The current year (2016) took off to a flying start as awards fetched you wide appreciation for your hardwork. You picked up the Filmfare statuette as the winner of prestigious R.D. Burman Award in the new music talent category. How important was this recognition for you in the early stages of your career? What was your parents’ reaction?
Getting this appreciation, love and acceptance from the industry fraternity feels simply surreal! Actually I think my experience proves that age is no bar to success. I believe this recognition would inspire more youngster musicians to take up music as a serious profession. Hence, we need to tap raw talent persistently to enable the youth of India shine and progress all the way!
Our parents are super ecstatic! My dad Daboo Malik has been a part of this music industry since a very long time but he never received any sort of big acclaim that was due to him throughout his career. Therefore, these awards and victories are meant to be more of his than ours!
Born and brought up in a family of great musical lineage (starting with grandfather Late Sardar Malik, who was a noted music composer, the legacy followed with his famous composer-singer uncle Anu Malik and father Daboo Malik, also a talented scorer), were you destined to embrace the craft as your career-path in life? How was the musical ambience at home since childhood?
Ever since I was a little kid of four, I knew I wanted to be a singer. And not just any regular singer, the world’s best singer (smiles)! Sounds too ambitious, right? But that’s how children behave in their formative years. And I’ve always had these lofty dreams you know. Thankfully, I never looked back, once I decided that ‘music is my life’.
Honestly speaking, the atmosphere at our home is truly musical. We used to wake up in the mornings only to find my dad and dada doing riyaaz, composing new songs and writing lyrics. I have received all my training from my grandfather Shri Sardar Malik and my mind-training happens with my dad. It was this highly cultural milieu that we so fondly loved and this is what we grew up in. So it was only a natural progress for us to follow music further in the future.
Tell us something about your formal education in music. Did you graduate from leading western music schools as well as acquire training in Indian classical genres? How has that taalim helped brace your basics?
I’m a trained student of Hindustani classical music and have also received a full-tuition scholarship in the summer of 2011 to learn pop/R&B music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Boston (USA). By the grace of God, I could wrap up the course with Honours and I’m immensely glad that I pursued the curriculum because it’s left me completely changed!
See as a singer, being versatile is very crucial. So the giant spectrum of Indian classical has undoubtedly provided me with that strong base to hone my singing skills. While Western music has added a much-needed edge to my style. Fact is, in order to be a long-race horse, you must continuously explore and extend your repertoire. Fortunately, I could pick up other world genres like EDM and the ‘big band’ phenomenon (a musical rage during the swing era of 1930s till 1940s in the US, associated with playing jazz. It has evolved over time and still continues today.) to name a few and am equally comfortable in crooning English numbers. Besides, I have a great affinity for pop and R&B genres. To tell you frankly, I am gonna sing a lot in English ahead.
Amaal Malik (talented Bollywood composer and hitmaker) being your elder brother, is he more of a buddy to you and a great support-system in this strange big entertainment industry, where fate alters every Friday?
Definitely yes! Since both of us are brothers and belong to the same line of work, we both confide in each other regarding our personal as well as professional struggles. It’s undeniably very comforting having Amaal by my side!
Having initiated your journey as a vocalist from a talent hunt show to singing jingles, singles and now managing a full-fledged playback career, was the struggle tough or worth it?
It was surely worth it. If I hadn’t put in all that effort and hard labour when I was barely nine or ten, I wouldn’t be here where I am today. My mom (Jyoti Malik) has equally shared this struggle and journey with me. She was a constant pillar of backing, who pushed my limits and made me understand the importance of hardwork earlier in life. I was taught that nothing falls easy on the platter and there’s no shortcut to success.
Is hailing from a reputed musical background like yours a blessing in disguise or an undue pressure as expectations mount up and comparisons keep soaring with every performance?
I think it’s challenging because a) people have huge expectations already imposed on your shoulders like a heavy burden and b) you also need to make an individual mark of your own in the industry. I mean you can’t go on living into someone’s shadow.
