From data analyst to Bollywood sensation

Lisa Mishra shares her ‘zero to 100’ journey with The Telegraph

Urvashi bhattacharya


Posted on 11.25.21, 02:57 AM

What Lisa Mishra has achieved is a dream come true moment for many of us. She had an eight-to-five job as a data analyst, but never imagined that her uploaded music would turn her into a Bollywood sensation. It was her Tareefan blend that changed her life, made her quit a job in Chicago, and became a full-time artist in India. After Rhea and Sonam Kapoor brought him down to help him reach his goal, there was no turning back.

She collaborated on the Grammy-winning Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book project and was also a theme songwriter for the Emmy-nominated series Brown Girls.

The Telegraph spoke with the 27-year-old in Wafira (on Ho Chi Minh Sarani) during her visit to Calcutta for Johnnie Walker’s #RevibeTheNight campaign.

Congratulations on your collaboration with Johnnie Walker #RevibeTheNight. How important are such campaigns in bringing the live music scene back?

It’s super important; the public wants to have social experiences again and it has been locked away for a long time. I feel like we’re all so attached to our devices that we’ve forgotten about the real world. It really is a great reminder that shows like this can exist again and with all the safety precautions in place we can come together and have a great time. It’s great to have Johnnie Walker roll it out… for many of us it was our first public performance in two years.

What venues – or “hot spots” – come to mind when it comes to public performances?

Club gigs in general were fun, but the first thing that comes to my mind is to rediscover that feeling of going out and having an evening with friends; go to a show. Once we get there, I would love to see bigger shows and tours. Hotspots are young, intimate, club-like places.

Why do you think the live music scene is not booming, at least not yet?

In short, it’s ‘Covid’ (laughs)! People take precautions and directions are followed. It is finally safe to go outside as long as people take care of themselves and their health. Covid … it’s not something people should ignore.

From sensational Bollywood data analyst, how did this transformation go?

It happened very quickly, but I would say the journey to it was a very long one. I had made music publicly for 11 years before, but I don’t think you get used to it … Every day you wake up with this amazing feeling: “Now is my life”, especially when it happens unexpectedly. So, I don’t think it’ll ever really sink in because the transition between the two was so awesome.

Have you ever thought that singing from your bedroom would make you a star?

(Laughs) No! I had that level of confidence, but I didn’t expect it to happen. I was just happy to sign in from my room and work eight to five.

Was music something you always wanted to do as a kid?

I’ve been making music since I was four and been making music since I was 13, so I always knew I wanted to hang out more and people would hear it, but other people have pursued it in different ways … where they end up in a stadium or on a stage and need to release their music. I don’t think I allowed myself to dream so big… I never really know why but I’ve never seen myself like this in the future. Not in a negative way though.

Lisa's Halloween costume was inspired by the original Don.

After your Tareefan mash-up, there is no turning back. Have you had the opportunity to reflect on how far you’ve come?

(Laughs) Probably every second. The Calcutta show was a great example of how people are there to hear me sing my own work. Sometimes you have to check in with yourself like, “Oh what an absurd concept. The words that I wrote and the songs that I sang are things that people really want to hear. So times like that, it’s really a shock and I think I’ll never get used to it.

What would you do differently?

Yeah, I probably would have prepared myself better (laughs). When the moment (of rupture) happened, I was very young; I didn’t know anyone from the industry; I have never lived in India beyond seven years. So coming back to India, living here after 20 years, has been a huge change. Maybe if I had seen this as my future, I would have prepared better, visited often, made more connections sooner. I had to go from zero to 100.

Your Halloween costume was pretty cool. What made you choose it?

(Laughs) Yeah, I think I’m going to do this every year … a vintage version of Bollywood. I love movies and I think now it’s pretty cool to say, “I’m a huge fan of this”. I love Bollywood and grew up in a family that breathes movies. Mum and dad are big fans too, so when I was a kid I was drawn to that stuff too because I grew up seeing so many movies. Don, I’ve seen it probably 30 times, so I was excited to do it (wear the costume).

What else are you doing?

Most listeners saw a big break in my work this year. I needed it because of everything going on and we are all so absorbing in all parts of the world. We are all emotionally and professionally exhausted so I needed a break. For most of this year I’ve been working on a full project and that’s the next thing … to release a body of work next year, so people can finally have a sound that m ‘associate. So far the music I have made has consisted of singles and touch-and-go and it might be difficult for someone to locate my sound. Next year it’s about making an effort to create that and find my sound.

Sean N. Ayres