In Conversation With Vasu Raina On His Creative Process And New Single ‘Waqt’

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With over 50k monthly listeners on Spotify and five singles under his name, Vasu Raina is a New Delhi-based singer/songwriter whose musical journey has been worth knowing about. Vasu writes songs that are delicate in nature and he has his way with acoustics that resonate a common feeling inside us. His songs are simple yet profound and are calming to listen to. ‘Chalo’ and ‘Tu’ are among his notable accolades that gained him recognition. Over the years, Vasu has played alongside popular bands such as Parvaaz, When Chai Met Toast and Dream Note. 

‘Waqt’ released on 29th of July is his fifth single that talks about our sheer incompetence against time. The song is an affirmation for what future holds and letting go of the past. Vasu Raina wrote this song during the first lockdown and developed it over time as things began to settle. Since then, the song has seen a lot of improvisations and is finally out for listeners. We had a word with Vasu about his songs and song-making, and he was such a delight to talk to. We learnt about his musical style and his way of things as an artist. Here’s and excerpt from the interview. 

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

I remember I was in my third grade in school. We had a music period once a week, and I didn’t realise this happened to me. I was so into musical instruments that I always waited for that one period every 7 days just to sit in front of the line and see our music teachers Madhuri ma’am and Ronni Sir teach us sa-re-ga and do-re-mi on Casio. It was an amazing time. I was always ahead of the line, keen to hear and see everything. Time went by and I got into school choir and orchestra. I started playing instruments such as little Casio, harmonium, tabla, tambourine and some little drums and then majorly synthesizers and keyboards. Again time went by, I realised once in my shower that I can sing too and the next day I went to Madhuri Ma’am asking if I could sing in the school choir. She was kind enough to give me a chance, but if could I also play the harmonium with the choir. I did it and there it was, I got inclined towards singing. Not much after, I got introduced to Guitar. And finally 7 years later, in my first year of college, I wrote my first song sitting in a CCD having Maggi.

2. How do you nurture your creativity?

Creativity in Music, for me, isn’t just making a great tune or having great writing in a song. For me, it’s what makes a tune, a great tune and what makes the writing, great. I want a listener to feel something whenever she/he listens to it. There should be an instant connection towards something. It can be anything such as a feeling, reminiscing some memory or a person. And when it comes to writing a song, I always make sure that the listener/reader isn’t actually listening/reading something which someone else has written, but something which is their own story or a feeling which they want to say out even to their own self.

Basically relatability. I find relatability a very very important aspect in my art. I don’t wanna tell my own story in a way which makes it just mine. It’s not just mine. It’s their story too and I want to make them feel that they are not the only ones going through it. Similarly, I don’t want to feel as if I’m the only one going through something as if I’m alone. That’s why I really love it when people actually come up to me and say I loved that line because that’s exactly how I feel, or thanks for making me connect to myself or I so relate to every word in the song. I feel good, I feel that I’m going on the right track.

3. When do you know “This is shaping up to be a record”/”this track is now complete”?

So when I write or make a song, I don’t sit separately on things. Like first I’ll make a tune or first I’ll write something up. I don’t do it like that. I just open my voice memo app and I randomly play a tune and start singing some random words to it. And I don’t know it’s just weird that by the time I stop recording there is always a track made. I listen to it and make the tune a little better in my head and play it a couple of times, just improve it as much as I could. After that I clear the vocabulary and see if the words can be better in terms of rhyming. And that’s it, then I go to Saksham aka SangeetKir who is an amazing producer/musician and more than that a brother to me. I play the song for him he tells me if he likes it which mostly he does *touchwood* and then he helps me record them at his studio and puts his vision into it too, after that, we send it to Saaransh, our dear little brother who happens to be our bassist, he adds his sweet bass and his vision into the track. After that, I sit and think of instruments which can be put on the track. That’s when I know the track will turn out good.