Coming to the vantage point that you quite correctly mentioned, I do agree that one gets to go through several doors of opportunities without much fuss than rank outsiders who doggedly slog for a chance from nowhere. But despite getting a key access to the right kind of people who matter most, you got to have that genuine talent and burning passion inside you to take things forward and make something valuable out of it!
The sounds and voices of independent music often get gagged under the heavy bombardment of Bollywood songs. But with the resurgence of singles happening around and you being a prominent participant in this trend, do you think it augurs well for the future of Indian non-filmi music? Do you have a faint memory of the erstwhile madness of Indipop bursting out the charts in 1990s when you guys were still tiny infants?
Non-film music is gonna be massive I bet! And I have a hunch that the magic of the golden 90s’ non-film music era will be revived bigtime soon. I’ll certainly be a part of it since I truly believe in its essence and power to stay parallel to Bollywood music. I’m already planning a few singles (smiles).
Was quitting the BMM (Bachelors in Mass Media) course midway for the sake of your musical penchant a conscious decision on your part? Do you now regret it or you are completely content with your choice?
It just happened. For me, my life and my career were going at a very fast pace and I could not juggle between the two. Since music is what I’ve always wanted to chase, I went ahead and made my career the first priority. Obviously, I don’t regret my choice because I am going to complete my graduation anyways. Rest assured, my mother will be at it, goading me and making sure of that!
Who is more romantic at heart and favourite among the female fans? How do you tackle such mass adulation?
Both Amaal and I are equally romantic by nature and we both have a huge female fan following. Me a little more (smiles). Haha!
Well, now this crazy frenzy has become pretty normal I guess. You know all these side effects of fame just steadily sink in with time. And there are always zillions of hardcore fans out there. It definitely feels way special to be loved and adored so much. All I can say is that I’m blessed to have my pack of ‘Armaanians’ by my side.
Your idea of a dream girl:
I would say Deepika Padukone. She perfectly epitomises the image of an ideal dream girl. Intelligent, drop-dead gorgeous, emotional, sensitive and loving towards her parents — she is all that and much more. I wish I can find someone like her (blushes)!
Your musical inspiration and key influences:
Well, that’s a long list. The most pivotal ones in my life being Michael Bublé, Sonu Nigam, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Arijit Singh, Mohd. Rafisaab and Kishore Kumarji to name a few!
Any wishful collaboration on the cards:
I want to collaborate with the German born Grammy-award winning electro-house DJ and record-producer Zedd plus the sensational Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Bieber.
Are you working on any private album or a single?
I’m currently shaping up my individual single which is all set to feature me in its music video and the most exciting news is that I will be presented in an all new, fresh avatar. This attempt would be a clear departure from my usual romantic space that I am widely known for as my audience will now get to watch me in an out and out dance number!
What are your upcoming Bollywood projects?
I have a few songs lined up for the M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story biopic, apart from a couple of others, which am not supposed to divulge at the moment. But I’m really looking forward to release my dance single by the end of this year!
What’s your take on the arena of dance music….does it have a temporary appeal unlike romantic melodies which breed a quality of permanence?
In a nutshell, I love both actually. Although I admit that love ballads tend to have a longer shelf-life than dance songs, yet when you infuse the two, you get the best of both worlds at your feet. Who says that a dance song can’t have melody? We shouldn’t stereotype our tastes. The very fine example of such a song is ‘Sau Aasmaan’ from Baar Baar Dekho. It’s a tender, warm, amorous track with a frisky dance beat. This makes it all the more beautiful to listeners spread across all generations.
How do you describe today’s generation of music?
In black and white, today’s type of music is full of innovative ideas, experimental creativity, great sound production but of course, lacks the melodic value to a vast degree in order to make it potentially eternal and immortal in texture. However, all the songs that I have sung till date retain the above-mentioned ingredients including the vital melody intact.
Over a small period of time and evidently at an early stage, you have tasted success. So how do you intend to keep yourself grounded?
