Armaan Malik Curated
Indian Singer, Songwriter & Actor
CURATED BY :
Is there a singer you really look up to?
My idol is Sonu Nigam. I have admired him for the longest time. He's legendary
Are there any actors you'd really like to do playback singing for?
I've wanted to sing for Varun Dhawan; I guess that should happen soon. Also, I would love to sing a song for Shahrukh-Khan. Now that would be a dream come true.
It's been said that Salman Khan introduced to the film industry. If it hadn't been for him, do you think it would have been tougher?
I am blessed and grateful I had someone like Salman Khan giving me the initial push and break. I agree I got a great start and my journey took off really well with his help and if I hadn't got his support, it would have been a longer journey.
On your nomination for Mungaru Male2 - why did you agree to sing for a Kannada film?
Well, it isn't 'why' but 'how' I came to sing for a Kananda film. Arjun Janya, the composer for Mungaru Male 2, had heard my voice in a couple of Bollywood songs and liked my style. He approached me to sing in Kannada, and since I have had an experience singing in different languages for ads and jingles, I went ahead.
You come from a family of musicians; do your dinner table conversations revolve around the subject all the time?
Yes, we talk about songs more than we eat at the dinner table! Our mom secretly hates all of us (Amaal, dad and me) for talking only music and work during our meals. But then again, our family is eccentric, but there’s not one dull moment in the house.
Which do you enjoy the most-singing live or in a studio?
Both are great but I love the stage. I love being in the middle of my fans and sharing the moments of musical joy with them. The screams, cries, the laughter, and the highs - I experience it all on my shows, and they give me such an amazing kick.
Tell us about your first paycheque..
I was about nine years old when I sang for an ad jingle for Bournvita. I think it was the happiest moment of my life. I got a cheque of Rs 30,000.
How do you cope with the low moments?
There are no highs without the lows; it’s part and parcel of every industry. I have had a couple of songs that didn’t do too well, but that's a phase. I believe that it’s important to fail in order to know how badly you want to succeed.
What about the pressure of the job?
I have raised the bar high for myself. Even though I don’t feel the pressure, I know I have a responsibility towards my fans and listeners. I need to keep giving my best with every song. And I make sure that success keeps me working hard, instead of turning me into a complacent person.
Does success make much of a difference? How do you deal with so much of it?
I am getting to understand it slowly. I dont know how to react to fame and stardom, but on the inside, I really do love the attention. I love being loved by people. The only downside is that going to the malls becomes hard!
If you don't mind, can you sing a few lines of your new track?
You've achieved a lot at a young age..what keeps you grounded and calm?
You often interact with your fans on Twitter, is that a conscious effort or you just do it for their love?
You are a versatile artist, Apart from singing would you like to venture into acting?
You sang in many different languages, the last one was for Allu Arjun in his movie AlaVaikunthapurramullo, now an English track, when was your fascination for trying to sing in differentlanguages started?
Each of your songs has different shades and we know you love to experiment with different genres of music. How excited were you for this one?
Why did you delete your instagram account?
If You dedicate a song to Micheal Jackson what song it will be ?
What is the favorite song of Celine Dion?
Which is your favorite Indian Classical music or western classical music?
Why Michael Jackson is the biggest international icon according to you?
Who is your favorite international artist in rock or pop
What is your favorite song of a contemporary singer?
What was your experience in recording a Tamil song ? Was it for a film ?
Singing Tamil song was very challenging. I have no idea about the film, “I am going to get to know what I am here for in a while; and what I am going to sing will come much later. At the moment, all I know is that Harris sir has approached me to sing a song in Tamil. I have been wanting to sing for him for a long time, and it’s finally happening. So, I didn’t ask any questions, just beat it here pronto. I love it that I sing first and then come to know of the movie down here,”
How do you improvise yourself on songs of different languages ?
When I am asked to record a song in a language I don’t know too well, I write down the lyrics in English and jot down my own code notes — dots and hyphens — to know where to stress. Earlier I would take an hour to learn Telugu pronunciation before I start recording. Nowadays I need only half an hour of preparation.
How do you feel in getting featured on Times Square billboard for your English single
“It’s a huge honour for an Indian artist to be on a Times Square billboard. I’ve always wanted to take India to the world with my music and this is like a dream come true. This wouldn’t have been possible without my amazing team, family, and my fans who encourage me with their endless love and support.”
Would you want to do a break up tour?
Tell about the experience of shooting in Armenia.
How many times Armal Malik faced heart break?
What is Armaan Mallik arman's ( desires )?
What's your take about ' nepotism'?
How did you manage you, family, you work, traveling altogether?
3 major things which you never missed out on traveling?
How important is the atmosphere while producing Music?
Is there any challenges you faced while shot the song '' Tootey Khaab ''?
where did the idea for the location of this song ' Tootey Khaab ' come from?
Where did the idea for this song ' Tootey Khaab ' come from?
Are you a Street food lover?
What message would you like to give to everyone during this time?
I think what’s important to know is that we all are in this together. We aren’t apart, we are A PART of each other. I request everyone to kindly stay home, trust this process and believe that we will come out on the right side of things, once this is over. Please stay strong mentally and take care of your physical health too. I cannot stress more on this – but please keep washing your hands frequently.
How do you keep yourself busy since everything is in lockdown, anything that you are doing in this free time?
I am learning stuff online, bettering my craft, and making new songs. I even did a few live sessions with my fans. It’s really heartwarming to see the whole music industry do Instagram live sessions and mini digital-concerts to spread the message of love and peace during these dark times.
How has it affected your work?
Two of my shows got canceled much before the nation-wide lockdown. I am glad the organizers and my team took the right call. At this point, it’s best that we all stay home and stay safe. We need to stop the virus in its tracks and control its rapid spread.
What sort of precautions are you taking? How are you taking care of your family and loved ones in this time?
We are keeping ourselves healthy by washing our hands as much as we can.
How has life changed post the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Well, I am trying to regularise my daily routine. It’s been a crazy few years for me and I could really use this time to relax and spend more time with family. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so yeah I am trying to form good habits by trying to sleep and wake up early, and also trying to make fitness and meditation a priority.
What are your opinions about the Bollywood trend of remixing old Bollywood songs?
responsibility towards the industry. You’ve got to take the initiative to bring about the change. I have stopped singing remakes and now it is the right time for everyone to stop too. I was a part of this trend in the early phase of it and no denying that I have definitely have gotten some big hits out of it like ‘Tumhe Apna’, ‘Pyaar Manga Hai’, and ‘Aise Na Mujhe Tum Dekho’, but now it’s just getting too much. I believe too much of anything is bad. I am glad the last hit Bollywood music album I was a part of was, was a fully original album – ‘Kabir Singh’. We need to collectively start doing more originals and bring back that freshness.
Was this a complete turnaround for you as an artist?
Maybe in the eyes of the public, yes. But as an artist, this has always been my trajectory. My interest in pop/r&b music has been since I was a teenager. I’ve always wanted to do this and have been patiently waiting for this moment where I could show the world the true artist inside of me. The 90s trend of music videos and albums seems to be coming back to India. How do you feel about it as an artist? I feel this is the best possible time for independent music. Artists in India have never had a platform to truly express their artistry and creatively do what they want to do. With the massive resurgence of non-film music in India, there is so much scope for artists to grow and make a niche for themselves.
How did ‘Control’ happen? Tell us something about it?
It’s been a childhood dream of mine to sing and write my own songs in English and finally after seven years of doing Hindi / Indian music, I found the right opportunity to make my dreams come true and put out my first English single in the form of ‘Control’. I signed with the prestigious US Label Arista Records and I’m going to be releasing many more English songs in the near future.
Your advice to budding musicians in quarantine.
To singers and vocalists - keep yourself hydrated as much as you can. Take online lessons, see YouTube tutorials, make the most of the time at hand to better your craft and hone your skills.
