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Interview

“I realised that my impatience which I thought to be an issue, actually taught me the skill of improvisation” – In Conversation with Manan Mehta

Manan Mehta, a multifaceted artist based out of Jaipur, is a pianist, singer-songwriter, and composer. His music reflecting a fusion of jazz, folk and indie pop, he broke into the music scene with his debut single, ‘Ghost in My Closet.’ The artist has opened for Anuv Jain, in his recent Guldasta tour twice, as well as The Yellow Dairy, Samar Mehdi, and Ankur Tiwari. He recently also won the first place at the Songweavers’24 organised by Global Music Institute. In a conversation with us, he talks about his journey so far.

1. Tell us a bit about your project. How did you begin your journey as a singer- songwriter?

For me, I was born in a music family. My mom being a music teacher, I don’t think there was a way out of it. She was of course my first mentor and taught me everything she knew. I’d say my personal journey began when she gifted me my very first keyboard, a Yamaha psr910 keyboard. It was the coolest thing I owned. I delved into playing all the songs I loved and overtime I realised that my impatience which I thought to be an issue, actually taught me the skill of improvisation which ultimately was better than learning by the book. 

I started improvising more, started creating my original tunes and over the next two years developed these tunes into potential songs and melodies. 

By the time I turned 15, I reached a personal milestone of writing my first song ‘Ghost in my Closet’-it holds a lot of meaning and I am glad to be able to put it out and have everyone listen to it and be a part of my journey.

2. Which bands/artists were your first love and who is your biggest influence?

Charlie Puth. He taught me how to play a major seventh chord. 

And then it was Twenty One Pilots, their ability to tell stories, convey emotions and weave narratives through music resonated with me, it still does. 

In general, I have always gravitated towards artists who I could connect with on a personal level, their journey, their struggles and their triumphs, as people and as artists.

Some other recent influences have been Tyler the Creator and Mac Demarco, both of them have this awkward energy which resonates with me but also their willingness and ability to express themselves has been very inspiring.

Additionally, artists like Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Jeff Buckley with their songwriting and their ability to reach emotional depth has definitely helped me when it comes to storytelling and expression.

3. Tell us about your experience with Songweavers’24. How do you feel that you’ve been declared the winner?

I think my experience with Song Weavers’24 was a journey in itself. I submitted my form right before the window closed with an unfinished song, just because it felt right at that moment. The following days were me forcing my brain out of a creative block and finishing up writing this song. I sat with my friend Vaishnav Vyas, who wrote the lyrics to the song “Before today”, took three days and an all nighter, right before the day of the competition to get the song to a place where I didn’t want to completely scrap it. Despite all my doubts and anxieties about the song and my performance, I went up to the stage and well, it all worked out.

It still feels surreal, but I am so honoured to have had this opportunity. 

Winning on a platform like this really validates you as an artist and fuels you to put more of your work out and that’s exactly what it did for me.

4. What is your music- making and recording process like?

I think for me making music, more often than not involves waiting for the right moment, the moment where the idea just flows to you. Usually, it’s not something that I force. Some days it is easier to sit and write, other days not so much and that’s when I prefer having people around to bounce off ideas. I love having my friends and other artists be a part of my writing process, it just becomes more fun and productive, and the experience in itself feels more whole. When it comes to recording, I think I am yet to experience a lot of it, I have had only a handful of experiences, but I am looking forward to learning more about it.

5. Why do you make music? What drives you as a musician and what are your songs about?

I have not known a life without music. As cliché as it sounds it is a part of me, I wouldn’t know who I would be without music. It’s like music revolves around me and I revolve around music.

Talking about it, listening to new music, listening to artists and their journey with music, learning something new about it, writing a song or just analysing lyrics of a song, every part of music interests me and pretty much consumes most of my time.

There’s so much out there about music that I want to learn, and that’s something that keeps me going, music keeps the fuel alive in me and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Coming to my songs, it honestly could be inspired by the smallest of things. It could be from something I watched or a small observation in my daily life, it could be a fictional story all together. When the inspiration flows, I just let it.

6. Which Indian bands or artists do you admire? And why?

I think Indie Indian artists when it comes to global recognition are very underrated. Prateek Kuhad’s first album ‘with tokens and charms’ and Dot’s originals on youtube have heavily inspired me in the way that I write my music and express myself.

Another artist who I adore is the late Sheil Sagar. The first time I heard him was at a compassbox session, shoutout to them, they’re the best, I remember listening to the song and saying to myself, I wish I could’ve written that song. I hold him in such high regard and will always cherish the compliments of being compared to him even in the slightest.

Also shout out to my upcoming insane musician friends who will make waves in the coming years. Green Park, Imon, LAVI, Akash, Maamuli, Renee, Aanchal, and so many more, keep an eye out for them!

7. What’s your take on the independent music scene in India?

The independent music scene seems to be thriving right now, it’s very accepting and open. Over the past years a lot of artists have emerged, who are experimenting with various genres and styles, and pushing the boundaries of conventional music.

There’s a lot of creativity out there, you just have to go out and look for it. 

Most of it is derived from the west but I think the music that comes out of this place, belongs here, in this country. It’s very true to its core and I can’t wait to develop my own distinct style and make my way into the scene. Looking forward to making something special and collaborating with other amazing artists.

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