‘Do not give up, stay determined, stay humble, believe in myself and keep hustling.’
This mantra of mine has been keeping me going ever since I started.
My journey with music began at a very young age of 4 years. I was born in the year of 1993 in Goa and grew up listening to a variety of genres, and being from Goa I was exposed to good music from childhood. My parents weren’t into music at all. My mum would sing a little. I still remember having a radio and cassette player. I used to play those cassettes every day and tune into the radio as well to listen to new music. Those days social media didn't have an ease of access as today and platforms like Youtube, Spotify, Apple music, Facebook, Instagram didn't exist until much later in my schooling days. Not to forget the Church. Being from a Catholic family, we had many traditions such as feasts, Christmas, Christian weddings and anniversaries, and obviously the Holy Mass. I would listen to a lot of Christian and Gospel music which used to calm my mind immensely. Listening to various genres since then, I have been able to learn which one compliments which. Often people ask me about where I find a particular track that I play or sing. The simple answer is that I search and listen to thousands of songs. I’ve got habituated to listening to thousands of tracks and picking those which I vibe with the most, because those days we didn’t have platforms showing the ‘likes’ to determine whether the song is good. We just heard them and decided for ourselves. And this is the habit I still follow while choosing songs for my gigs, be it a Dj set or a live performance. When it comes to which genres specifically, I say I love all. Each one is beautiful in its own way but I play only those that I feel a connection to like Country, Classic Rock, Rock n Roll, Hip-Hop, Pop, R&B, Retro, Gospel, Trap, House, Afro & Groove House, Funkin’ Groove and the likes of these. I just choose the songs I like and I play them in my sets. It's not about which song is popular and trending because everyone else would do the same. What will make me stand out is playing something that isn’t usually played but has the same capability to make people dance or groove. I have a soft spot for tracks with lyrics. Being a live musician and then getting into DJing, lyrics is something that helps me connect to a song. And I have noticed that lyrics make people sing along and relate to you at the DJ gigs as well. So from start to end my sets are filled with tracks which have lyrics in them. In my live gigs, I usually perform a lot of my original music which I write and compose myself. Have over 30 completed projects which I hope to start releasing by the later half of 2020. All my music is influenced by artists I grew up listening to. I am a big fan of Elvis Presley, Richie Valens, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Ray Charles, B.B. King, John Mayer and Queen. But who inspired me to get into songwriting was Ed Sheeran. A simple man with a guitar wowing an audience. He had no gimmicks but just himself and his raw music. The style in which he wrote music captivated me. It was so simple yet so intricate. Wonderful melodies, simple words, and catchy hook lines. Until I discovered him, I used to doubt my skills as a songwriter because I was only surrounded by people who were into music that had philosophical lyrics or complicated chord patterns. I soon realised it didn't have to be that way. It's how you want to tell your stories through music. It’s about finding your own style. This helped me reach out to the right people who loved my music and away from the negativity of those artists stuck in a bubble.
I studied with the Trinity College of Music, London in music theory, practical keyboard and western classical guitar. I had heard and seen the keys on television and quickly became fond of that instrument. I wanted to learn it and pestered my parents to get me enrolled for classes. I used to be part of a summer camp at Don Bosco Panjim and unfortunately their batches were full. With my summer camp activities and studying I had no time to go to a music school. That’s when the coordinator at the camp told my mum that there is a spot free in another class where they teach music on something similar to a keyboard. So this is where it gets funny for me. It was a class for Indian Harmonium and Indian classical singing. That 2 hour class was the worst class I have ever experienced and I remember it clearly. This is the reason why I still cannot relate to to Indian classical music. I was a stubborn kid and wanted to learn or get what I wanted. That’s when my parents did some research and got me enrolled at Taught to Teach music school in Goa and there I realised I want to do music for the rest of my life. I picked up the guitar as well while I was at the school because at age of 14 years I started binge listening to classic rock and punk rock music and wanted to learn the electric guitar anyhow. I heard songs from Queen, Bon Jovi, Simple Plan, The All American Rejects, Avril Lavigne, Green Day, Oasis and many more on repeat. I won’t deny that I picked up the guitar to impress girls. I saw how girls would go crazy for guitarists and I wanted my life to be that way.