Your advice to budding musicians in quarantine.
To singers and vocalists - keep yourself hydrated as much as you can. Take online lessons, see YouTube tutorials, make the most of the time at hand to better your craft and hone your skills.
What''s next on the charts?
I am working on a couple of new non-film singles, both in English and Hindi. A few bollywood songs are also in the pipeline, however their release depends on when the coronavirus situation settles down and the films start getting their release dates.
What''s your diet and fitness routine these days?
I''m not binge eating or eating junk. I loving the ''maa ke haath ka khaana''. In fact I''m even cooking a few meals myself. With respect to fitness, I work out alternate days at home, doing free hand exercises and some resistance training.
How important is a period of self-isolation for art to flourish?
It''s great to be isolated and working on music, but I have always loved collaborating and jamming with songwriters. The combined musical energy of multiple people in the same room definitely adds to the song; making it even better.
You have been a multi-lingual singer, Is singing in English any different?
It''s been a childhood dream of mine to sing and write my own songs in English. Finally after many years of doing Hindi/Indian music I found the right opportunity to make my dreams come true, and release my first english single. This isn''t a one-off project for me, this is a the beginning of the journey and yes, there are going to be many more.
How are you responding to the reviews of your latest English single ''Control''?
It''s so exciting to see ''Control'' getting so much love from all around the world. I am seeing so many dance videos, covers and reaction videos to the song all over the internet. I love it! I always wanted my first english to get a lot of love.
Creating music or listening to music?
Both! It''s amazing to have all this time to myself and create some new melodies and songs for the world. I am listening to new music from some of my current favourites like Dua Lipa and Lauv.
How are you spending the quarantine period?
I am learning stuff online, bettering my craft, and making new songs. I even did a few live sessions with my fans. It''s really heartwarming to see the whole music industry do Instagram live sessions and mini digital-concerts to spread the message of love and peace during this lockdown. Life has changed as we know it. It''s not easy being at home all the time.
You have cultivated a wholesome, clean image. Even though you were in this music industry and showbiz as a young teenager, you never cut a troubled figure who lives a life of excess or dabbled in drugs and rock n roll. How do you manage to do that?
I have always been disciplined in the way I was brought up. I was never a rebel. I have always been focused and I have always channelled my energy in the right way. Even when I found success early in my life, I didn’t go mad or forget people who helped me come up. Probably, it’s because I don’t take my own success too seriously. I just go on with my music. I have seen many musicians who go on a downward spiral after tasting success. But a lot of it has to do with your mental strength as an artist. Do they get influenced by the people around them? I didn’t have friends during growing up. Ever since I was a nine-year-old I have either been into studies or into music. I have never been that teenager with a wild vibe who goes out partying. I have been serious all my life and it’s only in the last three years I have just let loose and had some fun in the traditional sense. Now at the age of 24, I am acting like a teenager. But I have never been reckless. I don’t have a dark side to me. My personality can never be dark even if I make dark music.
Tell us about ‘Control’ and did you choose a song about a toxic, troubled relationship deliberately as such songs tend to be popular?
The guy is trapped in a controlling relationship and he still wants to be with that person. But he also wants to get out because it’s suffocating. She’s playing with him. But I never thought that break-up songs are working and therefore let me write something that talks about toxic relationships. The truth is that I have seen toxic relationships around me among my friends. I have grown up with these people and I know what is going on in their personal lives. As an artist, I like to draw a lot from what is happening around me. And I think that when you draw from real life, it connects further. This song is not something I picked off on a trend.
Have you always dreamt of singing in English?
I have strived to sing in as many languages as I can because as a singer, it adds to my versatility. In India, I am not restricted to Hindi songs alone. I sing in Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Bengali. But English music has been my childhood dream. But when I expressed that wish at 15, my dad sat me down and said: ‘Listen, kid, India is Bollywood. So it is important that you belong here first and make a fan base in your home country. Sing in Hindi and regional languages first.’ At that time, I couldn’t fathom why my dad was discouraging me. But I wouldn’t be the Armaan Malik of today if I had not taken that decision and followed my dad’s advice. And here I am after 15 years of singing in Bollywood and in different languages, I am finally giving my childhood Armaan’s dream a go. For me, I had hidden it inside and told myself, ‘mere time aayega [my time will come]’. 2020 was the year that I had planned to releases my English single. It was in the planning stages for the last two years. I have been making multiple trips to Los Angeles to write songs with different producers and writers. I wanted to create my own music, my own sound and my own identity. But the toughest part was to keep my English single debut a secret with Arista Records, an offshoot of Sony Music Global. I am the kind of person who loves to discuss what’s new in my life. So I had this big secret in my heart and I was itching to tell the world.
Were you disappointed that you couldn’t have a high-profile launch of your debut English single ‘Control’?
Honestly, the days of those glitzy launches are gone. The norm of releasing a new song with a huge audience has become passe now. If you have to make noise, then you have make some noise online. I have done what I could by sitting at home, over the telephone, email, FaceTime and Skype. The lockdown hasn’t stopped or hampered the promotion of my song. I am so happy that my new single ‘Control’ got so much love. It has crossed 14 million views already.
You won many awards including GIMA award for Best Music Debut. Do awards matter to you?
Well, at the end of the day any artiste loves being recognised for their work or contribution, so yes, awards do matter. But I believe that my being nominated alongside such talented artistes was a victory in itself! The awards were just cherries on the cake.
You've worked with Salim Sulaiman and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Which music director would you like to work with again and again?
Salim-Sulaiman has always been my favourite. It's just an absolute pleasure working with them and there's always something new you get to learn just by sitting in their studio and absorbing all that's happening around you.
You have had private albums released as well. Do you think the market for solo albums is understated?
In India, the popularity of solo albums goes through phases. For e.g. - the period when Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Baba Saigal, Mohit Chauhan, Lesle Lewis and K.K came out with their Indie songs and albums, they were being promoted and were treated equally to movie albums. But in the early 2000s, the non-film/album industry went into a slump. But then in early 2012-2013, we saw the rise of artists like Yo Yo Honey Singh, Baadshah etc. who rose from the Indie scene with solo albums and then became Big in Bollywood. Looking at the present scenario, I think it's the perfect time to release single music videos as they are more profitable than complete albums. But I'm really glad that despite our country not having the "album CD-purchasing culture", my debut album ARMAAN sold almost 4000 physical copies. I guess, the independent album industry is headed for brighter days!
Given your music lineage, did anything apart from music attract you or was it always this?
Music was all that I wanted to do right from the very beginning. At a very young age, I knew I was good at singing and that my parents too had discovered this talent of mine. So subsequently, I joined music classes and embarked upon my musical journey. Even though music will be my first and only love, I do have a special place in my heart for food. Hence, I would love to open up a café or a restaurant in the future.
How did 'Naina' ('Khoobsurat') and 'Auliya' ('Ungli') happen?
'Naina'- actually came to me as a surprise. I was a part of the song-making process as my brother Amaal had composed the track. I played guitars and lent my rough vocals for it. The track was completed in under 48 hours since the music release was just two days away and everything had to be done at a lightening speed. The vocals I'd lent for the track were retained as Shashanka and Rhea found them apt for leading man Fawad Khan. So, we recorded, got it mixed and mastered, and even performed an acoustic version at the music launch in a span of two days. 'Auliya' again was just a result of a casual jam session I was having with Salim-Sulaiman at their studio. I sang the scratch and recorded it not knowing whether my voice was going be there and then on my birthday July 22nd, Salim sir wished me saying that 'Auliya' was a gift for me and that my voice was the final voice.
Tell us a little more about your equation with Salman?
Well, he is like a big brother to me. I consider him to be my mentor and I always take his advice regarding any steps I take in my career, as I know he will guide me in the best possible way. But he is a hard task master and he wants all the people who work with him to put in double the hard-work that they would usually put. He pushes you to do more and beyond your capabilities. I think this very characteristic trait in him is the reason why I can actually dance well enough today!
