Like Godzilla leaving green footprints, high-profile eco-journalist Simran Sethi has taken over the college town of Lawrence. Since moving to the trendy prairie hamlet from New York City, Sethi has spotlighted her favorite local businesses on Oprah and the Sundance Channel's Big Ideas for a Small Planet. As an environmental correspondent for NBC News, she talked to Al Gore about the massive tornado that devastated tiny Greensburg, Kansas. She has been on The Martha Stewart Show and is the host of Sundance's The Green Online. And before she was loco for eco, Sethi was a news anchor for MTV News in India and Singapore.
She's been everywhere, man. In fact, she's often too busy saving the planet to monitor new releases with the assiduity of a music geek, but that doesn't mean she doesn't like a good tune.
Though Indian in heritage, the petite, vivacious 36-year-old grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina — audible in her slight twang when we caught up with Sethi to talk about her list of the music, among other things, that kept her going this year.
The Pitch: You picked as your favorite "Digging in the Dirt" by Peter Gabriel. Not many people aside from big fans have heard it.
Sethi: I think that whole album, Us, is great.
And Jay-Z, "99 Problems"?
I lived in Harlem when the song came out, and it just reminded me of the fact that there are more black men in prison than are employed, and I think that's a horrible injustice.
You're a Mariah Carey fan?
I like Mariah. I interviewed her in Tokyo when I worked for MTV News and she first played the Tokyo Dome, and I've liked her and her music ever since. It's not something many people expect out of me, but I like Mariah.
I'm impressed that she writes her own lyrics and did it at a time when she didn't have to, and it's a good comeback story. She managed to reassemble her career and did a good job of it.
How do you find out about music?
NPR and stuff my friends send me from Singapore, just whatever I happen to catch. I listen to Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW. There's not a single area where I find my music. Stuff on the radio.
What did you listen to growing up?
I grew up in an era of Bow Wow Wow and Duran Duran and Madonna, so that's the stuff I listened to growing up. I heard some Rolling Stones and Beatles from my mom.
Did you absorb any music during your time working for MTV that you still listen to now?
Not really anything now because that was quite a while ago, but the bands I got to interview then are still very much a part of the music I listen to, like the Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, Mariah. Those are probably some of my favorites from that time frame. The Foo Fighters.
Did you not cover much music that was native to India and Singapore?
I did, but that's not the music I listen to now, which was your question. I'm Indian, so I've grown up listening to Indian music.
What would you recommend to people who are interested in Indian music?
What type of music is that?
It's Bollywood music but it's a lot of love songs.... Any collection of her greatest hits would be a good introduction for folks.
Tell me why you picked the Dixie Chicks.
I really liked Shut Up and Sing. I thought that was a great documentary. I grew up in the South but I never listened to the Dixie Chicks, and after seeing that movie [Shut Up and Sing] here in Lawrence at Liberty Hall, I had a profound appreciation for their courage and I got introduced to their music that way.
What about one of your other picks, Rihanna? She's a sexy pop star. Does that contrast with the powerful-woman image?
I think women can be both those things. I don't think it's a contrast.