Teenasai Balamu aka GrapeGuitarBox is a 24-year old indie musician based in Bangalore, India, out exploring the alternative side of pop by interpreting popular songs with their unique style. Playing the guitar and singing since age 15, their new EP and recent single ‘Run’ is all set to launch this month.
We got to talking with the artist about their music and what it means to create a queer work centred passion project as a non-binary musician.
Q. Tell me a bit about your creative process.
Generally, my creative process in song writing is I work on the melody first— the tune comes first and then often I start stringing words together. The idea of the song comes together usually in the first three times of this process. Once the main structure of the song is built, I start work on the lyrics. All my songs so far have had a melody first always and then the words would flow next.
The stories behind the songs are usually inspired by my own life and experiences; I don’t think I have written any songs outside of my experiences other than ‘28’ (link). With my new single, Run, I wrote about my previous relationship which was a toxic one. There was a time that I found it very hard to stop going back to the person even when I knew they were not good for me. That is where the main idea of the song was born. In the chorus of the single when I sing ‘I’ll run back to you, even though it’s wrong’ is basically the crux. My creative process is always literally from my own experiences.
Q. What do you expect the audience should feel through your music?
The most substantial thing I as an artist can ask is for the audience is to relate to my music or my work. To find relevance in people’s lives and experiences is the most excellent feeling ever. Generally, when we consume any art media, be it music, movies or television shows, we tend to like what can we relate to. A connection must be created and if that can happen with my music, that’s great! On a more tangible note people should be able to understand the story of the toxicity of the relationship I am talking about.
Q. How does it feel to have your first single out?
Honestly, it feels amazing. I have been so scared of putting my music out there and thus I have been procrastinating forever. I think I am finally in a space where I am accepting the fact that it is done, it is created. Even through the whole recording and mixing process I was not able to believe that my music was coming to life. Something that I would do simply in my bedroom is coming alive like this and it is an amazing feeling to have.
Q. Tell us a bit about your journey as an artist and exploring your queerness and identity through your art.
Talking about it publicly has been fairly new to me. I came out to my friends quite a while back and I came out to my parents and immediate family a little later. We’ve taken our time to process it together. It has been very recent that I decided to take the step of being openly out. I am still very apprehensive; I have been so used to being in the closet that this is all a very new space for me even though I have been out to and comfortable with friends for a while now. Putting myself out there feels very liberating and freeing but I’m kind of hoping that this particular EP that I am putting out and the songs that I am putting out are going to help me personally through the process and this journey. I have written these songs at certain points in my life when I was not feeling too great or in love and I think that the EP can reflect that.
Q. More about the artist.
A lot of GrapeGuitarBox influences include not only indie and pop artists of today like The Lumineers, Angus and Julia Stone, Ed Sheeran, but also teenage throwback artists such as Linkin Park, Green Day, Simple Plan and the Backstreet Boys. One of their greatest influences has been Tamil music, more specifically, the work of AR Rahman.
GrapeGuitarBox started out as a simple cover series on YouTube. Over time, it’s built a reputation for putting an interesting twist on popular music. Balamu’s debut EP titled ‘Out’ that features six tracks written, composed, and arranged by them, is scheduled to be released in June 2019.
With their music, Teenasai wishes to create a space safe from labels, judgement, and discrimination; a space for all the misfits. They look forward to collaborating with different kinds of artists to discover new sounds.
They’ve been featured on media outlets such as Rolling Stone India, The Hindu, Deccan Herald, Deccan Chronicle, The Indian Express, NearFox, Planet Radio City, MTV India, The Inkline, and Humans of India as one of India’s upcoming indie artists. They have also performed as an opening act for artists like Prateek Kuhad, Harish Sivaramakrishnan (of Agam), etc. More recently, they also presented a TEDx talk about being a queer artist.
You can check out their recent single Run here- as well as the beautiful music video created by phenomenal queer artist Priya Dali.