From being a 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil' Champs' finalist to a GIMA award winner at 19, tell us about your musical journey so far?
Being the son of composer Daboo Malik and nephew of Anu Malik, one would think everything came easy for young singer Armaan Malik, who made his mark in Bollywood at just 16. However, the budding singer says he has strived hard to reach where he is today. Armaan is the youngest singer (at 19) to have won two GIMA Awards this year. In an interview to Anindita Dev from Zee Media, Armaan opens up about his equation with Salman Khan, his career graph and upcoming projects. From being a 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil' Champs' finalist to a GIMA award winner at 19, tell us about your musical journey so far? It's been an amazing journey till now! I've become more mature as a singer and musician, and even more as an individual. After 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa', I got to sing for a lot of Bollywood films like 'Bhootnath', 'Taare Zameen Par', etc with the top composers of the industry like Vishal-Shekhar, Shankar-Ehsan-Loy, Salim-Sulaiman, Amit Trivedi to name a few. I passed out with 'Honours' from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, the USA on a 100% scholarship. During my school years, I worked on some originals and covers and uploaded some of them on YouTube. Priyanka Chopra tweeted about my cover of "Just the Way You Are" and it started getting massive hits on it. This brought me on to the radar back again! Universal Music Group signed me on for my Debut Album - ARMAAN which released in Feb 2014, after spotting some of my work. I then took my album to Salman Khan to request him to launch it. This meeting turned out to be a crucial point in my life. I got the opportunity to debut as a playback singer for Salman Bhai for 'Jai Ho'! Moreover, he also came to launch my debut album and that was the most memorable day of my life. The song 'Naina' from 'Khoobsurat' a duet with the amazing Sona Mohapatra was the second release in 2014. I closed the year with 'Auliya', a Sufi song in contemporary style, with Salim-Sulaiman for the movie 'Ungli'!
Who is your musical inspiration?
Sonu Nigam. For me, singing begins and ends with Sonu Nigam. I consider him one of the most prolific singers of India. I have learned a lot from him. Just like me, he too has sung a lot of Kannada songs which I think is a special connection between you.
Which musical instrument would you want to be?
Guitar. Firstly, it is pretty sexy, girls fall for men who play the guitar. But that is not the only reason, I have a soul connection with this instrument. I can’t describe that relationship. I would say the guitar was my first love.
Music has evolved over the years. What are the good and bad aspects of this evolution?
There will always be good and bad aspects of any phase. Right now, I feel we are going through a troubling phase where original music is not coming out but recreated music is. Having said that, it is a phase that we all have to go through and then so...
Which era of music inspires you?
I am yet to experience a lot of eras in music since this is only my fourth year in adult playback singing. I am just 23 and I am definitely going to have a long inning. I don’t want to be a phased singer but someone who is known for his music.
Singing, judging and now lending your voice to films. Are you the jack of all trades currently?
It’s actually amazing to being able to do all these things. Now my focus is to work towards international music. In time, people will see Indian singers becoming global stars. We too should have our own Michael Jackson or Justin Bieber, who can star in their own way. They deserve that, and in the coming time, I will be championing that cause.
Your television debut The Voice could not garner ratings. As a judge of the show, was it disappointing?
For channels, of course, TRPs are a barometer. But everyone associated with the show knows that it could have done better. We learn from our mistakes and I think next time, they will work on it. But it was an amazing TV debut and it was an honour to be on the same platform as AR Rahman, Adnan Sami, my friends Harshdeep Kaur and Kanika Kapoor. Life came as a full circle, as I myself started my journey as a reality show contestant.
Have you ever thought about giving acting a chance?
Everyone around me is telling me to do it in the hope that I will be pressurised. But honestly, I don’t love acting. It has not been a fascination. I love music and I like doing things which come from the heart. I am also not trained and don’t know if I will be able to do justice. I would love if something does work out but I don’t want to promise everyone a debut anytime soon.
While all 90s kids can relate to the film 'Aladdin', do you feel this film will be relevant in today’s time?
Of course. It is more like a throwback for us and a completely new experience for the younger audience. Also, there is no age for Disney movies. It has its own charm, and you are transported to a magical world when you watch it. The youngsters might not know about these characters but they are going to love it.
Q. How did the offer to voice Aladdin come to you?
Mona Shetty from Sound &Vision India is responsible for this. The company works with the dubbing of international films. Having done a few projects as a child, I have always been close to them. The offer was not quite a straight one. She called me to do a voice test, which they sent to Disney. Now, Disney is very particular about whether the voices really match the characters. For them, the voice artistes’ popularity is not a concern. Things worked in my favour and everyone felt my voice was best suited. To reach out to the audience at an international level really feels cool. Dubbing for the film was a great experience and I was really very excited.
A good singer needs to eat in order to perform well. Armaan, what is your favourite food dish?
My favourite is actually North-Indian food, dishes like Butter Chicken, Daal Makhani and Butter Naan, that’s the staple diet of mine. There is no ‘Gaana’ without ‘Khaana.’ That is the phrase that works in my family, even for my brother, we all are foodies. For us, we cannot make music without food.
The name ‘Armaan Malik’ promises pure quality. Having received fame at quite a young age, would you say it is pleasure or pressure?
First, that is a very tricky question [laughs]. To be honest, I didn’t expect so much to happen to me at such an early age of my career. Everything has happened so quickly that I have not got the time to understand what’s happened and that is the beauty of it. If you really understand what’s happening [in terms of popularity and fame], that is when you start taking yourself seriously and that should not happen. To an artist, it’s really important that you go-with-the-flow, do your music, let the music flow with the audiences and never take what you have achieved too seriously because that holds you down. I’ve always been driven to do bigger and better. For me, quality over quantity has always been the case. Even during 2016 and 2017, I was really conscious of the songs that were released under my name and the kind of artistry I wanted to put out. The track, ‘Tere Mere’ from Chef, even though the movie didn’t go on to do that well, the song itself had so much of a fan-following. For new concerts, whatever I’ve been doing, everyone has just been rooting for ‘Tere Mere.’ It’s such a big pleasure for me to know that despite the shelf-life of a movie, a song still lives on. It is important that I make the right song choices and the stuff I do because it is an extension of me as an artist. With every step, I just want good music to come out. That is always my main focus.
You have cited that it’s a ‘dream come true’ to sing for Varun Dhawan. How supportive has he been towards you?
I couldn’t have asked for a better actor than Varun. I think he is fabulous at what he does and he is so hands-on. That’s the biggest positive thing I can say about him. He, as an actor, is involved in every stage of the song – especially if it’s about the mixing, mastering or feeling whether the beats are right. Many of the times, an actor is usually in their own space. I.e. Doing their acting bit or being with the director, but for the first time, I’ve seen an actor who is so involved in a song. It was really sweet of him, he called me up one evening and said “your fans have been requesting me and my fans have been requesting me to get you onboard for one of my songs. He had done this tweet where he wanted to find the ‘voice of October’ and he got a lot of messages from people stating my name. That’s when he called me and said: “This has to happen now.” Our collaboration didn’t happen before due to some reason or the other. But everything finally came together for October and now it is out – Theher Ja.
Do you have anyone you’d absolutely love to work with?
I really love three artists: Charlie Puth, Zedd, and John Bellion. I think he’s amazing. Being in the studio with these guys would be an amazing experience. Charlie is one of my favourite musicians. And I also love Anne-Marie. Charlie Puth is just a complete musician. He’s so versatile. I aspire to be like that. So he definitely inspires me a lot.
With the success of K-POP, it seems that the West is opening out a little. Do you feel like this is a key moment for Indian music internationally, then?
