Jeanne Merchant on her new single: It’s an escape from reality

12 May,2024 05:37 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Arpika Bhosale

Vocal trainer-turned singer-songwriter Jeanne Merchant talks to us about her new single, Lucky Tonight

Salim Merchant with spouse Jeanne, who has released a new single Lucky Tonight under the Merchant Record label. Pic/Rane Ashish

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The living room in Merchant home holds a piano, a complex and professional sound system, and a gaming station in the corner of the TV unit. The hardwood floors exude the warmth of the family, especially the admiration and playfulness between Jeanne and her husband music composer Salim Merchant.

The occasion is the release of Jeanne's new single: Lucky Tonight. It came out on April 18 on streaming platforms and YouTube, under the Merchant Record label.
A vocal coach, Jeanne has always been a singer and married Salim in 2004. During the courting years she was steeped in the Jazz circuit. "He and I worked together for a bit, and hit it off," she says.

Taking a break from her career after they welcomed their daughter, she came back into the world of music around 2021-2022. "Salim was hardly home," she says, "and I felt our daughter needed stability so I took a break from concerts and gigs. I did venture out once and was away from her for two nights but couldn't bear it. So I started giving vocal training classes after a few friends suggested it. It's something I love, and I can work with children and adults."

Born to teachers, Jeanne grew up listening to her father's records - Ela Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Shirley Bassey. As she got older, she began to develop her own musical taste with artistes such as Chaka Khan, Prince and Quincy Jones.

The title, Lucky Tonight, has a clubby ring to it but it's more synth-pop. One minute into the four-minute track, soft rebellion creeps into the melody and cymbals. "It's an escape from reality," she explains. "Not that your reality isn't cool, it's just that sometimes there's so much of it. You need a fun night out, to go out, meet your friends and go clubbing. It's a break from the regular and then it slowly slides into the adventurous."

The track is in collaboration with rapper/poet EPR Iyer. "His spoken word [poem] brings such conviction to the piece. I had heard of him through Salim, and when I was looking to collaborate, I thought he and I would work perfectly… and we did." Lucky Tonight is produced by Anshuman Sharma. "Anshuman and I are such a good match. I've worked with him before and he knows exactly what I want. It's vital that we mention that they are collaborators… music only works like that."

When we finally ask Salim what he thinks about his wife's new single, he says, "I heard it since its inception - she and I always discuss when she is writing music. At the same time, we both do have very different musical sensibilities and tastes. So her music is finally hers."

Salim and his brother Sulaiman, who is the second half of the composer duo, have had their success, but almost four years ago, they formed the label Merchant Records to bring in versatile artists and their music under one umbrella. "I wouldn't say we are a record label, because I don't like that word; I feel it's a music community," he says. "The label has ensured we don't force anyone to change the way they make music, and give preference to someone who has a few thousand likes; not just someone who has a million. We are proud that people come to us and want to release their single with us because we make sure that their artistic integrity is maintained."

Speaking about a worrying music trend of music becoming more task orientated, Merchant says, "Of late, I found that much, not all, music in India feels like a task. Something you are forced to make for a movie and not something that you want to say or something that has its own rightful identity. I loved what I heard in Amar Singh Chamkila, and hope music like that continues to grow." Salim is running late for an appointment, and is almost out the door when Jeanne remembers he hasn't taken his dabba. A little chaos ensues until Jeanne hands him the dabba, and Salim leaves with a, "Bye love".

Jeanne walks to the piano and indulges us with a live performance of Lucky Tonight.

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