Seela Misra

You’d never know it from her masterful stage presence—which somehow manages to be simultaneously beatific and witty—but Seela Misra gets a little anxious when she meets new people. It happens a lot in her line of work; the singer-songwriter heads up two bands (Seela’s Big Band and Torch) and is in at least five more—singing with Matt the Electrician, the Purgatory Players, Jaimee Harris, Daniel Thomas Phipps and Scrappy Jud Newcomb, among other side projects. The gigging never stops, nor do the rehearsals, which almost always occur in the “playroom” of the south Austin home Misra shares with her husband, drummer Jon Greene, and their newly adopted dog, Liza. “A lot of the bands we’re in have rehearsals here,” she says. “It saves everybody money and it means Jon doesn’t have to haul a [drum] kit.”

Because some of these rehearsals include a lot of people (the XTC Tribute show at Strange Brew Lounge Side earlier this year, for example, featured more than 15 different artists in addition to the core band), Misra always makes a home-cooked meal to assuage any anxiety. “I’m sure it’s awkward for them as well—walking into someone’s house you don’t know,” says Misra. “So, seeing that there’s food set up makes them feel a little more relaxed. When you have nothing else to talk about, you can always talk about food…what kind of food you like, what food you’re allergic to…and now you’ve had a little conversation with somebody you’ve never talked to before!” 

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Misra is the main cook in the house, but she allows that Greene—a chemical engineer by day and just as busy by night as a drummer for most of the aforementioned bands—has his own brand of kitchen prowess. “He makes bacon,” she says with a sideways grin. “He’s developed that skill. And he loads the dishwasher. He’s very good at it; he can sort it all for the most efficient use of space.”

Today, Misra is preparing one of the meals her fellow musicians and husband have come to drool over—something she calls “Indianized” meatloaf muffins and vegetable curry, a perfect combination that feeds a lot of people, is inexpensive (“you gotta figure out a way not to break the bank”), involves ingredients she almost always has on hand and is, as it turns out, Paleo through and through. (Misra and Greene have been rocking the Paleo diet for a while now.)

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Born in Ontario “to already exhausted Indian immigrants,” Misra hated Indian food as a kid, but her mom wouldn’t budge. “My mother wouldn’t buy anything in a can,” she says. “She didn’t trust canned food. And I wanted to try Chef Boyardee so badly. Those commercials were so enticing!” Now, of course, Misra not only appreciates the way her mom used to cook, but has learned many of her mom’s secrets, as well as those of her aunt, from whom she got the idea for the “Indianized” meatloaf. “Everything my aunt does is ‘Indianized’—but she doesn’t know it. She makes really good eggplant parmesan, but you know that part where you dip the eggplant slices in the egg and the flour? There’s always turmeric in the flour. She doesn’t ever make anything that doesn’t have both turmeric and cumin in it.”

As she deftly spoons an array of spices from her stainless-steel tiffin spice tin into the meatloaf mixture, she explains what makes her meatloaf “Indianized.” “The main things are the ginger and the spice combination: turmeric, coriander and cumin,” she says. “If someone were to tell you to make a ‘Mexicanized’ meatloaf, you would know what to do, right? It’s the same concept. It isn’t like someone gave me this recipe, or that it was passed down. I just know what to do!”

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As Misra gleefully talks about her ninth record, “Track You Down,” to be released this fall, she brings the conversation back home to what really matters to her: It’s about food and music. “Playing a really good show with people is one of the most unbelievable experiences; it’s like the best drug in the world. Music is this thing we’re created to do—certainly not to make money or to impress people—but to feel the greatness of life in our bones. Once you do that a couple of times with people, they become a certain kind of kin,” she says with a sigh. “And that’s lovely.” 

By Anne Marie Hampshire • Photography by Melanie Grizzel