Mr.Bhi Bhiman, Folk Rock Singer
Bhi Ramesvara Bhiman was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. Bhiman had an all- American childhood that he has referred to as “a sort of Brown Norman Rockwell existence with lots of running around in creeks and playing baseball”.He played in the city’s most competitive leagues from ages 7–17, often traveling for tournaments including trips to The Dominican Republic, Hawaii, and Australia.
When Bhiman was 13, an injury during a tournament in Paducah, Kentucky, kept him off the field for six months. He passed the time playing his brother’s guitar and discovered a strong musical sensibility. As a teenager, Bhiman played electric guitar, and fell in love with hardrock bands like ACDC and Black Sabbath as well as Seattle’s grunge scene.He has cited Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil as a particularly important musical influence.
It was not until Bhiman’s time at the University of California Santa Cruz that he began to explore singing and writing songs. He formed the band Hippie Grenade in 2002 and eventually moved to San Francisco with the band to pursue music more seriously.
In 2008, Bhiman left Hippie Grenade to focus on his solo career. In 2011, he began work on what would be his first nationally distributed album. The bulk of the record was tracked at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco. Following those sessions, Bhiman finished the album with producer Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Langhorn Slim) at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, Maine. Bhiman was released in 2012 and earned rave reviews from publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and esteemed rock critic Robert Christgau of NPR’s All Things Considered.
Excerpts from Interview with Thiru Bhi Bhiman (For full interview, please checkout TAP 2015 Book at http://tinyurl.com/2015tap)
CK: Your music is very soothing to hear, In addition to music, your word play has been great as well. Do you write your song and set music to it? Or do yo compose and then write to the music?
BB: Normally I come up with a riff or melody first and then the words fall into place. I often have some sort of lyrical idea floating around and then I’ll fit it into a melody that works. It’s not an exact science by any means. My favorite time to write is while watching sports actually.
CK: Robert Christgau of NPR called your musical career as act of heroic will. Can you comment on the times that were trying and how did you cope up when you were trying to make a career in music?
BB: It’s always been tough. I don’t fit into any one box (in lots of respects) so that creates quite a challenge. But I have always just tried to be honest with myself and my audience, and I believe I am making music that people want and need to hear.
CK: Your songs have a social activism touch to them. Can you comment on what shaped your world view? Was it related to what you heard about your parents and their fellow Tamils in Srilanka or were they shaped by what you saw here in the US?
Definitely having immigrant parents has had an effect on me but even more so, it’s the sort of global perspective that I grew up with. I have family across the globe and I’ve traveled pretty extensively. My parents also made sure we were educated on American history and the Civil Rights Movement. When I was a kid, we took a Freedom Bus from St. Louis to Atlanta. We attended a sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church and I met Coretta Scott King. That experience definitely made an impact on me. And of course the Tamil experience in Sri Lanka is something that has been an undercurrent in my family’s and my extended family’s lives.
CK: You touch on heavy subjects. How do you get people to listen in without tuning out or getting depressed ?
BB: It’s all about the catch more flies with honey approach. No one wants to have ideas rammed down their throats and that’s not my objective. I try to shed a little light on topics I feel interested in or moved by and the best way to do that is to make the music catchy and entertaining.
CK: Can you please talk about your latest album that you released? How is it being received?
BB: Going it alone, without a label, is always a challenge but it seems to be going well. I think people are responding to the full band sound and the more overt social commentary. And I am really happy to be performing songs on tour that lean more towards American Soul and R&B.
CK: How do you define success?
BB: Success is difficult to define. But I’d rather 100 people think I am a great artist than have 1,000 people think I’m “pretty good”.
Mr. Bhi Bhiman’s TAP Tip For Success
Just keep at it and do not give up. Showing up to work every day is what successful people do. That’s 90% of the battle. And be honest with yourself, and not try to be someone who you are not.