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In Conversation With Delhi-Based Indie-folk Singer-Songwriter Shourya Malhotra 

Shourya Malhotra, our artist for today, is all about building ethereal soundscapes and nostalgic vocal melodies. The Delhi-based singer-songwriter’s artist influences include Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Laura Marling and Sufjan Stevens. With a dream to build ethereal soundscapes and nostalgic vocal melodies, Malhotra’s music knows no boundaries due to his themes of loss, love, and nostalgia. A media and entertainment lawyer by profession, the artist has an upcoming album and multiple singles that have gotten listeners’ love and attention. Apart from this, he is also the frontman of ‘Trigger,’ an extreme metal band that has been around for a decade. The band has performed for international artists like the Australian metal giant ‘Twelve Foot Ninja.’ 

Malhotra recently released his immersive, bittersweet song ‘Parts of Two.’ The Indie-folk song talks about the various dichotomies of being human. Encouraging listeners to think about the various facades of human existence, it features rich orchestral sections over a memorable chorus with a rousing bridge. Nevertheless, this 4th release of the artist keeps listeners hooked. Recently, we had a chat with the artist and this is what he had to say:

1) Who is Shourya Malhotra and what does he bring to the indie music scene?

I am an Indie-folk singer-songwriter and lawyer based in Delhi, India. I started my journey as a musician in 2010 as the lead vocalist of a progressive heavy metal band called ‘Trigger’. In 2015, I started my practice as a lawyer before starting my Singer-Songwriter journey in 2022. 

What I believe I bring to the indie music scene is genuine expression and song writing. I am 31 years old and have spent most of my life discovering beautiful music and would want to have my expression become part of the larger world. I love writing on themes of love, loss, happiness, sorrow, my insecurities, and everything that affects us as humans. My music is inspired by artists such as Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Laura Marling, Fiona Apple, Radiohead, and others and I would just want to have the impact they’ve had on the world through my music. 

2) Tell us about your journey as an independent musician so far.

As I mentioned above, I started out as a metal vocalist and co-founded a progressive heavy metal band, ‘Trigger’. I am a proud metal-head and wear that identity with a lot of pride. We had a good run when I was in college from 2010-15, but due to the demands of the legal profession, that side of me naturally took a backseat.

I have been a musician all my life and have always aspired to be a touring musician. During my time as a practicing lawyer, I realised that I hadn’t touched my guitar in over 3 years and it dawned on me how disconnected and distant my life was from what I really wanted to do. So, I quit my practice and started working as a Singer-Songwriter in 2022 and have released 4 singles till now. It has been a rollercoaster ride till now, and although I miss the financial security I had as a practicing lawyer, I feel that the creative gratification and sense of accomplishment I feel now is incomparable. 

3) Tell us a bit more about your whisper vocals.

Whisper Vocals is something I’ve picked up from artists like Elliott Smith, William Fitzsimmons, Ray LaMontagne, Iron and Wine, etc. It’s a breathy vocal style which I love and think to be very appropriate and complimentary for my acoustic-folk composition style. While I love trying new things and have been a harsh metal growler/ screamer for over a decade, I feel the whisper vocal style suits my style of music. 

4) It was a very interesting move to add such soothing melodies to the otherwise lyrically bittersweet ‘Parts of Two.’ What was the inspiration behind this?

Thank you! The main chord progression of the song is one which I love and have been writing over for some time now. Inaturally gravitate towards writing melodies which occupy the space between happiness and melancholy, and that is the space I tried to explore while writing this song too. 

5) What do you want listeners to take away from ‘Parts of two?’

Umm! Honestly, I don’t know! I think I want them to interpret the song in their own way and make their own unique versions in their lives. I think once you put a song out in the world, it ceases to be your expression and takes a life of its own. Hopefully, this song successfully expresses my ideas behind writing it and becomes a part of a larger community around me. 

