A multi-hyphenated performer, singer, songwriter, composer, and guitarist, Abhilash Gupta has perfected his musical genius. He blends Bollywood, Indian Classical, as well as Western Pop, Rock, and Blues genre, in an exceptional style to give an experience high on melody, lyrics, and arrangement.
Abhilash’s music tells stories through his songs. He loves to imbue emotions, experiences, and environment into his compositions.
Let’s hear his story from his own mouth. We caught him getting candid with us, GrooveConnoisseurs, for an exclusive chat.
Q1. What’s the story of Abhilash before he became the Abhilash Gupta?
“The” – definite article gives the name a distinctiveness, isn’t it!
However, Abhilash Gupta then to “The Abhilash Gupta” now, hasn’t changed a tiny bit; the story is threaded and still flows from then to now.
A simple artist with endless dreams set out to carve his niche – every artist’s story! So, that’s mine as well. Experiences have empowered every artist; same here, and I am grateful to all the experiences I have had that has shaped my art.
Q2. What were your childhood aspirations? What did you want to be when you were younger?
My aspirations, or should I say dreams, used to change very often. When I was 6 or 7, I wanted to be a priest! Then during middle school, I wished to be a businessman. There was a time when politics intrigued me. Then finally, I discovered that music was my calling!
Q3. How did your musical journey begin? (When did you start?)
I started late as I realized my interest in music quite later in my life.
I did learn Classical Carnatic during my primary school days, but that was just as a hobby. A few of my school friends were doing it’ also because many in my extended family kept persuading my mom to put me into classical training since I had a pretty good voice.
It was only when I was 16 or 17, that I felt some deep connection with the art form. My soundscape expanded with different genres and artists when I picked up the guitar after which there was no looking back. Jamming, writing, singing, practicing, anatomizing existing songs just became an essential daily activity.
Q4. What according to you, has been the turning point in your career, something that shaped your music career?
No instance or event is my turning point; only one emotion, that is loneliness – the feeling that changed my life and career. It taught me to write, recount my blessings, harnessing my experiences, and turning loneliness to solitude. Helped me carve a space for myself, where I can own up the genre and define myself. It has been a never dying companion since then. I have come to believe that an artist needs to keep in touch with his inner self, and only then he/she can enjoy this journey.
Q5. Do you follow a strict creative regime? Is there a creative process you go through before composing a piece or producing music?
No, a strict creative regime definitely doesn’t work for me. In fact, most of my compositions or lyrics happen when riding my bike. Movements in the cool breeze while contemplating has a profound effect on me. I am very organic in terms of my compositions and would like us to find each other.
My emotions which are on the back burner throughout the day because of assignments etc. come to the surface during that one-hour jog or bike ride in the cool breeze. Emotions/memories transform into tunes and words. Many a time, I stop by the side of the street, open my mobile, and record the piece. Sometimes, concepts even arise from everyday talks or chats with friends or family.
Of course, arranging the composition or refining the lyrics needs space and time, which I dedicate by myself with a guitar/piano or my team.
Q6. We know that you left your corporate job to pursue the career of your dreams. What led to making this life-changing career choice
I realized during my college days itself that I wasn’t cut out for a full-time corporate job. So, pursuing music would have happened at some stage. Though I made quite a few good friends during my stint and even performed well, I felt I should move on to what I have always wished for or see myself to be. Hence, after two years, I cut the chord.
Q7. Have you been through any blocks? Was there a time when you questioned your career choice?
I guess an artist is blessed with both creative and career blocks regularly. Every day is new, every project starts blank, every move is tricky. Of course, I would not like to generalize, but I feel, many of us, be it artists or people from other fields, questions do arise about the path chosen. Moreover, being in the art space where much time is spent in thoughts, rationale, discovery, intrigue, I too have questioned my path, my direction, and even tried to break away a few times. However, the bond, I guess, is pretty strong, and we have come back together every time more energized.
Q8. The music industry has a plethora of talented musicians. Who do you look up to?
The global music industry has stirred up a lot of great artists. Few artists defined an era, few showcased it, and a handful created it! My influences have evolved and diversified as I grew up. Initially, music was the draw. Then I slowly turned towards the lyrics. Now, it’s the synergy between the entities that pulls me.
So, there are many influences with me. However, I never looked up to one artist or even a bunch. A few selected works of an artist is what goes on loop with me and never the complete album. I admire a lot of them for the sheer portrayal of emotions – John Mayer, Bryan Adams, Chainsmokers, Keith Urban, MLTR, etc., and back here, it will be Colonial Cousins, A. R. Rahman, Lucky Ali, and many others.
Q9. Let’s talk about Abhilash Gupta Dairies. How did it form and who all are there?
“Abhilash Gupta Diaries” is a live set-up as well as a collection of original compositions. The concept was to write, scout, and delve on emotions that genuinely didn’t find space in the mainstream Indian music arena. There’s our relationship with “waiting” or “coffee” or even “dreams,” for that matter, even emotions like “repentance” or “hesitation” which needed to be told – the collection is called “AG Dairies.”
The live set-up is organic – I am the lead while the accompanists are brought in as and when requirements and schedules match.