I definitely believe so! With Latin music, with Korean music, and all those different cultures coming on to the scene, I feel like the world isn’t so huge, it’s becoming a smaller place, and everyone is getting to know each other even more. And with music being so accessible over digital mediums I think anyone from anywhere can make a really nice song and reach out to audiences. It’s out in the open. You just need that one good opportunity and shot to catapult yourself out there. So this journey is something I’m really excited about, because this hasn’t happened for India before. An Indian mainstream artist hasn’t gone and done something on a global scale like this, so for me, I am really excited because I feel I am not only representing me and my music but also my country.
I think people in the West under-estimate the sheer scale of Bollywood as an industry.
They can. And for me, I had already connected with fans in the Indian diaspora across the world. But for me, I wanted to make everyone else listen to that music! Because Indians are championing me, but I want India to be recognised globally on a much larger scale.
How do you manage to keep your focus?
I think it’s my parents and my upbringing. Ever since I was four years old I’ve been singing. I enrolled in classes when I was five. My journey has been non-stop ever since I was nine or 10. I participated in a reality show, and once I got eliminated from that I started singing for ads and jingles and did voiceovers for a lot of movies, I even worked on Slumdog Millionaire. And then after that, I went and did a lot of Bollywood songs as a child singer. That’s how my journey kick-started. My focus was very clear – I always knew what I wanted to do. What’s beautiful is that my trajectory has brought me to a point where I’m embarking on a global journey, which I’ve always wanted to do. It’s been my dream ever since I was 15, 16 when I returned from Berklee College of Music. I studied for my pop and R&B vocal, and I came back inspired to write my own music, and I wanted to release my own stuff in English. But at that point, my Dad sat me down and said India is a Bollywood-centred country, so we needed to focus on my own country first. Once we had that, we could then go and do something I had dreamt of. It was valuable advice, on that front. I was sad at that point, but I think it benefited me because doing Bollywood and Indian music made me who I am today, and it’s the reason I am talking to you. For me, that’s a huge deal.
You joined The Voice in India as a judge, too. It must be a real privilege to judge these young hopefuls.
I have, yes! It’s amazing this whole work for me, all the stuff that I’ve done in India has already given me so much experience. I mean, this new journey that I’m doing isn’t really unknown to me, because I’ve done this before, but it’s a new world, with new people. But it’s essentially the same thing – I’ve toured, done concerts, been a contestant on reality, and I’ve been a judge on a reality show. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum in a very short time! Honestly, I really related to all the contestants because I’ve been in their position 10 years back. I knew exactly what was going on in their heads. I was trying to tell them that the show isn’t the be-all and end-all of things. The real journey starts after the show. That’s what happened to me.
Indian musicians are under-represented on the global stage. You’re really making great strides to change that. What has that journey been like for you?
Well, the journey has just begun and I’ve made the first move. It’s pretty exciting, to be honest. To be representing my country on a global level is a very big deal. I am going to be consistent with this new journey and open the floodgates for my country.
What challenges has that presented for you in your career?
When you belong to a family steeped in musical excellence, everyone around you expects you to follow the same path and obviously have everything laid out for you along the way. But I knew I wanted to make it on my own mettle and not use my family name to further my career. At the age of 9, I even submitted my audition to a popular Indian singing reality show called SaReGaMaPa Lil’ Champs with only my first name – Armaan. I made it to the top 10 of that show too. I only did this because I wanted to know deep inside that yes, I can chart my own journey the way I want to and not looked at differently just because my family is a famous musical family. The biggest challenge I was faced with was how do I make a standalone identity, which I successfully accomplished by charting my journey on my own terms and in my own unique way.
What’s your plan for more English-language music. Are you working on an EP or an album right now?
A lot of new music is ready to release as subsequent singles and I just cannot wait to bring those out for you all! As of now, I haven’t really planned a full-length album, but I definitely see myself releasing a few singles and then dropping an EP in the near future.
You have such a huge following already, did you have any reservations about recording music in English?
Not at all! I have been singing in English since I was a child. This has always been my trajectory, and I’ve been patiently waiting for a moment like this where I could make my own original English music and showcase it to the world. I am at ease singing in English. I strongly feel this music is a part of my DNA as an artist.
This is your first single for Arista Records and your first English-language song. Why did you decide that now was the time to try and break the global pop market?
India has a huge and buzzing music industry, but it has never got its moment globally. We have a lot of talented artists here, and even though Bollywood music is hugely popular worldwide, the reach is limited only to the Indian diaspora. Today K-Pop artists and Latin artists are getting that global recognition, but India is missing out somehow. I believe that this was the perfect time to take the plunge and fill this gap. I’ve always had a dream to take India to the world and break the global pop market. I’m going to try my best to make it happen!
Music has no barriers, it’s great that you are creating new different sounds and thinking outside of the box. Do you somewhat feel you have opened doors for others to experiment with music as you have?
Yes, I definitely feel so. I feel if you’re successful and influential, you have a certain responsibility towards the industry. You’ve gotta take the initiative to bring about the change. It helps the musical family to grow and move with times and trends.
The last few years have seen the scene shift almost entirely from CD to iTunes and digital sales. Do you think it’s important for established acts like you to try and appeal to younger audiences who are the new generation in buying music legally?
To be honest, the culture of “legally buying music” has never been there in India. There were always these free download sites for the MP3 versions to your favourite radio hits. There are very few connoisseurs of true music, who still believe in paying for music and buying it legally, but that % of people Is very low in this country. However, today there is the Apple Music Service available in India and streaming services like Saavn & Gaana who are really making waves among the youth and that’s just how the industry is working today. I loved collecting CD’s, but today everything related to music is Digital and you gotta move with the times. Having said that, I wish to collect more and more Cd’s coz the feeling of owning a CD and having the album artwork right in front of you is Surreal.
Creatively, what do you think of the contemporary Punjabi music industry? Which artists excite you and do you think are maintaining standards?
I think the sound has changed. It’s become more Trap/Hip-Hop yet maintaining those strong Urban-Punjabi roots. I like how it’s shaping up. I really love listening to Diljit Dosanjh, he is one of my current favourite Punjabi artistes.
With so many artists releasing independently what are the advantages of being on a record label?
There have always been artists doing stuff independently. But the opportunities today are endless, and with the advent of YouTube & Social Media, the growth has become phenomenal. Labels are specialists in promoting and marketing music, something which is very difficult to do alone. I am not saying it’s impossible to promote your music independently, it's just that it's difficult and the journey is much longer. With Labels in the picture, an artiste definitely gets more visibility and its easier for labels to facilitate in-house collaborations with their other signed artists.
In 2016 you did a World Tour 'Armaan Malik Live' at just the age of 21, how did this come about?
The promoters for the tour wanted my show to tour across the USA & UK. I was really ecstatic as it would be my debut world tour. It was a thrilling experience touring so many amazing cities and countries. It helped me grow as a musician and as a person.
You are a household name already in the Bollywood industry at such a young age, what do you hope to accomplish by the end of your career? What goals do you have?
I wish to become a global singing icon that’s been my biggest dream to spread my music and love worldwide. I want to make India proud in the world.
You have sung many Hindi tracks for many different films; what has been your most favourite project to date and why?
My favourite songs have been Main Hoon Hero Tera, Wajah Tum Ho, Main Rahoon Ya Na Rahoon & Bol Do Na Zara. I think these are the four tracks that really changed my life and they all happened one after the other.
Why did you decide to do a loving mashup featuring Kaun Tujhe and Kuch Toh Hain? What was it about those 2 tracks that made you want to include them?
The story behind this mashup is that I truly loved Kaun Tujhe but I never got to officially sing it for the M.S Dhoni Album and I sang Kuch Toh Hain but it never became as big or successful as I wanted it to. So I thought why not put both these beautiful melodies together and see how it works. It got a great response for this mashup with 4 Million Hits already on it.