6) What was the idea behind the artwork for the single? How did you connect with the artist responsible for it?

The artist behind the artwork for ‘Parts of Two’ (and my other songs like For Lost Memories and Courtyards) is Siddharth Iyer, who I’ve known since 2013. He is an incredible illustrator and I think he compliments my music style really well because we both come from a background in metal music and we love to add those elements to our current work. Through the artwork, we both wanted to depict the duality being human and how we all have the tendency of being good and evil. The artwork is split in the middle horizontally and depicts the darkness and light of our life. It is incredibly detailed, and just like the inherent melancholy of my song, it gives the feeling of gloom and despair through the use of black and white as the dominant colours in it. 

7) What’s the one thing you have noticed in the Indian indie music scene?

Something that I’ve noticed and feel quite uneasy about is the fact that musicians do not prefer to go for legal help when they’re negotiation contracts. In my opinion, it is imperative that you have someone on your side when you’re signing deals with labels, big managements, or brands who tend to draft lengthy, complicated, and sometimes, biased contracts. If nothing else, there is always good to have someone who can explain the nature of the relationship you’re getting into in an uncomplicated way. 

As an indie musician in this dynamic and constantly evolving independent music industry in India, there are many things that I’ve noticed and would love to change. I genuinely think that the launching pad for artists who are starting out has to rise above what it is at the moment. The dearth of opportunities to showcase their art discourages many to take this as a full-time profession and collectively, as a community, I think it is the responsibility of those who hold power to use it for good. Even though things are getting better and the music creation process is getting decentralised more and more, there is still  huge disparity in the industry based on gender, language, demography, and how commercially viable an artist is. Unfortunately, in the pursuit of becoming “relevant”, quality of music takes a back seat, which is quite disheartening to see. I believe the initial struggle for many artists in India will become less if we (specially organisations who hold that power) start focusing on creating opportunities for them.  

8) Was there a specific moment which led you to quit your profession as a lawyer?

I think it was more a collection of smaller moments and epiphanies that made me give up my law firm practice. The realization that I yearned to contribute to society as an artist, and that I had not been able to do so before, really made me take the leap. The pandemic also gave me time to think about my future and to be clear about how I want to live my life. I was ready to struggle as a singer-songwriter, but I was not ready to let my ambitions of becoming a musician die. So, I quit the firm and focused on the music while doing freelance legal work on the side. Now that I have taken the plunge and every day is difficult and full of doubt, it has also been a beautiful journey of self-reflection and discovery. It has helped me to become my own best friend and I have never been so close to myself.

9) How was your band Trigger’s experience opening for ‘Twelve Foot Ninja?’

It was incredible! We got the opportunity to support the metal giants in Delhi in 2017, and we had a great time. The show was packed and I think we played a really good show. Twelve Foot Ninja gave us high praises and loved the groovy set. It was a really cool experience to perform with such a formidable name in heavy metal.

10) What are the themes you generally like to explore as a musician and why?

I tend to write regularly on themes of love, loss, melancholy, happiness, the silver lining, and the topsy turvy nature of life. I really want to explore and write about the things that affect me and my mental health the most. I love to answer questions like – what makes me happy, how do I make sense of this life, and what am I grateful for through my lyrics and compositions. I also love writing about the bittersweet nature of being humans and have always wanted my music to be an outlet for my feelings and a force of good in this world. I have been inspired and owe a large part of this approach of song writing to artists such as Nick Drake and Elliott Smith, and if through my music, I’m able to have the impact that these artists have had on me, then I would consider myself to be a successful artist. 

11) What’s next? 

I released ‘Parts of Two’ on 3rd May so till now I was working to promote the song. I am planning another song release in June/ July before taking a break and focusing on releasing an album at the end of this year. Also, I am prioritising playing live as much as I can. I love playing live and consider it to be the best way to break the barriers between artist and audience. Hopefully, I get to play at some festivals in India this year.

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