Nothing can stop you from loving and being loved.
"Listen with your feelings," is what I sing in the chorus of Breathe Me In and it is my hope, my humble request, as you listen to this collection of reflections on love.
Breathe Me In - EP is about how loving someone else, in whatever way, is a risk worth taking. Love gives life meaning. Love builds sanctuaries. Love teaches us. And love transform us. Making this EP was a gift. Especially now, especially as a queer, gender fluid South Asian person in the diaspora, reminders that nothing and no one can stop me from loving and being loved are so important to me.
We live in a time of heightened collective existentialism but there's always been a particular existentialism that has existed for queer and trans BIPOC people and Dalit-Bahujan people and Black trans women and GNCI (gender non-conforming and intersex) folks in particular. In this EP, I try to honor how we love ourselves and one another despite the uncertainty and external threats.
Connection to one other is what living is about, it's what will truly "save us," not one or two heroes but all of us together, and that's what we're all trying to do here, fundamentally, is to live by any means necessary. I sing in Endless Wonder, "The seeds we plant will grow to be a field of flowers, sanctuary — a forest filled with love and endless wonder."
This EP took over 2.5 years of work. I agonized again and again over details, changing things, trying to get it just right. I'm very proud of it and I hope you enjoy it.
Scroll down further for credits, lyric video, draft lyric sheets, and lyrics + a write up about each song.
Written, produced, and mixed by Uliya
Cover art by Uliya
Mastered by Jett Galindo at The Bakery LA
Special thanks to Patrick, my partner, Andriniki, Debi, Xav A, Kaela, Chandanie, and Anju for their support and feedback and to all my lovers, friends, and family for helping to inspire this work.
Draft lyric sheets
Lyric video edited by Uliya, footage by Patrick Alexander (shot in Joshua Tree, CA)
Breathe Me In
When I originally wrote Breathe Me In, I was thinking about multiple people. And it's less about them and more about a patter I have of repressing my own self and voice in relation to others. This song is me asking for someone to Breathe Me In. To not only hear me, but "listen with your feelings."
I believe that all relationships are an ebb and flow but I think there can be relationships that are more one-sided.
Each of these people, though, in their shaping me and pushing me have led me to develop skills to ask for more. I sing, "You taught me how to ask for...what I need. Now I'm going to ask you learn to center me."
I realize my desire and my need to be centered more in relationship to others. Not just perpetual toil on the margins of everyones' lives, being brought on and off the shelf on a whim.
I've learned to recognize my own needs and feelings and learning to accept my own and others' limitations.
"Castles" is about choosing life and embracing change. No matter what.
Where the first Castles was more romantic. In Castles 2.0, I wanted to be a bit more clear:
I don't want to be discarded. And I also won't put up with harm or abuse. And I believe that I have and can cause harm even when I don't see it as such. And the process to arrive to accountability and do repair work is long and hard. But it's totally possible and out of this process comes so much newness and openness.
In "Castles 2.0," I'm not so much focused on the specifics of the outcome, but more so meditating on hope, possibility, and the inevitability of a better future. We will be washed away like beautiful yet fragile sandcastles, but also, everything that does not serve us will also be washed away inevitably.
I sing, "yes, we keep building something new."
Knowing that we will meet an end, we don't stop building lives together. And in the face of all the ugliness we want to tear down, we know that one way or another, it will fall.
I sing "I always feel I'm running out of time, but it's not too late to change."
When we want nothing to change, change will come. When think change will never come, change will come.
I've met many loves who I've felt were adrift. I myself have been adrift before, a little bit lost.
But maybe, we can create safety together and have a home together. I sing "build a shelter with my inner child."
I think as queer and trans people, many of us missed out on childhoods that were safe or playful. Or we had those and were met with cruelty as we got older.
Maybe for a moment, we can go back in time and provide mutual comfort to our younger selves.
We can share joy and pleasure, sadness and pain. We can be our whole selves.
This is a love song for my partner.
This is a very sensory and visual song. My favorite lyric is "we crown ourselves in blooms of lazy Summer."
The choruses are about me delighting in the magic of that love and how it constantly surprises me.
It's balanced by verses where I discover the importance of being on my own, being separate. And how this is can be challenging. But how vital autonomy is to our lives.
Looping in the the overarching theme of the generative and transformative nature of mutual love, I sing "the seeds we plant will grow to be, a field of flowers a sanctuary — a forest filled with love and endless wonder..."
"Shades of honey bathing in the soft moonlight," I sing. Forever is surely a love song. And also, an offering to fellow lovers. It's a song that I want to elicit love and intimacies.
I wrote this song thinking about the uncertainty of our times, our collective existentialism but also the existentialism that has always existed for queer and trans BIPOC people, especially. And especially for Trans black women and femmes.
This is song is to honor the process of loving despite the uncertainty. I think there is more universal uncertainty, like the fact that some people leave us and break our hearts and that eventually, we all die. And then there's certainty that's more specific like communal violence or the climate crisis.
Regardless, I believe that experiencing whatever type of love and intimacy is ALWAYS okay and important. Connection to other is what living is about, it's what will truly "save us," not one or two heroes but all of us together, and that's what we're all trying to do here, fundamentally, is live.
I shouldn't have favorites, but Forever might be my favorite song on the EP.
BONUS: I sing "running out of time" in this last song but I had used the lyric before in Castles 2.0 :)
[Description of cover art: Uliya, a South Asian person gender fluid person with light skin, is illustrated in profile from the neck up floating in the sky. The sky goes from orange sunset at the bottom to deep purple-gray at the top. There is a crescent moon, stars, and clouds floating by in the sky. Uliya is wearing blue, green, and pink makeup and a gold lip. They have gold dots under their eyes. In the place of the top half of their head, there are miniaturized power lines that are partially exploding and plants with pink flowers. There are several tears dropping down from their right eye in mid motion. And there is a gold earring with a red gem and two blue gems in their left ear, from which an anatomical heart wrapped in vines is dangling]