Q10. You’ve just collaborated with the charming Sunidhi Chauhan for a music video. How do you feel about the way it has come out? What is the audience’s reaction to that? Besides, was it a learning experience for you too?
Sunidhi Chauhan is an absolute joy to work with. In fact, this is our second collaboration. The first one is still to see the light of the day. She is versatile, an excellent listener, very organic in terms of improvisation, and is curious for feedback. The last quality is highly important, as a music composer would have a soundscape designed in his mind for the track. She is outstanding in the way she enhanced the soul of the track and made it her own.
The audience is going ga-ga over the track, and it has received a tremendously positive response. As a singer, there is so much to learn for me – humility, calm, attentiveness, and most importantly, being receptive.
Q11. Your composition, “Bejhijak,” became the official anthem of AFI Changemakers Summit 2014-15, held in Geneva. How did they come across your song? Tell us about your experience.
I met Dr. Ariel King in Lithuania, Europe, when I was pursuing my Master’s in Communications. It was a chance meet, when she was looking for a professor at the university and sought my assistance. Next thing I knew, she was the founder of the Ariel Foundation and the organizer of Changemakers Summit. We got talking over email and phone; she heard my work and offered me this fantastic opportunity. Within a week or so, the entire episode unfolded, and I was in Geneva for the summit.
In fact, I wrote the song two days before the summit. It was an original and was adopted as the official song for the summit with over 75+ young changemakers from across the world. I got to perform the theme song as well for them and explain what it meant. It was fascinating!
Q12. We know that Abhilash expresses emotions through his music. My personal favorite, out of your creations, was “Hatke Wala Safar.” It has a certain feel of modern-age love with a tinge of quirkiness, mischief, and commitment, all at the same time. Guessing that was your pre-wedding song?
Which composition of yours is the closest to your heart/best work, leaving this one aside.
Yes, “Hake wala safar” was my pre-wedding song. I am glad you appreciate the style and theme I went for. I love singing and performing romantic numbers, but fortunately or unfortunately cannot write them. The amount of metaphors that get incorporated in such songs is simply a poet’s domain.
However, I am a writer. So, I came about to write what we really felt, what we went through as a couple when dating, how we saw each other, how we envisioned our future; our conversations in plain and simple words. I don’t think our family members understood the song or even tried making sense out of it. Nevertheless, I had fun writing and shooting the song, which is also one of my lyrical favorites.
The composition closest to me is “Faasle.” It is one of the first songs I wrote, and this composition gave me the confidence that I can write. As I delved before, I have not written about love, and this song is not about that as well. The number truly is about my relationship with my dreams and the subsequent distance, plus the love-hate relationship I share with it. Though, for video purposes, we went the usual way of putting a couple on the verge of separation, etc.
Q13. When is the next concert happening? Are you working on a new composition? When can we hear it?
I took a break from performances about two years back to concentrate on movies and my company. With one movie already out and two coming out this year (work almost done), I am looking at a return for “ABHILASH GUPTA DIARIES.” We are getting a set list, and ourselves practice ready. So, we will hit the performance zone soon.
Adding to that, yes, I am working on a couple of independent tracks, in Kannada and Hindi. Exploring some trendy beats and synths, along with acoustical elements, speaking about things other than plain romantic.
Q14. Where can we find Abhilash when he is not composing/producing music?
You will find me more often than not, in my garden. I have come to realize that when art becomes a profession, it’s time to find another hobby. It’s been two years or so since I picked up gardening and I am having a blast.
Working the soil, seeing plants grow, composting, and the sheer joy of being with nature’s real mascots is peaceful. Other than my garden, I read when I feel like it. Thrillers and mysteries excite me, and so do spiritual and mythology rationale.
Q15. How did you come up with Salt ‘n Pepper?
Salt ‘n Pepper began as a simple music production company primarily focussed on advertising jingles and ads. Salt ‘n Pepper is a metaphor for the black and white notes of a piano.
We worked with quite a large number of brands designing their sound strategies, with radio to produce music, and with short films as well. This was the time I did my Master’s in communication with my research in sound branding that led to us creating modules for internal and external brand communication with music and art. Now, I conduct employee/audience engagement modules with music and art, regularly for corporates.
Q16. Ten years from now, where does Abhilash Gupta see himself?
I haven’t given any thought to the time machine question!
With so many things to do, pursue, see, explore, taste, I don’t want to burden my life with expectations. I just want to live life one day at a time, and this is something I have learned over the past ten years.
I wish to be happy, content and enjoying whatever I will be doing in the next ten years, just as I am now, and that’s the only wish!
Q17. Aspiring musicians on the block, any word of advice for them
just one thing – “You’ll eventually find your way. So, keep going!
Q18. How do you feel about your association with GrooveNexus? A word or two for us?
Immense pleasure and honor to be associated with such a vibrant and diverse platform bringing artists from across the world together. For an artist in these challenging times, platforms like these are invaluable. So GrooveNexus, keep up the good spirit and vibes!
We hope you enjoyed the session of Abhilash Gupta getting all chatty and candid with us.