Who gave you the title of the 'Prince of Romance', did you come up with it yourself or was it a name that was given to you?
Well, I have been known to sing a lot of beautiful romantic songs and for a long time, my fans on social media always referred to me as their prince. Around the same time last year, T-Series came out with a Playlist of my songs named – Prince Of Romance. I guess it stuck on and I’m now known by that title. I really like it. I feel like musical royalty!!
With your dad being a script-writer, music director, composer, singer and actor; how much did you learn from him and what do you think has been the most important thing he's taught you throughout your young career?
My Dad is my guiding force. He delved into many careers but never became successful in any of them…which is why when I was growing up he always reiterated that I should focus on one career path and see it through till the very end. As someone had once rightly said – you can learn a great deal about life, from failures, my brother Amaal & I have learnt a lot from our dad. His mantra for me has always been – Never be too arrogant nor be too naïve or innocent. To survive in this industry all you got do is be SANE.
You appeared in the 2011 film Kachha Limboo and that was your first on-screen experience, can you describe that for us? How did it feel being in a Bollywood film for the very first time?
It was fun but very hectic too. Shooting a film isn’t as rosy as it seems on the big screen. There are countless re-takes and a lot of learning up to do especially with the dialogues from the script. I can only remember song lyrics not dialogues. I wanted to do it just for the kick of it. I was never too keen on taking up acting as a career. My love for music is way too high for me to put my heart into something else.
What is the best thing about this generation of singers?
We are exposed to a wide range of music and that helps us create versatility in our work. Also, we are all friends and have healthy competition that motivates us to do better.
What is that one habit of yours while growing up that you are embarrassed about today?
I used to lie a lot. I would often do something wrong and put all the blame on Amaal and he would get a thrashing! I am that shaitaan brother!
What is that one habit of yours you want to get rid of...?
I zone out in the middle of conversations, even interviews. People might be talking to me, but the inner me might be chilling with a guitar on some remote island. I want to change that.
What is that one object of fashion that you are obsessed with?
My jackets! I love wearing jackets and I hardly throw out the old ones. The count has gone way over 100 now!
You have been working since you were 9. What keeps you passionate and excited about your work?
A few months back, I had this low phase where everyone was talking about me being depressed. That whole phase where I was tired of everything that I was doing, the kind of songs I was singing, and tired of singing the same songs again and again. Even though the fans enjoyed it, I wasn’t enjoying it because it was happening every second day and I was just exhausted. My mind and heart weren’t in it which is why I took a break and started travelling a lot. I think I reached this wall while performing and recording and I just couldn’t take it anymore. When you start that young, it’s difficult. For example, when you see that Justin Bieber capsule that he put out about how, since childhood, he’s been at it and never stopped. And it’s been frustrating for him to the point where he said ‘to hell with this thing. I am gonna take a backseat and I am not gonna do music for some time’. It wasn’t that extreme for me but I think every artist goes through that. It’s not a good phase to be in because I started hating the same songs that had made me Armaan Malik in the first place. The only way for that not to happen is to take as many breaks when you need to and not keep overworking yourself.
Earlier you said Salman Khan taught you how to have screen presence and personality. What practical advice did he give you?
The advice that Salman Bhai gave me was that just being a singer is not going to cut it today, you have to be more than that, you have to be a persona. To be a persona you need to have other skills like having a good body, knowing how to dance, being able to have stage presence and knowing how to speak well. But the most important thing he taught me was obviously to stay fit which he is also known for. He enrolled me into dance classes, he wanted me to be a complete performer. That’s the kind of advice he gave me and I think it is very valuable. I have actioned it as much as I could. I am a little lazy in the workout department but dance has been a big part of my concert performances.
You have been wonderfully open about your struggles with depression. Right now is a very difficult time for everybody in the world. How are you dealing with it and what are you doing right now?
A few months ago an article came out about me battling depression and I just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t. I was just going through a rough patch. I don’t know if I would like to call it depression because that’s a very heavy term. I was not going through something that serious. I was going through a rough patch and I just wanted to be honest about it. I feel like people believe that celebrities don’t go through things like that. I wanted to let them know that it is very human to go through things. Also, I have always been someone who feels comfortable in being alone. I don’t mind being in isolation. If you leave me at home for days or months, I am okay. It is one of the cosiest and safest places for me and I feel at this point in time when the Coronavirus is so rampant and we are going through such a dark phase, you could look at it as a great way to reconnect with your family. I feel like there is a certain poetry in what is happening right now. I feel like there is a certain philosophical side where God and nature are trying to tell us to concentrate more on what is important. I think going out would be selfish. Being at home is caring about others.
What was the recording process like? Did you have to alter your accent significantly to appeal to a non-Indian audience?
A lot of people have this misconception that Indians need to put on an accent while singing in English because they don’t have a natural English-singing pronunciation. But whenever I sing in English it doesn’t feel like I am forcing myself to put on an accent. It’s like second nature to me. Just like I sing Hindi and all the other regional languages like Tamil and Telugu, it’s the same thing with English. It just flows.
English music has been your dream for as long as you can remember. What inspired this dream?
I have always had this dream of becoming a pop star. For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessing over the videos of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and in my teen years, Justin Bieber. I’ve always dreamt of being a singer on the world stage, which has never happened with anyone in India. I feel it’s the right time for someone to do that and I wish to be that artist.
What can tell us about Control? What is this song about?
Control is my first English language single. A few days back I announced that I’d signed with them and it was one of the happiest days of my life. This has been a big dream of mine since childhood, so I am really excited! Control is an out and out pop song. It is very bouncy and has a very groovy baseline. It is also quite up-tempo which is a departure from the Armaan that you have heard or seen so far.
What’s the one thing you would like to change about the music industry in India?
I would just like more non-film music to come up. I think that is what we can do and we’re making the effort to do that. Even when I was doing quite a few films, I moved away from them and with Tiger (Shroff), I did ‘Zindagi Aa Raha Hoon Mai’ and ‘Chal Wahan Jaate Hai’. With Emraan Hashmi, I did ‘Main Rahoon Ya Na Rahoon’. They were never songs related to films. Everyone today should just get out and do non-film music also. We are generally here as a film industry. We’re not as a music industry at all. Maybe there are more people who come join hands with us and take this forward. Badshah is doing it, Honey Singh did that. When more and more people join hands and promote non-film music, that’s when more music will be heard, different styles will be introduced. Right now we’re stuck to the subject, we’re stuck to a script and you can’t really run away from it. The one thing we are asked to do is sing like someone else. That is something that should change because many-a-times they say, “Can we get a Mika kind of tone or a Sonu kind of tone or an Arijit happening here?” Either a singer can immediately imitate or, when I get such a brief, I take the best of what they’re saying and make it into my voice. Sonu Nigam told me once, “Never change your voice for anyone. Never sing in a way where people will go ‘This is not Armaan’. It has to be your identity as a singer.”
You really admire Sonu Nigam a lot. Right?
I really love Sonuji. Yeah! Yeah! And thank God he has never shouted on me for doing all this because he mimics so people also. He has forgiven me. But yeah, he is very sweet and he is my mentor in a very big way.
Can you tell us any craziest fan story you have ever experienced? Anyone which comes to your mind right now?