I was a terrible singer till the age of 16 years. It was only when I joined my school choir in the 11th grade that I improved. I would just sing the voice taught to me, which was tenor or bass. I couldn’t sing a song in key in the first voice from start to end even if my life depended on it. But I knew that one day I would want to perform with a band and be able to sing my own songs. So I started practicing ardently and got better over the years. I performed a lot in my undergrad within the college as well as representing the college at events which helped me improve my presence and confidence on stage. During my college days at Christ University, I would attend karaoke nights all over Bangalore and Goa when I would come home for the holidays. When I sang for the first time at a karaoke night, I wasn’t perfect but it felt good. Karaoke was never meant for perfect singing so I took the opportunity to practice various songs and see which one the crowd found suiting my voice or enjoyed the most. At one karaoke night I saw a guy rap and see the crowd, especially the women go crazy. I convinced myself that I have to do this too because I wanted to get that reaction. I practiced hard and started rapping as well at the karaoke nights I attended. That feeling I got when the crowd went wild with my singing and rapping gave me an adrenaline rush and I wanted more. That is when I decided I wanted to make music my career as well. But it was only for my first paid gig that I actually became a good singer. A friend of mine from Goa was working as the manager of a pub in bangalore called Easy Tiger. At that time I had just graduated from Christ University Bangalore. He was looking for musicians from Christ to perform at his venue on Thursdays and asked me to help him scout. When I was asking around, one of my closest friends asked me why am I not performing instead. I hesitated because I felt I wasn’t ready or confident enough to perform at a paid gig. I felt I would mess it up. So I asked my friend working at the pub If I could perform instead and he without hesitation said ‘Yes’. He said and I quote “I have heard you sing at karaoke nights in Goa. You are pretty good’. The gig was only a week away but I practiced day in and day out. WHat made this first gig of mine even special was the attendance. Over 120 of my friends and well wishers showed up to support. It made me nervous but seeing so many familiar faces, it relaxed my mind. Having you friends take the front seat at your first gig, seeing them dance to an acoustic set, I would never get that experience back again. What made this night even better was that the owner of the pub was present. He saw the turn out and the performance and was impressed. He asked me if I was willing to take up the programming at Easy Tiger and I without hesitating jumped into the offer. This is how my first gig made me an artist manager and programmer. I also became their in-house karaoke jockey. Other venues started hearing about me and approached me to either perform or programme at their venues to which I said yes. Then the rest in history.
Going back to songwriting and my releases. Unfortunately, a lot of other obstacles came in my way. I shouldn't be making excuses but still, responsibility. Being the oldest son in the family brought the first obstacle, as I had to take up the responsibility of standing on my own feet right after graduation. I did not want to give up on music so I tried to balance both a day job and my gigs. Being in India. Both my professions, music and psychology paid very low, and paying bills in an expensive city like Bangalore became challenging. After I quit the company I worked for and pursue music full time, it became tough to make ends meet and pay the bills as I started a career in music in Bangalore with my home town being Goa. I had to do sometimes 2 and even 3 gigs in a day plus manage my counseling sessions. I am a qualified psychologist and I had my own set of clients that I had been seeing. And even the pay in both professions, music and psychology was very low which made it even tougher. But somehow I always scaled through and made time for improving on my craft and writing new music. Not being from Bangalore, I had to constantly work on building my popularity to get recognised as an artist and at the same time balance my therapy sessions. But all these experiences have helped me write some good songs and I can’t wait to release them this year. It’s tough to choose one genre to produce, but if I have to, an indie pop genre is what I would produce my songs in. I am currently working on a lot of projects and collaborations with other artists. The genres I am working on are multiple, a different genre with a different artist. But eventually, most of my independent releases will be falling towards the genre of indie pop. I am a fan of acoustic arrangements, so even if I do release songs with heavy production to please the masses, I will also release an acoustic arrangement of my tracks.
I always had a dream since my school days to have my own band and be the lead singer but being from an Indian family, studies was always given a higher priority. Finally in February, 2018 when I formed my first ever full rock band for a gig at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore, it came down to deciding what to name it. Everyone suggested calling it Jonas Monteiro Collective because towards the end of 2017 I had gained some popularity among the live music audience and it would be easier to promote the gigs with the name. We packed Hard Rock Cafe Bangalore on a Tuesday Night. That gig still holds a special place in my heart because I made my dream of having a band come true. Unfortunately, due to each one's personal commitments, we had a short run as a band but a memorable one indeed.
