’s important to be adaptable, to rely on the support of your loved ones and confidants, and to make space for meaningful rests and pauses!
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.
The most wonderful thing about Los Angeles is its simultaneous proximity to natural and urban environments, so I’d definitely want to take advantage of that! I love hiking, so I would bring a friend to a new hike every day. Some of my favorites include Corral Canyon, Malibu Creek State Park, Point Mugu State Park, Fryman Canyon, Will Rogers State Park, and TreePeople in Coldwater Canyon. Post-hike, we could drive down the Pacific Coast Highway with all the windows rolled down and head to the beach!
My absolute favorite restaurant in LA is Little Izakaya in Studio City, namely their Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice dish. We would also need to squeeze in a daily visit to In-N-Out and/or the nearest taco stand!
In the city, we could visit Amoeba Records to browse vinyls, the STAPLES Center to watch a Clippers game, or the incomparable Getty Center to explore its gorgeous grounds. If time allowed, we could drive over to Joshua Tree National Park for a few days of hiking, cactus-admiring, date-milkshake drinking, and, of course, music listening! 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?
My shoutout is dedicated to any and all writers who do the work of probing how we shape and are shaped by culture! In college, I had the privilege of taking writing workshops with some of my biggest inspirations, including Amanda Petrusich, the author of “Do Not Sell At Any Price,” and Ben Ratliff, the author of “Every Song Ever.” I wouldn’t be the writer that I am — stylistically and conceptually — without their lessons and words of wisdom over the years. Both of them helped shape my belief that diagnosing problems within existing systems is indicative of optimism, not defeatism. At its best, cultural criticism is a way to deconstruct the circumstances of the present in order to imagine potential futures that will better serve us.
Beyond my wonderful teachers, my classmates have been equally as motivating. For one, I was lucky enough to be in class with Jenzia Burgos, an NYC-based writer and the founder of the Black Music History Library. I ultimately interviewed her for a chapter in my book that centered on the evolution of music criticism.
As a reader, I am grateful to have been enriched by the words of writers and cultural analysts such as Jia Tolentino, Cherie Hu, Zadie Smith, Prajwal Parajuly, and George Saunders!
Other: You can read “Soundstorm” at the retailer of your choice at www.saranshdc.com/ordersoundstorm!