Lot of them have been there. There are two-three; one is there in Pune when I was doing a concert I was just coming backstage and I had to change into my new costume and go back on the second act. So in between all of that one fan got to know from somewhere that I have gone backstage. So she and two friends of her come behind to my green room ka tent and I just came out and someone jumped on me. I didn’t know who jumped on me. They jumped on one. Those girls just wanted a selfie so I told them I’ll take a selfie don’t worry but just don’t jump on me because I thought I was just attacked by someone. So that was one instance which has had happened in Pune. The second instance was in Jaipur, I was doing a show. There was this one girl who kind of stopped the show from happening in the start. I was in my green room again. It’s all green room scenes. They don’t want me to go on stage. They just want me to take selfies. I was getting ready to go stage my sound engineer was telling me, you know, in five-ten minutes you are going to be on stage. Then there comes this loud noise of a girl crying outside my green room. She is crying… crying… crying…and my bodyguards are saying “Sir Please Millo — Please Millo”. I don’t know, abhi concert pe jane ka hai. I have to go on stage. I cannot meet anyone now. And she was like matlab… If you don’t meet her than she will do something really horrible. Then I was scared. I was like kahin kuch ho jaye toh then something comes on me that I didn’t meet that person. So then I called her and then she broke down. She basically hugged me and she broke down then and she was leaving me. I was like I have to go to the concert, Please, I have to go to the concert. But then it was really really sweet and you know, to see that kind of emotion for you, for having that much love for you. I mean I was also really taken aback. Then In took us a photo and I posted it on my account. But she was still crying. She told me don’t on the stage. I was like okay.
Does the level of stardom scare you? Have you at any point of time felt that you are losing control of your life? Your life is not as it used to be earlier? Does it scare you?
Ugh, No! The only thing that scares me is that I cannot go to the mall normally. (Smiles) That’s all. That’s all. I mean I have to take four-five people around me and I have told them acha two chahiye, ye chahiye. I can’t go shopping means it becomes tough also I can’t meet friends normally or meet girlfriends (smiles) normally because everyone is just looking and peeping at you and probably talking photos of you. So yeah, the personal life is no more your own life it’s the public life. That is something that I kind of feel and that’s the main difference otherwise I don’t take my stardom too seriously head. I don’t take it to my head and that’s something I have learned from my dad. My dad has always taught us the hard way and told us that success is very momentary, it will be there today; tomorrow it will not be there. There will another singer who would be popular and you know, you won’t be popular. So this kind of thoughts have compelled to feel that this is there, people are loving me and that’s about it and I don’t need to think too seriously about it. I just need to do good and do good work. That’s all.
How does it feel to achieve so much in so little time?
It feels unreal actually because not many people have been able to get that kind of love and success at this age. Also, it feels positive is away because I feel If I have done it at this age that means I can inspire other people of age to do in the country. You know not many people at this age have become so successful and popular and that gives an incentive that you know that you have the drive and passion to do something, you can always become successful and age is no limit for it. Actually many people till date negate the fact that I am a good singer by just saying that, “you know he is still a kid yaar, he still got time to grow, or he is just beginning” and I want to change that fact. Many people believe that teenagers or students cannot do anything. We can do a lot of things if we just put our heart to it and we have shown the people that we can do this. So I am glad that I am probably an example for the people to do something like this and I can people to do. That’s something I am really proud of that I’ve the power to show the youth that “Look I have done this — so can you.” You know I like inspiring the youth.
Tell us about your college life? Do you recall any moment in your college which has stayed there in your life?
Actually, I had only one year of college life because after that I debuted in Bollywood and I didn’t get a chance to go back to college. So my first year, I mean there was this one first class that I had gone to so they ask all of us to introduce ourselves and that time I wasn’t me. I was a normal student. They asked us what do you have, talent, you know, show us some talent or whatever. So I sang a few songs and people were like wow; what is he doing? Is he a singer? They didn’t know that I had already sung. Some of them knew that I was the participant on SaReGaMaPa but I was not ARMAAN MALIK, like as in the popular one (Smiles). I mean I was the singer and they knew I was a singer after I started singing in the class but it was only till there. They didn’t know that I have had already sung so many songs and till then actually my proper debut has hadn’t happened. I had not done songs in Jai Ho in Salman Khan’s movie and then after that, I started singing Main Hoon Hero Tera and all those songs. So till then, nothing had happened like that; then I was like a normal student. I recall that day very very clear because I was singing a few songs and we’ve had also done one game in the class were people were writing things about random people in the class, sending chits all across. So I had got like all chits from different girls saying that I was cute and that I sang really well and stuff like that. So that kind of activities I still remember. It was fun and I think that’s what college life is all about. It’s about making memories. When I went into the college I met a whole new set of people and I made really good friends in college who were not judgemental about anything and who were really really nice people and sometimes you just click with someone you might not expect to click with. I mean you just become friends with them. So I had few four-five friends in college who till this date I am really really close too. And they have seen the transition from being a classmate to whatever I am today. So it’s a great feeling definitely.
These days we see many celebrities taking up singing too. To turn things around, do you intend to switch over to acting?
As of now, I don't see myself in that space because my music career is going well and I don't want to shift my focus. However, if ever I plan to take up acting I would like to do a movie like Aashiqui or Rockstar where I am playing a singer or musician because then it will come naturally to me.
You started your professional singing career in the year 2010. In the last 10 years, what are the changes you've encountered?
There have been many changes as there's been new talent coming into the industry, a lot of competition and a lot of new voices. The best part is everyone has his or her own space and yet I have made my own niche as a playback singer. I am immensely thankful for all the support that I have received from different people like Bhushan Kumar Sir, my brother Amaal and my parents. Today there are a variety of singers, a variety of songs and this is better for the industry. There is healthy competition, which makes me competitive, and every time there is a new change, it makes me step up my game.
Coming from a musically-inclined family, what are family dinner discussions like?
Family dinner discussions are more about is this lyric suiting this song or whether it's not? Half the time my mom feels alienated because she is a not a music person and doesn't care about what we are chatting about regarding the compositions etc. We don't have normal parent-to-son conversations. We don't focus on food but fight over music on the dinner table and I think there should be a movie made on this!
How would you describe your passion for music; what keeps you focused each day?
Music is a very integral part of my life because I was born into a musical family and it's not just a passion, it's everything for me. As soon as I start my day, I start it with music, so for me, to keep the passion going what I do get my guitar our and start making music. Since music is so important to me, I don't need to put in any extra effort to do this, it just flows for me. It's as simple as drinking water and having food so definitely music is one of the main purposes of my life.
What basic differences do you find between an Indian music achiever and a westerner in terms of lifestyle, culture, exposure and acceptability?
We are yet to acquire what the musical luminaries in the West have already attained. The global stardom is not so easy to grasp if you belong to this part of the world. Many Indian artists have tried to do the crossover sojourn to find a toehold in the western or international musical realm but only a handful few have been able to create a concrete buzz or magic so far. The basic noticeable difference between the two sides is that India is a majorly Bollywood consumed market and the West is adequately fed with indie music and not just commercial film tunes alone. On the contrary, to make a mark in the Indian music industry, you have to first take the more popular Bollywood route. So given that scenario, my next aim is to create a strong fan-base through Bollywood and then take that step further to bolster my independent music career. My ultimate goal is to become a global music icon. For I desire to see Indian music scaling dizzying heights and flourishing on the overseas shores. Honestly, it’s about time that an Indian singer carries the baton forward to make this a reality from a mere possibility. My gut instinct tells me that we could make it happen! So wish us all the good luck.
What are your comments on the trend of remixes?
It can either elevate to another level or dilute its essence if not well executed. Credit goes to the maker if the remixed version further lifts and enhances the popularity of the original number, which is an already hit song. But if it is of inferior flavour, it would be automatically shunned by the listeners with an immediate effect!
Given your sweet charming looks, will you ever consider acting if given an offer?
Actually, I’ve been already getting a lot of proposals to face the camera and the arclights but have politely declined them all. My focus and passion for music are so high at present that I can’t let anything else hijack it. Many people think acting is the zenith of stardom in our industry, but I feel otherwise. I personally want singers to emulate greater glory. And I’m definitely going to champion that cause and leverage the movement. You see, musicians and vocalists are true blue artistes and some are even born with that genius. They are God-gifted performers. So why should they feel insecure at all and stoop low to hog the limelight? Avid aficionados and discerning enthusiasts would anyways encourage their art and patronise them to sustain their mastery. And when it comes to the brand-value and a crowd-pulling charisma, my simple question in regards to that is that why can’t there be a good looking singer who can attract you with both his good looks as well as his enchanting voice? Having said that, if some acting assignment comes my way, I’ll only take it up if it is a huge project which I won’t be able to refuse at the outset and the character that I shall play has a musical side to it.
