A singular voice and a soul-stirring cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” hit living rooms across the globe last year in the final scene of the Top 10 Netflix Thriller “The One.” Fans went berserk, wracking up 50,000 Shazams in a matter of weeks, looking for Connor Desai.
Born in Allentown (of Billy Joel infamy) lyric poet and folk-soul musician Connor Desai grew up around the dinosaur steel factories where her father and grandfather once worked. The second of five children, the family split their time between Pennsylvania and northern Virginia where her mother was a member of The Sons of Thunder, a pioneering Christian rock group in the 60s and 70s, and one of only a handful of integrated bands at that time. Encouraged by her mother, Connor learned to play guitar and piano, and to pick out harmonies from the back of the family’s green station wagon.
At 19, Desai moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington. A musical hobbyist all her life, she turned to music more formally following the birth of her daughter three years later.
Desai’s self-titled debut was met with acclaim and given a spot on Indie Music Magazine’s Top 25 albums of 2007 list. Critic Jennifer Layton wrote,
“I melted at the very first notes. Good Lord, where has this voice been all my life? Take the easy lightness of Edie Brickell, add in the scratch of Rickie Lee Jones, dip it in hot buttered rum, put it in a smoky jazz nightclub, and you have Connor Desai. And you only have her for six tracks, so savor the sound. Let it melt over you and make your toes tingle. This debut EP is sheer bliss.”
The EP contained the track “Will You Love” which was licensed by Sony as a pre-load on its mp3 players and consequently gained a global cult following.
In 2010 Desai released Use Your Hands which includes the cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.”
Abe Beeson (KEXP/KPLU) called 2013’s release Scratch Pop
“A charming collection of folk-pop, featur[ing] impeccable bedroom production with subtle electronic elements supporting relaxed original songs. It’s perfect music for taking your time getting out of bed on a Sunday morning, or for romancing that special someone over drinks on the back porch.”
2018’s EP, Sister, found Desai in a contemplative, fire-breathing mood. “A lot of what she sings is what we don’t say in polite conversation,” critic Carol Banks Weber at Medium wrote.
“But her music is always full of soft, lush melody, as if birthed from the bottom of the sea…Even if you didn’t speak the same language, Seattle artist Connor Desai gets her point across on guitar and that moisturizer of a voice.”
Collaborating once again with Use Your Hands engineer Chris White at House of Sound, Desai is set to release a new single in Fall 2021.
Desai is also a middle school math teacher, adjunct math education professor, and mother of three. She finds that the tidy inevitability of equations balances out the tumultuous artist life quite well. She is intrigued by and passionate about the ways in which art and education intertwine and can be leveraged in pursuit of human progress. Watch her marry her two loves – music and education – in this fan-requested “Friend of the Devil” guitar tutorial.