Mandeep Dhillon: Becoming a music artist has been healing

Pria Rai & Manish Pandey,BBC Asian Network

Sequoia Emmanuelle Mandeep Dhillon, a woman wearing sunglasses and a red blazer, in front of a red background.Sequoia Emmanuelle

Mandeep Dhillon took just over a year to record and release her first song

If you do a search for Mandeep Dhillon’s work, you’ll find plenty of acting credits.

Ricky Gervais’s After Life, Peacock, Avoidance and the recently concluded CSI: Vegas.

But now she’s turning her creative hand to something a little different.

Having released a new song Roll It Up, Mandeep tells BBC Asian Network being described as a music artist “feels really right”.

“Ask seven-year-old Mandeep what she would be, she’d definitely be a music artist.

“But then I obviously went down the whole acting route which has been great and I’m enjoying my career so far,” she says.

‘Allow yourself to feel joy and pain’

The music itch has always been there, and she describes Roll It Up as quite a personal, “deep song”.

“I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life, pain in my life. So to be able to turn that to art has been great.”

Mandeep says Roll It Up is about a near-death experience of a loved one.

“They missed death by I think an hour. And this person, unfortunately, deals with addiction and mental health.

“A lot of my friends deal with mental health and addiction. And I’ve seen it so closely… even myself, I’ve had addiction problems in the past.

“But it’s a whole process going through that and working out your trauma and healing your inner child,” she says.

grey placeholderGetty Images The cast of After Life at a launch event. Left to right is a man, woman, man, man, man and woman. The background has Netflix branding.Getty Images

Mandeep played the role of Sandy in After Life

The song, she says, is “a story to this person… to let them know that no matter what I’ve got you, I’ll always be here for you.

“And I hope that people can relate to it.”

When asked about her own experiences, Mandeep says she’s “happy to share”, but that it’s a “long story” for another day.

“When people listen to my EP, they’ll probably understand…”

So why music?

Mandeep says she’s chosen it as her way to tell a story because she “loves it and it’s been healing”.

“I have always written bars or poetry,” she says. “And it’s always been a way for me to articulate what I’m feeling.

“Music has the power to heal. I feel like it’s the most global language of the world.

“Music has been healing for me. So I pray that it’s healing for others.”

Seeking a new path into music could be quite intimidating, but Mandeep says she’s felt the faith of a “higher power”.

“If I didn’t have faith in God, I think my experience would be very different. The only way I can describe it is God’s plan for me.”

grey placeholderGetty Images An image of Mandeep from the TV show CSI: Vegas, in which she is wearing gloves, a police vest and is looking at a piece of white tape.Getty Images

“I probably annoy everyone on set because I’m always singing, rapping and making up songs”

Mandeep says she has many musical influences.

“I’ve loved Bollywood stuff so you’ll find [that] in a lot of my melodies without me even realising.

“I love Punjabi music, Bhangra. And then I’ve also been brought up listening to Bashment and Dancehall, and in the last 10 years, Afrobeats… I’ve got such a diverse and wonderful array of music that I love.

“Even down to Celine Dion,” she adds.

Mandeep, originally from Hertfordshire, now lives in LA. But returning to the UK has left her feeling more connected to her British Asian identity.

“I’m surrounded by people who look like me, have the same sort of upbringing, stories and been through an identity crisis,” she says.

“It’s so nice to see yourself among the people that you’re walking around town with.

“I feel like that’s happening more and more on screen and music, in every art form.

“I think there’s more of us or maybe it’s that people with power are more willing to let us finally tell our stories.”

For people hearing her music for the first time, Mandeep has a message.

“Enjoy yourself,” she says.

“Allow yourself to feel all that you want to, whether you feel joy, sadness, pain… I hope that it makes you feel as human as possible.”

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