My parents have instilled in me the worth of staying always humble, irrespective of the status that we ever achieve in life. They know how fickle the industry is as well as the world out there. You may be doing well now, but when you don’t, people all around may drop you like a small sliver. My father told me to follow a simple thumb rule — “Don’t be over confident, don’t be over humble. Just be sane.” Those were the golden words of lessons for me.
Do you follow any particular singing idol’s style of rendition? If yes, then why?
I don’t consciously follow anyone to the T, but I imbibe the best qualities of all top singers in my gayaki andaaz. That’s it. A few singers whom I personally love are Michael Bublé, Sonu Nigam, Chris Brown and Arijit Singh.
Given your sweet charming looks, will you ever consider acting if given an offer?
Actually, I’ve been already getting a lot of proposals to face the camera and the arclights but have politely declined them all. My focus and passion for music is so high at present that I can’t let anything else hijack it. Many people think acting is the zenith of stardom in our industry, but I feel otherwise. I personally want singers to emulate greater glory. And I’m definitely going to champion that cause and leverage the movement. You see, musicians and vocalists are true blue artistes and some are even born with that genius. They are God-gifted performers. So why should they feel insecure at all and stoop low to hog the limelight? Avid aficionados and discerning enthusiasts would anyways encourage their art and patronise them to sustain their mastery. And when it comes to the brand-value and a crowd-pulling charisma, my simple question in regards to that is that why can’t there be a good looking singer who can attract you with both his good looks as well as his enchanting voice?
Having said that, if some acting assignment comes my way, I’ll only take it up if it is a huge project which I won’t be able to refuse at the outset and the character that I shall play has a musical side to it.
Comment on the trend of remixes:
It can either elevate to another level or dilute its essence if not well executed. Credit goes to the maker if the remixed version further lifts and enhances the popularity of the original number, which is an already hit song. But if it is of inferior flavour, it would be automatically shunned by the listeners with an immediate effect!
What basic differences do you find between an Indian music achiever and a westerner in terms of lifestyle, culture, exposure and acceptability?
We are yet to acquire what the musical luminaries in the West have already attained. The global stardom is not so easy to grasp, if you belong to this part of the world. Many Indian artistes have tried to do the crossover sojourn to find a toehold in the western or international musical realm but only a handful few have been able to create a concrete buzz or magic so far.
The basic noticeable difference between the two sides is that India is a majorly Bollywood consumed market and the West is adequately fed with indie music and not just commercial film tunes alone. On the contrary, to make a mark in the Indian music industry, you have to first take the more popular Bollywood route. So given that scenario, my next aim is to create a strong fan-base through Bollywood and then take that step further to bolster my independent music career. My ultimate goal is to become a global music icon. For I desire to see Indian music scaling dizzying heights and flourishing on the overseas shores. Honestly, it’s about time that an Indian singer carries the baton forward to make this a reality from a mere possibility. My gut-instinct tells me that we could make it happen! So wish us all the good luck.
Khoobsurat — ‘Naina’
Hero — ‘Main Hoon Hero Tera’
Hate Story 3 — ‘Tumhe Apna Banane Ka’
‘Wajah Tum Ho’
Sanam Re — ‘Hua Hain Aaj Pehli Baar’
Kapoor & Sons — ‘Buddhu Sa Mann’
Baaghi — ‘Sab Tera’
Azhar — ‘Bol Do Na Zara’
‘Oye Oye’ (reprised version)
Do Lafzon Ki Kahani — ‘Kuch Toh Hain’
Junooniyat — ‘Mujhko Barsaat Bana Lo’
Baar Baar Dekho — ‘Sau Aasmaan’
M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story — ‘Besabriyaan’
Main Rahoon Ya Na Rahoon (album) — ‘Main Rahoon Ya Na Rahoon’
Pyaar Manga Hai (album) — ‘Pyaar Manga Hai’
You can read the magazine online at http://thescoremagazine.com/october-2016/1/