I am honored to pen down some aspects of my journey as an artist. When I look back on the past and ahead to the future I am indeed grateful for all those who supported me in this journey. As they are too many to mention by name I have refrained from this, but you know who you are and I am enternally thankful for your support.
How it all began:
I consider myself very lucky to have been given the gift of music from the earliest years of my birth. I was born to a Christian family and so everyone sang at Church. My Grandparents, Parents, Aunts and Uncles all appreciated music and so there was always some music or song filling the air, whether it was a hymn sung by my Grandmother or one of my Dad's many vinyl records playing.
With this atmosphere I gravitated towards music at an early age. My Dad plays guitar and had a beautiful Japanese made instrument, however it was off limits for me and stored high on a top shelf beyond my reach. This did not deter me though and I used to climb the shelves and secretly abscond with the guitar for a few hours of tuneless twanging. In time I tried to mimic some of the tunes I heard usually attempting to play the main melodies of songs on a single string. For some reason my Dad didn't want to teach me guitar, perhaps he was concerned that I would waste my time playing instead of studying, however I did observe his playing and soon picked up chords and strumming patterns.
This is where my love of chords and harmony began and I soon became quite adept at picking up chords to popular tunes by ear. Unlike my brothers and cousins who would play stray pieces of solos and riffs I would learn the chords to complete tunes and would attempt to play a song from start to finish. This got me playing in bands while still a kid as I was the lead guitarists dream, a rhythm guitarist who would play chords all night while they showcased their solos. We played a variety of songs from bands such as The Shadows to The Eagles especially rock n roll tunes that people could jive and dance to.
Trying to find a band and the shift to bass:
As time went by I was more determined than ever to purchase an electric guitar and so I worked part time and saved up some money to buy a cream colored Sun Mustang, which was a copy of the popular Fender Stratocaster. However my attempts to join a band full time were unsuccessful as most bands had guitarists and did not need an additional twanger. It was at this time that I noticed a serious lack of bass players and so proceeded to pick up the bass.
Bass in hand I went to a few auditions and through a friend Ryan Colaco who played drums I met guitarists Chris Avinash and Hubert Demello who had a common love for metal bands Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. With our youthful enthusiasm and dreams to "make it big" we formed Angel Dust, a band that first began playing Metal and Hard Rock covers and then gravitated towards Progressive Rock. These were fun years however reality soon set in and I had to make a decision to either pursue a more "conventional" career or continue as a full time musician.
The crisis of career:
I made the painful decision of concentrating on becoming an Accountant and completely stopped playing and performing music for what I thought would be for good.
While this decision was painful, in hindsight it was the right one. If I had not become an Accountant, would I have become a "commercially successful musician?" I firmly believe that I could have had "commercial success" however, I did not want to play the type of music that was "commercially viable" back then and probably still is today.
I must clarify here, that it is not about language or style. I do not consider myself "Western" or "English" in outlook. My breakfast is idli vada and dosa like many of my fellow Indians. So this does beg the question as to why I stubbornly insisted and continue to insist on performing a style of music with English lyrics that is alien to most Indians.
I was raised with Western Music [gospel, classical, jazz, country and western, pop, rock etc] and we spoke English at home, so performing in English and in the Western style just feels like an extension of myself, I feel I can communicate better in this medium. That is not to say I am incapable of performing in another language, and it seems silly that if I can perform a Portuguese or French song, that a Hindi or Kannada song is off limits. It is just a matter of preference and nothing more.
However if one is to create a market for oneself then one needs resources and backing. When I had to decide between a career in accounting and a career in music, it was plain to see that the music that I wanted to play and perform just would not pay the bills and put food on the table and so while it was painful, it was also painfully obvious that I should become an accountant.
My return to music:
For almost 20 years I did not touch the guitar, and I never performed live, not even twanging in my bedroom. However during this time I concentrated on writing songs. I consider myself very fortunate that I don't require an instrument to compose and usually work it all out in my head.
I picked up the instrument again purely by chance when an old friend invited me to perform with his band. What was intended as a one off performance became a full time gig where I alternated on guitar and bass depending on the needs of the band.
I was quietly impressed that though I had not played for a good number of years, my abilities had not diminished. This was mainly due to the intense practice I put in as a teenager and the sheer muscle memory that had developed over years of playing. This underlines the importance of practice, as any innate talent cannot be channeled effectively without discipline and application.
Where do we go from here?
My break from music also had another important side effect as my career as an accountant gave me an insight into the business world and with this confidence I then proceeded to form my own band Midnight Poppies. With this band I have had the opportunity to play with some exciting upcoming talents despite an age difference of almost 15-18 years. In the short span of a year we have toured Shillong, Mumbai and Delhi in addition to playing on the local Bangalore scene.
However the writing on the wall is clear, for a band like Midnight Poppies to continue to put out music, we have to create a financially viable model, and this needs to be done in a highly competitive market where "English" music is no longer a global driver and language barriers are being broken [for example K Pop].
I have no doubt that the future of music belongs to Indian artists as they will bring their rich traditions and skills to a world that is now highly connected. However, this is also a great opportunity for Indian bands who play "Western" forms of music as an International audience is now within closer reach.
I am also passionate about taking music to kids as not every child is exposed to a variety of music. With this in mind the members of Midnight Poppies often perform in schools for free, just to spread the joy of music around. This to me is the purest art form, art for art's sake. However this would not be possible if I had not made the painful but correct decision to focus on being an accountant first many years ago.
I believe that focusing on my accounting career did not make me less of an artist. On the contrary it gave me the opportunity to approach my art differently and showcase my own music and compositions while taking calculated business risks, instead of doing something I did not want to do.
Respect! to all the artists out there! There are many paths and we are fortunate when our paths cross and we get to collaborate with amazing artists around the world. This is what drives us to do what we love, despite the infinitesimally small odds of our art being "commercially successful"