Do you follow any particular singing idol’s style of rendition? If yes, then why?
I don’t consciously follow anyone to the T, but I imbibe the best qualities of all top singers in my gayaki andaaz. That’s it. A few singers whom I personally love are Michael Bublé, Sonu Nigam, Chris Brown and Arijit Singh.
Over a small period of time and evidently at an early stage, you have tasted success. So how do you intend to keep yourself grounded?
My parents have instilled in me the worth of staying always humble, irrespective of the status that we ever achieve in life. They know how fickle the industry is as well as the world out there. You may be doing well now, but when you don’t, people all around may drop you like a small sliver. My father told me to follow a simple thumb rule — “Don’t be over confident, don’t be over humble. Just be sane.” Those were the golden words of lessons for me.
How do you describe today’s generation of music?
In black and white, today’s type of music is full of innovative ideas, experimental creativity, great sound production but of course, lacks the melodic value to a vast degree in order to make it potentially eternal and immortal in texture. However, all the songs that I have sung till date retain the above-mentioned ingredients including the vital melody intact.
What’s your take on the arena of dance music….does it has a temporary appeal, unlike romantic melodies which breed quality of permanence?
In a nutshell, I love both actually. Although I admit that love ballads tend to have a longer shelf-life than dance songs, yet when you infuse the two, you get the best of both worlds at your feet. Who says that a dance song can’t have a melody? We shouldn’t stereotype our tastes. The very fine example of such a song is ‘Sau Aasmaan’ from Baar Baar Dekho. It’s a tender, warm, amorous track with a frisky dance beat. This makes it all the more beautiful to listeners spread across all generations.
Who are your musical inspiration and key influences?
Well, that’s a long list. The most pivotal ones in my life being Michael Bublé, Sonu Nigam, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Arijit Singh, Mohd. Rafisaab and Kishore Kumarji to name a few!
What is your idea of a dream girl?
I would say Deepika Padukone. She perfectly epitomises the image of an ideal dream girl. Intelligent, drop-dead gorgeous, emotional, sensitive and loving towards her parents she is all that and much more. I wish I can find someone like her!
Who is more romantic at heart and favourite among the female fans? How do you tackle such mass adulation?
Both Amaal and I are equally romantic by nature and we both have a huge female fan following. Me a little more. Haha! Well, now this crazy frenzy has become pretty normal I guess. You know Ball these side effects of fame just steadily sink in with time. And there are always zillions of hardcore fans out there. It definitely feels way special to be loved and adored so much. All I can say is that I’m blessed to have my pack of ‘Armaanians’ by my side.
Was quitting the BMM (Bachelors in Mass Media) course midway for the sake of your musical penchant a conscious decision on your part? Do you now regret it or you are completely content with your choice?
It just happened. For me, my life and my career were going at a very fast pace and I could not juggle between the two. Since music is what I’ve always wanted to chase, I went ahead and made my career the first priority. Obviously, I don’t regret my choice because I am going to complete my graduation anyways. Rest assured, my mother will be at it, goading me and making sure of that!
The sounds and voices of independent music often get gagged under the heavy bombardment of Bollywood songs. But with the resurgence of singles happening around and you being a prominent participant in this trend, do you think it augurs well for the future of Indian non-filmi music? Do you have a faint memory of the erstwhile madness of Indipop bursting out the charts in the 1990s when you guys were still tiny infants?
Non-film music is gonna be massive I bet! And I have a hunch that the magic of the golden 90s’ non-film music era will be revived big time soon. I’ll certainly be a part of it since I truly believe in its essence and power to stay parallel to Bollywood music. I’m already planning a few singles.
Is hailing from a reputed musical background like yours a blessing in disguise or an undue pressure as expectations mount up and comparisons keep soaring with every performance?
I think it’s challenging because a) people have huge expectations already imposed on your shoulders like a heavy burden and b) you also need to make an individual mark of your own in the industry. I mean you can’t go on living into someone’s shadow. Coming to the vantage point that you quite correctly mentioned, I do agree that one gets to go through several doors of opportunities without much fuss than rank outsiders who doggedly slog for a chance from nowhere. But despite getting key access to the right kind of people who matter most, you got to have that genuine talent and burning passion inside you to take things forward and make something valuable out of it!
Having initiated your journey as a vocalist from a talent hunt show to singing jingles, singles and now managing a full-fledged playback career, was the struggle tough or worth it?
It was surely worth it. If I hadn’t put in all that effort and hard labour when I was barely nine or ten, I wouldn’t be here where I am today. My mom (Jyoti Malik) has equally shared this struggle and journey with me. She was a constant pillar of backing, who pushed my limits and made me understand the importance of hard work earlier in life. I was taught that nothing falls easy on the platter and there’s no shortcut to success.
Amaal Malik being your elder brother, is he more of a buddy to you and a great support system in this strange big entertainment industry, where fate alters every Friday?
Definitely yes! Since both of us are brothers and belong to the same line of work, we both confide in each other regarding our personal as well as professional struggles. It’s undeniably very comforting having Amaal by my side!
Tell us something about your formal education in music. Did you graduate from leading western music schools as well as acquire training in Indian classical genres? How has that taalim helped brace your basics?
I’m a trained student of Hindustani classical music and have also received a full-tuition scholarship in the summer of 2011 to learn pop/R&B music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Boston (USA). By the grace of God, I could wrap up the course with Honours and I’m immensely glad that I pursued the curriculum because it’s left me completely changed! See as a singer, being versatile is very crucial. So the giant spectrum of Indian classical has undoubtedly provided me with that strong base to hone my singing skills. While Western music has added a much-needed edge to my style. Fact is, in order to be a long-race horse, you must continuously explore and extend your repertoire. Fortunately, I could pick up other world genres like EDM and the ‘big band’ phenomenon (a musical rage during the swing era of the 1930s till 1940s in the US, associated with playing jazz. It has evolved over time and still continues today.) to name a few and am equally comfortable in crooning English numbers. Besides, I have a great affinity for pop and R&B genres. To tell you frankly, I am gonna sing a lot in English ahead.
Born and brought up in a family of great musical lineage, were you destined to embrace the craft as your career-path in life? How was the musical ambience at home since childhood?
Ever since I was a little kid of four, I knew I wanted to be a singer. And not just any regular singer, the world’s best singer! Sounds too ambitious, right? But that’s how children behave in their formative years. And I’ve always had these lofty dreams you know. Thankfully, I never looked back, once I decided that ‘music is my life’. Honestly speaking, the atmosphere at our home is truly musical. We used to wake up in the mornings only to find my dad and dada doing riyaaz, composing new songs and writing lyrics. I have received all my training from my grandfather Shri Sardar Malik and my mind-training happens with my dad. It was this highly cultural milieu that we so fondly loved and this is what we grew up in. So it was only a natural progression for us to follow music further in the future.
The year 2016 took off to a flying start as awards fetched you wide appreciation for your hard work. You picked up the Filmfare statuette as the winner of prestigious R.D. Burman Award in the new music talent category. How important was this recognition for you in the early stages of your career? What was your parents’ reaction?
Getting this appreciation, love and acceptance from the industry fraternity feels simply surreal! Actually, I think my experience proves that age is no bar to success. I believe this recognition would inspire more youngster musicians to take up music as a serious profession. Hence, we need to tap raw talent persistently to enable the youth of India to shine and progress all the way! Our parents are super ecstatic! My dad Daboo Malik has been a part of this music industry since a very long time but he never received any sort of big acclaim that was due to him throughout his career. Therefore, these awards and victories are meant to be more of his than ours!
