I wasn't always into music deeply though I enjoyed its company. I remember picking up a guitar for the first time when I was 15 years old (being 24 now). Maybe that's when my interest in music increased and kept my teenage mind occupied. Being in India and coming from a middle-class background, my only source of international music back then was the radio. Every night at 9:00PM, the local radio would air the feed of Top40 with Ryan Seacrest or Casey Kasem and I used to fall asleep to it. The more I recall those nights, the more I realise how significant it has been for me to ever have my doors open to this wonderful world of music.
Around the same time, I came across and heard 'Gravity' by John Mayer. That changed everything. I'm sure there is always one moment in life for every single person that proves to be monumental in deciding what the rest of their life is going to be. Listening to Gravity was mine. Never was I so moved with the words being sung and the music going with it. That's when my fascination with songwriting, making music, expressing was born. My frustration with my noob guitar playing skills further motivated me to write my own words and melodies. lol That's how it began.
From there, I would try to find every opportunity to sing in front of an audience. Since I was in school, most of that would be singing competitions. I guess being part of those competitions really helped me gain confidence in myself to stand in front of an audience and perform. There was no stopping me from there.
And then Songstuff & John happened.
For those of you who know Derek Sivers is would also know that he was an active blogger/writer as well and was open to discussions with any person who would send him a mail. I did so, seeking music advice back in 2011. He said that the best way to get better at what you do is to share it with like minded people. He suggested I find communities online. And obviously, the first one to pop up was Songstuff.
I joined Songstuff in Feb 2011 (I just checked, it marked my 6 years of Songstuff just yesterday) and I was quite the excited one. John noticed. I started getting involved with more things Songstuff and we started talking more about music and what not. Back then, I had a very basic phone with internet capabilities at the lowest. I had no computer, no equipment. In fact I had no room of mine either & was living in a room with my two brothers and my mom. But I had these songs. And John suggested I put an EP out with those songs. Now, note that I'd never performed anywhere but in school and college. I had no equipment, no money and quite evidently, no sense of challenge. And John says - "If that's where we've got to start from, then let's start".
I did all I can to put some money together (saving lunch money, claiming that I needed lunch money from friends lol) and then went to a studio and recorded 5 songs and called it Beyond the Door. It was just one guitar (with barely average guitar playing) and my voice. But I did it. That's the point John had all along. Use what you've got and work with it. As if there was any other choice. I put the EP out online, sent it indie radio stations all over the globe (I did get my songs aired in a handful of radio stations and podcasts in the UK, US and Japan. I think that was super sweet of the people running the shows), got a 'music video' prepared with the help of my brother. A few people in the city took notice, invited me to perform at a few places for free. Two venue owners saw me there and offered me my very first paid gigs and on I went on my journey to become a full time musician.
With John's direction always being there, I continued to stay active and build my music career while in college. As you would know how it is in India when it comes to parents pressuring you to pursue a more 'meaningful profession', I ploughed on as I finished my bachelor's degree in computer science. I worked for about a year and then made the decision to call it quits and pursue music full time. My parents were obviously against it but being stubborn, I did it anyways. John and other friends helped me to be smart about it. Being a singer-songwriter in India is not exactly a financially stable option lol I had to make sure that my education loans were still being taken care of as well that nothing changes in the financial equation I have with my parents. I wasn't a kid anymore. I did have a responsibility.
It's been two years since I called it quits. Looks like things haven't gone to the shits yet lol I don't plan on it to. My parents came to a gig of mine a couple of months back. Their very first gig. After years of quarrel, fights, debates and what not, my dad on his way back said "I understand what he's doing now". He's not opposed my music or has shown distaste towards it ever since. In fact, it has been the opposite. Over the years, I've got to support some of the best bands in the country. I opened for Lucy Rose and Luke Sital-Singh when they came to India. I got to perform with Christian Galvez, one of the best Jazz musicians in the world which was a life time opportunity. There is a LONG way to go. And being a full time musician is a real struggle every single day. But it's all worth it! Every single bit.
Years have passed and John has continued to mentor me in my career. He's been a greater friend and has helped me in the toughest of my days even when I was at a stage where I was 'hurting' myself. And it is such a mind-boggling thing for me to comprehend how someone on the other side of the world who has never met me in person has had so much selfless concern and passion in helping me. Well, helping people. I mean, this is what Songstuff is all about.
It sounds like I'm exaggerating but believe me, John is probably THE biggest reason for any success I have earned and will ever earn in my music career. I try to remember that every day.
Well, that's me.