In Conversation With Kevin Shaji aka Pina Colada Blues, An Electronic Artist On The Rise

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Kochi-based composer and producer Kevin Shaji who goes by the pen name Pina Colada Blues releases his latest single ‘Tera Nishaan’ featuring Spotify star Anumita Nadeshan. The song is about two people sharing glances and being caught in the endless possibilities the special moment can turn into. The lyrics to this song were written by Ritendra Dirghangi with whom Kevin had previously worked on his single ‘Kyun?’. Kevin finds inspiration from myriad genres and majorly produces electronic and pop music. He has over 60K monthly listeners on Spotify and has a commendable music taste.

Kevin who began producing music in 2016 was also a part of the band Frequency Modulated Life. His debut single ‘Thenale’ set him sailing in the music industry. In his discography, we have popular releases such as ‘Iruvakal/Nights’, ‘Akalukayo’ and ‘Haaye’. His music is fresh and innovative while sticking to its Indian roots. The emerging artist with his new release is certainly creating space for himself in the electronic pop industry.

In this ‘know your artist’ interview, we get to closely look at Kevin’s songwriting process, his journey until now and his opinion on the music industry. 

1. How did you begin as a musician? What are your earliest memories with music?

So back in 2016, I had just passed out of class 12 and had a bit of free time after my entrance exams. So, I started putting out rough live covers with my school friends ( in a 3 piece small band ) on Facebook under the name of Frequency Modulated Life. I didn’t know anything about Music Production and I had never heard of terms such as DAW or FL Studio. Once I entered college around August 2016 I was introduced to FL Studio by my roommate, who was a beatboxer and a hardcore EDM lover. So we started playing with the DAW interface and I got to learn the basics of arranging, composing melodies, and counter melodies during this period. After a year or so, I put out one or two tracks under my own name which were really underproduced as I hadn’t figured out mix and master back then.

It’s here that I felt that maybe if I spent some time on Youtube tutorial videos and Instagram tutorial pages then I could improve my game. So fast forward to 2019, I started making Thenale around March and worked on the vocal composition and production and arrangement for the track. Long story short, the entire process of making the track –  Thenale helped me find my sounds, styles and persona, and got me started as a full-fledged artist.

I remember listening to MJ back when I was 5 or 6, as we had CDs of some of his greatest hits and I absolutely loved listening to it. I also listened to Linkin Park back during my school days as it helped me deal with a lot of stuff that I was going through back then.

2. How do you describe your music?

Majorly Chill-Electronic & Pop but all my songs have influences from different genres. For eg: ‘Kyun?’ or ‘Akalukayo’ is derived from Big Band and the new track ‘Tera Nishaan’ has a lot of Indian Fusion influence.

3. When do you know “This is shaping up to be a record”?

So there are 2 types of scenarios where I know this is my next record.

i. I start playing the piano/keys and play whatever progressions & melodies that I am feeling at the moment. This will be an honest reflection of what I am feeling at that moment and that’s what I record. On top of this, I start humming the vocal melodies and once I have a good melody, I work on the production demo to be sent to the singer I want to work with. Most of my songs are done this way and not subjected to overthinking. The melodies you hear are probably the first ideas I had.

ii. When I am low on creative juices, I go make random beats each day for a week or two and I’ll find one that has potential to be the next track Once I figure out which beat I want to work with, I think of the best voice that could work with the beat and we work towards finishing the idea. Once the demo vocals come in and it’s to a level that I can vibe with, that’s when I am 100% sure this is it.

4. Take us through the making of ‘Tera Nishaan’. How was your experience working alongside Anumita Nadesan and Ritendra Dighangi? 

So Tera Nishaan was originally an idea I had written in English over my composition and production a couple of years back. I had kept it aside as I wasn’t happy with it back then. Fast forward to 2022, after ‘Haaye’, when going through ideas for the next song, I stumbled upon the original beat without the vocals and it sounded magical to me, and since I already had a vocal melody in my mind I immediately sent it across to Ritendra as we had worked together before for ‘Kyun?’ and I loved his writing style. In a couple of days, we had the lyrical draft and I just knew that the best vocalist for this melody would be Anumita Nadesan. I have been a fan of her voice for quite a while and was really excited to work with her. We had a really cool jam session and a studio session and that’s how – ‘Tera Nishaan’ came into being.

But the song had a lot more collaborations that made it what it is. Mushkan Rajani played the flutes on the record and Abhishek Sinha was the person behind that incredible violin solo just before the second drop! Of course, on the mix/master we had the OG – Hanish Taneja. Overall, it was quite a memorable experience to bring this track back to life and I’m thrilled to have it out for everyone to listen to it.

5. Which bands did you grow up listening to? How has your music taste changed over the years?

Some of the bands I started listening to back in the day were Linkin Park, Maroon 5, and Greenday. But over the years my music taste has become focussed on finding fresh music and songs with a lot of emotions and tight melodies. So I listen to a lot of indie music and major artists like Lauv, Flume, Calvin Harris and other RnB, soulful and funky musicians too.

6. Do you think it is important to find the perfect instrument for the sound that you are going for or does emotion supersede that?

I value emotion and vibes more than specifically having an instrument of a track. It’s only after that I think about the instrument that could best represent that emotion and vibe.

7. What are your interests apart from music?

I love binging on movies and TV series, it’s definitely a great way for me to destress and relax. I also love attending gigs and just vibing to some great music. Apart from that, I like travelling to cool places and exploring new cities in my free time. 

8. What is the one thing you dislike the most about the music industry?

The fact that a musician needs to be an Instagram content creator too.  Instagram content creators are creating content which is cool and amazing but I definitely feel musicians have to go an extra mile to make sure their content sticks. Creating the music alone takes a good chunk of time and it’s quite hard to make more content to stay relevant and get people to listen to the music. I personally love just making music and the Instagram game seems to be a bit hard.