This career was a challenge because I had to balance between gigs and practice, my job which didnt leave me time to spend in a studio. As a band, each member has to contribute an equal amount of time to jam and perfect each song, especially the arrangements of and jamming of the originals as these are new and we haven't heard them before. A few of the members were studying in Christ University, and with the constant assignments it became hard. Another member was a music teacher and had classes in the evening as well. The lead guitarist worked at Byju’s and had work hours till 9PM. Then it was me with my gigs in the evening. And I was just getting into the peak of my career then, so I had gigs from Tuesday to Sunday. We somehow pulled through with late hours of practice. Band members who were free would jam even though others were busy. We were dedicated and that’s how we pulled through. If really needed, I would ask another artist to cover for me at the gigs. This was mainly the Jonas Monteiro Collective rock band. I also had an acoustic set up and gave a dedicated time to them as well. The venues always wanted a different female vocalist every gig which became tough to live up to. So I would call the different vocalists to my Karaoke Nights that I used to host and we would just basically sing the songs from our set list at the karaoke. So we improvised and got all the singing practice done.Then I would jam separately with the other musicians since I played the guitar and we would have a jam either the night before or a couple of hours before the gig. It was not easy managing everything, considering I had to coordinate, talk to the venue, also had my therapy sessions, learn new songs. This took a toll on my health but I had to do it because I was growing. I had to push myself to my limit to make it. And we never performed Hindi or Bollywood songs because I don’t know Hindi, so we had to compete with the growing demand for Bollywood by showing how rock, country and retro was also fun to listen to. We used to make our own arrangements of the songs to make it fun listening to in a pub. It worked for us pretty well and we would get booked often to play at The Ritz Carlton, Marriot Hotels, Taj Hotels etc and the well known pubs in Bangalore.
I always had this gut feeling that I would choose this career. I feel I was destined to do this. I have always had the urge to help others, bring a smile on a person's face and just selflessly give. Music and psychology has both helped me do this. As I said earlier, I grew up listening to music everyday. It helped me calm my mind and simply just put a smile on my face. There was also this dark phase in my life where I felt I was not good enough. I felt I did not fit in that cliched category of good looks and vibrant personality. I was quite popular in my school and college days being the student council head in both. I had good friends and did really well in my studies but I always felt this sense of never being good enough. What helped me get through this phase was music and psychology. I began reading about how music is used in psychology and how it can be therapeutic and implemented those techniques on myself. I can say that it successfully helped me and motivated me to pursue my Masters in Clinical Psychology. I was part of my school choir and acted in a few musicals and operas when I was doing my schooling in Goa. This has also played a very important role in choosing a career path in music which kickstarted in 2016 when I was 23. I saw how music would make people smile, sing along, dance or just listen intently. It had the power to grasp an audience's attention instantly. I wanted to one day perform for thousands of people and do the same just by myself. No gimmicks and no other band members, just me alone with my guitar and I managed to do it several times during the course of my career. DJing came later in 2018. I was always fascinated by how a DJ could move a dance floor, make the people dance to his/ her tunes but I was always sceptical because I wanted to grow first as a live musician. One day I decided to try my hand at DJing just for the fun of it, and it turned out that it really gave me a kick and made me move. I was a guy who used to attend parties but never dance. I was the awkward kind. But while playing as a DJ, that awkwardness just went away and I would just let loose and dance. This feeling of magic gave me a rush and I decided to become a professional DJ. I think more than others, I go crazy at my gigs. I know music will always be a part of my life. There was, is and always will be a song for every mood and hence it will be hard to let go of it. Most importantly, I am the happiest I have ever been. There is no greater feeling than just being happy.
