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Michael McCarthy | Photo: Greg Powers | Styling by Alison Beshai | June 3, 2014
Singer Andrea Pais electrifies DC with a new EP.
When you grow up listening to Etta James in a small town in the Indian state of Karnataka, the musical gods are destined to smile. But before those gods can intervene, other passions might need to be satisfied. In the case of local soul-pop goddess Andrea Pais, it was engineering. She holds two master’s degrees—one in electrical engineering and the other in biomedical systems, both earned since moving to America in 2005. Pais, 30, says she’s accustomed to leading a double life. “When I was working on my first master’s degree in Cincinnati, I developed microchips by day and music by night,” says the singer, who moved to Washington in 2009 to ply her genius in biomedicine. While she still has a hand in the engineering field as a consultant, Pais now pursues music full time and has just released Chasing Forever, an EP she’ll promote with club dates this summer.
Chatting with the diminutive Pais and then listening to her sing usually signals disbelief. While her voice is as airy as a songbird, Pais’ musical vocals are a creamy and profound amalgam of every soul singer who has picked up a microphone to offer plaintive dispatches on matters of the heart. She can’t explain the dichotomy. “It’s magic and part of my gift as a singer. I also don’t have an accent when I sing,” she says with a laugh. One of the answers could be Pais’ ear: “I grew up listening to my dad’s record collection—James, Stevie Wonder and lots of jazz and ragtime. And I imitated the singers and music I heard.” She was trained classically on the piano, but now plays by ear and writes her own music. Washington has taken to Pais’ sound, as she’s already played the venerable Blues Alley and has been part of Justin Trawick’s celebrated The 9 Songwriter Series.
Pais’ thoughts drift back to Belgaum, the small town in India’s Karnataka where her family still lives. “I talk to my family all the time. My mom is so proud—she shares my music on Facebook with the world.” And the musical gods continue their good work. June 24, Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE, 202.388.7625; June 28, Del Ray Music Festival
Discovering new artists on Spotify and SoundCloud, Malala Yousafzai, intimate concerts, long drives while listening to Motown, passionate people
Stereotypes, playing it safe and conforming, lugging around a 50-pound keyboard for live shows, incompetent sound techs