WE move on to investigate and expose…
a great young artist with a lot of talent. Nikhil D'Souza tells me about his new single, Silver and Gold, and what the story behind it is. The Indian-born artist discusses his upcoming album and what we can expect from it; when music came into his life – and what it was like working with producer Jonathan Quarmby on his latest song.
D'Souza discusses future gigs and recommends new artists to watch; how he spends his time away from music; if there is a favourite memory from his time in music – how important Bollywood in regards his cultural outlook and musical creativity.
Hi, Nikhil. How are you? How has your week been?
It’s been crazy with the new single release, Silver and Gold, and the work around that; coupled with traveling halfway across the world to play a gig. Crazy.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a singer-songwriter from Mumbai, India. My music, if I had to describe it, occupies a place between Alternative and Pop - with some influences of where I’m from. As a soundscape, imagine Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice and Ray LaMontagne - and then some more...
Silver and Gold is out now. What is the story behind the song?
At one point, a lot of the conversations I was having with friends were about how modern-day relationships are hard to sustain. The song is a hopeful cry out to falling, and staying, in love; about making it last, knowing there will be problems - and a tribute to the ones who have made it last over the years.
It was produced by Jonathan Quarmby. He has worked with, among others, Benjamin Clementine. Was it a fun experience working alongside him?
Jonathan is probably the hardest working producer I have ever seen. It was amazing working with him because he has a rare talent. He takes a song that you feel is lacking something and then he figures out what it needs - either a new chord progression or a new lyrical part. Also, he’s a super pianist; which is what I’ve wanted to work with for a while now.
Can you explain the video and how the concept came together? How involved are you with video treatments?
We worked with Toby Warren of The Blind Club before for the Beautiful Mind video. It was his idea to shoot at this fantastic, abandoned palace in the middle of the jungle. Old, but still standing strong, which in a way reflects the sentiment of the song: growing old but staying together despite the cracks. I liked the idea and, when I visited the location, it was obvious that this was the right visual approach for the song.
I’m usually involved with my video treatments - but I left this one in Toby’s very capable hands.
I know you have an album out later in the year. Can you reveal any songs and subjects that will feature?
Love, as a theme, is the common thread – sometimes, about the innocent and wide-eyed, simplistic hope of new love. Also, you’ll hear some notes on a secret relationship I was in and the resulting heartbreak. Beautiful Mind, already released, is about being torn between someone you’re in love with and your best friend (who’s seeing her).
When did music come into your life? What sort of sounds did you grow up around?
I lived in an area of Mumbai where there were a lot of musicians and there were talent contests – that’s where I first started singing and playing. I remember my older sister would play tapes of the music popular then - mostly Pop princesses! Then, the boys in my apartment building would come by and play other stuff: Heavy Metal…anything. Tom and Jerry - I grew up watching that and fascinated by the musical score – I would remember every note. Later on, I got into Sting and the Police, U2 and many others.
How important is Bollywood, and your heritage, to your musical direction and creativity?
My musical direction was more influenced by Western music through my early years, although we would watch Bolly films every other day and, by default, we would hear the songs that played in those films and sing a few of them.
Of course, since 2010, I’ve been singing in Indian films and some elements of that style have made their way into my overall singing style – every now and then you will hear in a subtle vocal inflexion (or musically). Instrumentally, we’ve used a few ethnic instruments in the recordings.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
A little gig at The Social, London on 26th March; then a support tour with Lissie in early-April, followed by Live at Leeds on 5th May; The Great Escape, Brighton in mid-May - and a headline show at The Waiting Room, London on 21st May
You have played to all sorts of crowds. Is there anything that compared to the thrill of being on stage and watching people react to your music?!
Few things in life can compare with the feeling of singing to a huge crowd and having them sing your lyrics back to you. I guess it’s the full-circle feeling: from writing the song in your little bedroom, to playing it to a big crowd at a festival.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
My goal is to have as many people as possible listen to my songs and hear (from them about) what it means to them. The achievement would lie in hearing that it changed someone’s life in some way, big or small.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Spending time in Nashville with my co-writer Jeff Cohen: our aim was to eat as well as we wrote. So, we would reward ourselves with eating out at some of the fantastic restaurants over there every time we thought we’d written a great tune...
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Write songs based on what you honestly feel. When you’re singing them on stage every other day for a year; that is the only thing that’ll keep it fresh.
IN THIS PHOTO: Matt Maltese
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Over the last few weeks, my friend and I discovered the best pub for ales in Barnet. L.O.L. I quite look forward to that most evenings. I also like (just) walking around London with some good music in my ears…it’s beautiful.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Last Words – Isaac Gracie
YAH. – Kendrick Lamar
Motel Blues – Loudon Wainwright III
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