The support over the years from peers and friends is mixed. And this has nearly cost me my dream to do music throughout my life and grow as a world recognised artist. There are those who like me, also believe that artists should support each other and grow together. But there are those who only want to stand out and not even support their own friends and peers. I am glad to have received tremendous support from those who I know from the industry in Bangalore and Goa. The year 2018 was a very difficult time in my career because it was filled with a lot of negativity. I began my career in 2016 and for little over a year worked hard to make an impression and with my hard work it was successful. But in 2018, a lot of jealousy arose among my peers and artists who just saw me growing rapidly out of nowhere. It led to bad mouthing and spreading of ill news about me. I guess this happens everywhere, but it’s always shocking when you hear it. II almost left Bangalore due to this. But I had the right friends and right artists around me who came to my rescue. We support each other till date. I was told this and I will never forget it. I won’t name the person, “They are jealous and spreading false news only because they know they can't be you or are intimidated by you.” This hit me hard, and helped me get back on my feet. From that day whatever negativity came my way, I would ignore it. I only took criticism from my close friends who are artists. The industry is tough, it can get dirty, but not giving up is the key. Things will take time to go your way, but be humble, be compassionate and most importantly be honest. It will go a long way and has helped me tremendously. When it comes to support it’s just about finding the right people to have your back. This is a trial and error method. People will disappoint you, but don’t let go of those who truly want to see you succeed. I started collaborating and working with a lot of artists outside India and also with a few of my artist friends in the recent past. They have been very supportive. As I mentioned earlier, it’s about finding the right people
That friend who literally saved my music career is my partner in the event company that we run Artiste Domain founded in 2019. We immediately felt that we were the right fit as business partners since we had gone through similar experiences and came out strong. What helped our company grow is that we stayed away from greed which led to the downfall of many other event companies around us. In less than a year we successfully made a mark in India with our shows booking artists both from India as well International. Determination, strong ambition to achieve and an unconditional friendship is what kept us going.
Living in India it is quite challenging for me to release music in the genre I love, which is English Indie Pop. There are artists who have released pop songs and are quite well known, but they do it predominantly in Hindi. Being from Goa, my mother tongue in Konkanim and I mostly spoke English my whole life with a little bit of Portuguese from time to time. I do not know Hindi. So it gets tough to release music in India and succeed considering the fact that majority of the population is mostly inclined towards Bollywood and Hindi music. But I have a few releases coming up and I hope the people in India like them. Taking into consideration the world market, it is very tough. Everyday I connect with a lot of talented indie artists around the world because they keep submitting their tracks for my Indie/ Pop playlist on Spotify under Domain Records. The talent is indescribable and out of this world. So many artists are trying to make it big. But in today's world it has become a little easier with digital media. So I feel along with a good track, an artist's social media game must be strong. Do not stick to one platform, explore all, and grow on all. A lot of artists ignore social media and it is a huge mistake. The reach is immense, and one can gain a new following from anywhere in the world without physically going there. So this is my game plan for my new releases coming up as this has worked for me in the past. My social media game was strong in Bangalore, which helped me become quite popular there. And it also fetched me a lot of gigs and collaborations with venues and artists contacting me on my Instagram and Facebook page. It helped me get a few brand collaborations such as with Kingfisher. All these factors play an important role in how well your song will do. Target the right people and make the right moves, and obviously your track must be good, both lyrically and melodically. With platforms like Spotify and Apple music, it will be much easier for me to target people who will listen to Indie Pop. Releasing will be easy but making it to the charts is a whole new ball game. It is not impossible. This can easily be achieved with the right marketing and right networking. In today’s world of technology, you do not need to be signed on to a record label for your song to become popular. My plan is to prepare a full fledged online promotion campaign before releasing any song in the future,and hopefully it will work out.
The Covid-19 pandemic hit the entertainment industry really hard. I was to travel to L.A. in May for a gig and my company Artiste Domain had booked Hozho and Black Hertz, two big names in the international techno scene to play in India. Numerous gigs of mine and many other plans had to get cancelled. The pandemic has made it hard for me to work on music and delayed the release of my tracks because I had to start working to make ends meet. Also, I had to leave all my equipment in Bangalore and come back to Goa due to the growing cases. What is helping me get through these times is my family, prayers and of course music. After about 4 years I am getting to spend quality time with my family, I have been exercising and writing music to keep me going. I have always been spiritual but I lost myself spiritually when I moved to Bangalore. Being back has helped me be much closer to God and my prayers are helping me get through these tough times. Starting La Festa, my food business with my family has been the most rewarding feeling. Working on growing the Record label, Domain Records which I have started with my friends Harsh and Sankarsh, has helped me connect and interact with a lot of like minded artists and it’s keeping me busy. I realised that the times have been tough on everybody, so to keep the spirit of my friends and everyone who follows me alive I started my Podcast called ‘Coffee Sessions with Jonas Monteiro’ on my Instagram. I go live and interview a lot of professionals and ask them to share their journey in their respective fields and hopefully inspire and motivate the viewers. In another segment, I support novel entrepreneurs and small businesses by going live with them and helping them promote their services with my viewers. I have received a lot of positive feedback from this and it keeps me going. I sometimes go live from my instagram account and just sing along with my guitar and take requests, and talk to whoever is tuning in. This has inspired me to start Goan Insider with my partner Gaurav Bora which will be a media and news website specifically for the state of Goa. Goa has influenced my life in more ways than I can put in words, so I wanted to give back to the community. It will be a platform where we will be featuring stories of Goan artists, entrepreneurs, businesses, dancers etc. to give them a platform to share their story and career with the world. I have also offered to give free counseling sessions to any artist who may need it. I know these times are very tough for artists, and many of them do not have the mental capacity to get through this. I am trying my best to spread love and just go with the flow. That is the best one can do during this unexpected scenario.