4. What are your personal highlights from making of your new single “Waqt’? What is the song about?

“Waqt” as the title suggests is about time. Missing the past time, or maybe giving yourself consolation about the incoming time. And finally accepting the truth about time, that you can’t catch it, you can’t let it go, and definitely can’t run away from it. There was this blue feeling in me at a time. This was written when the first lockdown happened. I made it and I kept it to myself for a little while thinking ki sab theek ho jayega, jab ho jayega, tab sunayenge logo ko. Lockdowns went by, the time got worse, a lot of loss all around. I didn’t want to complete it at that point in time.

I took my time to record it. I remember I was in the studio(Noisy Gates Studio), just had my guitars and my vocals done. And I thought of experimenting around with different small instruments. I picked up a mouth organ, a shaker, a rainstick, a tambourine, a Tibetan bowl and I was legit playing around with those instruments one at a time thinking if we could put them in the track.

I put my hand on every instrument present at the studio and I enjoyed every bit of it. The song was done. Didn’t put it out for at least a year. Finally, covid took a stable turn and time became beautiful and better so I thought of producing it from scratch and so I sent it to Saaransh, (who btw is not just a bassist anymore he has promoted himself as a producer in my upcoming debut album) I asked if he wanted to do this and if he would wanna add his vision into the track as well. He immediately hopped on and did it, and did an amazing job.

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

I heard Beatles A LOT. And I still do, my close ones are sometimes annoyed by how much I repeat all their songs in the car, but I love them. I love every track of The Beatles. After that, I heard John Lennon’s Solo projects. I loved Linkin Park a lot. I loved the writing and the relatability hitting hard from the songs. Other than that I also heard a lot of Bollywood acoustic music. I also heard a lot of Green Day, John Mayer, and again some Bollywood music. I actually was into metal a lot too. One of my close friends in school made me introduce to a band called “Avenged Sevenfold” and damn their songs, I still listen to them sometimes. I also listen to a lot rap, DHH too.

My music taste has changed in a way where people would call me insane. I have heard every genre growing up and I love every genre. Every genre has its own vibe and energy. I remember when I used to be in the car with my grandpa or my dad they used to play ghazals, old 70’s Bollywood music and Kashmiri music. I used to just put on my earphones and listen to something else. Cut to today, I listen to Kashmiri music like crazy, every other night there’s Ghulam Ali’s “Humko Kiske Gham Ne Mara” playing in my room. And I enjoy so much. If I’m sad I’ll just put on Parvaaz’s music or I’ll listen to some Ghulam Ali Ji’s words. I can see my music taste mature with time.

Currently, as I write this, I have “Aur ho” from the film “Rockstar” playing in the background.

6. What is your favourite part about being a singer?

Favourite Part is when I step up on the stage and there are people shouting my name. That happens and I know there are people who came to smile, to enjoy, to vibe and that’s when we start the music. I love to make people smile, whether the smile is coming from sadness or happiness. I know it when they’re listening to my music or seeing me live. They will smile and feel an emotion. I also love how people are with me. They show their love, give me blessings. Who wouldn’t like it when people are giving their love and their blessings to you. I am forever grateful.

7. What interests or hobbies do you have outside of music?

I play a lot of games. I love gaming a lot. Other than that I travel, I like to drive, and just roam around the city & attend gigs. I read too but mostly I read for my inner peace if that even makes sense. I play football too.

8. What do you think of ‘art should please the artist first’? In that regard, what is your opinion on pop music?

“Art should please the artist first”. Art would be called as Art, only if the Artist is Pleased. It would never be called as art if it isn’t loved by its own artist. The artist has to love it in order to put it ahead for the people to love it. And when they do, its not just a piece of art by the artist, it will be piece of the artist’s heart. I think we all as artists have this tendency to keep our work/art to ourselves until we don’t feel like its enough, that its actually good. We would try and make it more artistic in every way, which says more that the art being created should please the artist first. Talking about Pop music, Pop Music back in the 70’s through 90’s heard now was in my opinion all about creating a new dimension, breaking barriers. But when we speak about now, its just no one is trying to experiment or trying to be more diverse in terms of their own art, they have become so afraid of change. There are some artists who are making things happen, lets say Jacob Collier. He is one of the finest musicians there who in my opinion connects most of the genres together to create something so beautiful and new. When I say change, I mean POP needs to be more diverse and not just some beats and some hooks. Pop was never like this.