The moment arrived half an hour ahead of schedule. I sat waiting to meet Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, who had just made history: opening India’s first-ever Apple Store in the country. The door was opened after three knocks and in walked the man himself, dressed in the same shade of navy blue as I was. He had a bright smile on his face as he walked straight towards me and said, “You must be Mali. I’ve heard a lot about you” as he shook my hand. I’m not usually the kind to be at a loss for words in these situations but I could feel myself starry-eyed and tongue-tied in that moment.
After a short introduction, the time came for me to show him my DIY music-making process. I began by telling him my story with Apple goes back to when my dad got me my first iPod shuffle for my 13th birthday and that I suddenly became the talk of my school because I had one. And that my first iPod playlist was the most formative playlist as an artist and songwriter. I then led him to a high table at the far corner of the room on which my MacBook Pro and phone were set up. I showed him the notes I made on my iPhone: words, phrases, lines, and jokes collected over many commutes and communications which form the seeds for my songwriting. I then played him an old recording of a song on my voice memos. I explained that I usually like to do a barebones recording of the song to remember my ideas and to hear them back and see if they even work. I then showed him a very raw Logic Pro session on which I roughly put down tracks to make a skeletal demo of the same song. He wanted to know if Logic stock plugins were comprehensive enough to make demos and basic productions like mine, to which I agreed and told him that for the longest time I exclusively used stock plugins. He loved the song, was touched to get a sneak peek of it and wanted to hear about my release plans for it. I then picked up the guitar to show him that I use one of my devices for every part of the music-making and performance process. He was mind blown to know that you can tune a guitar using a mobile app (GuitarTuna) and he watched me intently while I tuned each string in the silence of the listening room. I then offered to play him the same song and he settled down on the couch to listen. I clip-clopped my way to the center of the room, cleared my throat and introduced the song. From that moment until the song was done, I switched off. I felt as if I drifted off to the corner of the room and watched myself perform. My whole life as an artist passed me by, thinking about every little micro decision and moment that led me to be in that room then, representing the music community consisting of so many people I love and admire. The song was done, he shook my hand once again and said, “Don’t forget us on your way to the top.” I was gobsmacked. With every cell in my body I tried to come up with a response to that and the only thing I could say was “Oh, what!?”
I had brought only one thing to be signed by him and that was a photograph of myself as a baby holding an apple – a photo we called ‘the apple pic’ at home. I showed it to him and asked him to autograph this photo of me holding my first ‘apple product’— an Apple. He threw his head back and laughed, melted at the photo and obliged instantly. After a brief photo session and interview, he left the room to go back to making history and I burst into tears from overwhelm. I knew that I would be telling this story for a very long time and that very few moments in life come as close to pure unadulterated greatness as this one did.
Mali is a Mumbai-based singer-songwriter.