The rewards of this career have definitely been overwhelming. When I just started I used to complain a lot and often think about giving up. But I am glad I didn't. That is the beauty of doing something that you love, you always somehow pull yourself together to fight the obstacles. Today, I am glad I stuck to both music and psychology, because along with music, psychology also helped me deal with all the stress and disappointments at the start of my career. It’s exactly been 3 and a half years that I have been in the music industry, not many know this, it’s not been long and I am seeing the benefits now. I have successfully done over 1000 + gigs. I lost count after 1000. I wouldn't change the career path I chose. It has made me more confident, stronger and built my self-esteem to a whole new level. I achieved things which people took sometimes even 10 years to. Making the right connections I was able to start my own event management company, Artiste Domain in 2019 with my partner Harsh and with my experience build a strong team and grow it in a year's time. Being independent, I learned the art of taking chances and just growing and learning from my past mistakes. Being independent fueled me to become an entrepreneur and today along with Artiste Domain, I run a record label called Domain Records with my friends and partners, Harsh and Sankarsh and I started my own food business in my hometown Goa where we make home cooked goan style pickles and masalas. Domain Records was started in 2020 but considering how I made the right moves and grew in 3 years, I am confident we can do the same for the record label. The best part about starting the food business is that it’s a family run business. My partners are my mother and my younger brothers. Not giving up on yourself and your dreams works, improving on yourself works and always know that you are your own competition. Growing as an artist, I learned that even as an individual, you should always be a better version of yourself than what you were yesterday. It’s never easy, and if it was, everybody would be doing it. So take chances on your dreams, never give up, and one day you will pull through. I tell this to myself and younger artists every day. One of the most fruitful rewards has been playing for a crowd of over 5,000 people with just my guitar and my voice at a college gig in Mysore. I used to watch live concerts on television and always dreamed of playing in front of a large audience. With Djing I got a chance to open for international artists, with Dyro and Atliens being the biggest. As a DJ, I also got to play for a crowd of over 3,000 people at Maaholi and many other college festivals with a large crowd just enjoying the music I played. Being an entertainer there is nothing more rewarding than people enjoying your art. And ofcourse, I got to meet a lot of interesting people and make great friends. I am a person who loves to travel and had a dream to play internationally one day, and music helped me achieve that with my first international gig in Phuket, Thailand in 2019. I know the road ahead will not be easy and then challenges will come, like this pandemic for example, killing a lot of my career plans. But the plan is not to give up, stay determined, stay humble, believe in myself and keep hustling. This mantra of mine has been keeping me going ever since I started.
There is a lot coming for me in the recent future. A whole lot of music releases and a well grounded record label. These are my two main goals right now. Just hoping that my songs do make the charts one day once they are out. Of course not to forget La Festa. Hopefully that grows post the pandemic. The music which I will be releasing will hold a special place in my heart because the lyrics will talk about my life experiences with regards to love, friendship, my battle with mental health, my travel stories and family. Also hoping to grow the Coffee Sessions into a worldwide recognised podcast. I am hoping to connect and interact with more people around the world, especially from the industry, learn from them and even collaborate with them. I believe everyone has a story worth being told and I would love to hear them and maybe get inspired by their stories to make music. Networking is something which is very crucial for any artist or person to grow. Going to work hard on expanding my networks and also improving my social media game. Also, filtering by keeping only positivity around me is my number one goal as of today. I have these dreams and goals but they can’t be achieved overnight. I need to have the right mindset, right support system and most importantly work harder than I did yesterday to achieve my goals and live out my dreams. With all this, I also hope to grow stronger mentally and spiritually.