Do you think you are a versatile singer?
A playback singer is versatile when one can sing in multiple genres with ease, and when one can also do it in multiple languages. I know I am bracketed as a romantic singer. I have a lot of bubbly music inside me which hasn’t come out. Recently, I did a single called Aaja Na Ferrari Mein, which is very pop and contemporary. Then, Theher Ja, in October, was a romantic song but with a European feel to it. I used falsetto there. I can also sing in many languages. To become versatile is a gradual process. I have been writing my own songs since the age of 15 but in English. I haven’t been able to showcase them yet but I will, soon. What bothers me is that Indian singers are just known within India or South Asia or at the most, the diaspora outside. I want to be a global singer like Justin Bieber or Beyonce. If I can sing in so many Indian languages, then why not in English, Spanish or Arabic?
Who continues to inspire you and support you in the Hindi film music industry?
Of course, my brother. Then Salim Merchant [of Salim-Sulaiman.] He is a friend and a mentor. He was there on my first album for a song. I have sung many songs for him. I often go to his studio and hang out with him. From the singers, Sonu Nigam. He is someone I have always looked up to and ever since I heard him, I wanted to be like him. To this date, I am not nervous about meeting any big actor or celebrity, but I am nervous to meet him. The biggest advice he [Sonu Nigam] gave me was to not imitate anyone’s singing style. Be original. These days there are many singers with the same tonality. People ask me, who sang this, and I am like, don’t you know it, and they say, what to do they all sound the same. Also, he keeps saying, ‘Sur nahi hilna chahiye’ [Always hit the right note]. The pitch should be perfect. Very few singers like Lata ji, Sonu Nigam, Shreya [Ghoshal] sing in perfect pitch. The rest sing up to 80-85% pitch, and then you autotune it. Unlike popular notion, autotuning is not a bad thing.
What was singing for AR Rahman like?
Before Mechanical Sundariye, I had met AR Rahman at a music launch in Mumbai. He said he really liked my singing and soon something would happen. I had no idea the ‘soon’ would come a week later. Rahman sir wasn’t there in the studio because he was busy in LA [Los Angeles] working on the 2.0 score. Once I finished singing, I asked what it is for. Then I was told it’s for 2.0. I asked what’s 2.0? They said it’s Robot 2.0. That moment it struck me that I am not just singing for Rahman sir but also for Rajinikanth!
To a listener of the songs, you sang down South, which Hindi songs would you recommend as perfectly embodying your style, and the other way round as well?
To someone who has just heard my South songs, I would recommend Bol Do Na Zara and Main Rahoon Ya Na Rahoon. They best represent my musicality. For a Hindi music listener, the South songs of mine I would recommend are Yaar Inda Muyalkutti from Paayum Puli and the Kannada song Ondu Malebillu from Chakravarthy for which I won the Best Male Playback Singer award at the South Filmfare Awards.
Besides Amaal Mallik, you have worked with a lot of other composers. How has your experience been?
All music composers have their quirks. With Vishal-Shekhar, I did a bunch of Telugu songs. I share a comfort level with them. They explain the tune and the composition and then leave me to it. Vishal-Shekhar are those composers who make the song with one thought in mind but they let you take it to another level with your ideas. And then, there are over-involved composers. S Thaman is a very funny character. Half the time, he does not come to the studio. So we speak on the phone, and sometimes, he is unavailable there too. So I listen to the track recorded by the cue singers and I replicate the cues all by myself in the studio. When I see him, I ask him why you aren’t there, and he says, it’s okay no problem, you do best. But that’s because he is too busy. I recently worked with my dad [Daboo Malik], and he is very spontaneous. He will change the composition immediately and expect you to understand him. He comes from the ’90s when songs were made in minutes. So with him, I have to be on my toes.
When Amaal Mallik criticised the Hindi film music industry because of its repetitiveness, sparred with Mithoon online, criticised the Filmfare jury for its choice of nominations including his own work, and then bashed the trend of song remakes earlier this year, did you ever stop him because he was making a lot of people angry?
We only get to know what he writes on Facebook after he has written it. We both think from the heart. The difference is he is vocal about it and I am not. And I agree with whatever he has said. It’s the truth, and when you put out the truth, some people do not like it. But after what happened on Twitter with Sonakshi Sinha, we both decided it’s better to keep quiet and do our work. We both know what the music industry is. We know the good and the bad because we have seen it up close. We know we are both swimming in it. And it’s not like he said anything new or eye-opening. When he spoke of the stagnation of the kind of music being made, he was speaking for the entire musical community, not just himself. We just do not want our creativity to be curtailed.
Your biggest collaborator is your brother, Amaal Mallik. How different are you both, inside and outside the studio?
He is more hot-headed and temperamental. I am calm and composed. We get into a lot of fights inside the studio, but that is to make the song better. Also, I don’t know how he deals with other singers, but for me, he does not let me leave till the song is perfect. Many composers can ask you to come back the next day and re-dub but not him.
The ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’ album was also important because both you and your brother were carrying the entire album together.
It was very challenging. It was Amaal’s first movie as a solo composer. It was a huge project about our captain [Mahendra Singh Dhoni] and Neeraj sir [Pandey] was directing. And his films are never based much around the songs so this was new. The first song we cracked was Besabriyaan and Neeraj sir knew that whoever got that right could do the entire film. From there, Kaun Tujhe and the others happened. Besides singing four songs, I also played some of the guitar parts and did some programming. It was a journey of a year – eight months of cracking the music and the rest went to arranging, recording, mixing, and mastering.
Which songs would you say were the game-changers in your career?
The one that got me the most popularity was Tumhe Apna Banane Ka from Hate Story 3. The one that got me respect from the industry and my listeners was Main Rahoon Ya Na Rahoon.
Why was your father, composer Daboo Malik, against you participating in a singing competition show?
He felt that I and Amaal should take a different route. He thought we should assist someone first and enter the business slowly, which is what Arijit Singh did, and that can be a great way to learn everything about making music. My brother did that. He assisted composers like Salim-Sulaiman. For me, the reality show route worked. My mother was supportive. My father wasn’t, initially, but when he saw me on television and he got calls from friends, he was happy. I became known as a child singer after that. I sang for Vishal-Shekhar [Mere Buddy, Bhoothnath] and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy [Bum Bum Bole, Taare Zameen Par].
2014 was your big year. Your debut album, ‘Armaan’, as well as your big break, ‘Jai Ho’, was released. How did you get to sing for Salman Khan?
I had a contract with Universal under which I released my first album. Salman sir heard a few songs from that. He speaks what he feels. He liked one song and said that the rest is okay, but it’s not to his taste. So, that song made it to Jai Ho from the album. It was composed by my brother, so Salman sir took a liking to us and we did three songs for the film. The music was coming out on T-Series. After that, Bhushan Kumar sat me down to discuss where my singing career would go. Once my Universal contract ended, I signed with T-Series.
Did coming from the Malik family help you?
Not really. In fact, I was rejected in the final round of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs [season one, 2006] because of coming from a connected family. They felt someone with no connections should have won. I thought that was unfair because you should be chosen because of your merit. This again happened when I sang Mere Buddy for Bhoothnaath. My voice was replaced by someone else’s, because of the same reason. When the song finally aired, my voice was back in it though. I paid my dues. My mother [Jyothi Malik] was very instrumental in my singing career. She encouraged me to pursue singing professionally at a very young age. We would hire studios for a few hours, and there I recorded a demo of known chartbusters, with a romantic song, a dance song, a few English numbers, and my mother and I approached several production houses and music composers with that demo, asking for work. That led to recording jingles since the age of nine. From jingles, I got the opportunity to dub for My Name Is Khan. Till date, I have recorded at least 200 jingles in eight-nine languages, which helped me pick up languages all over India quickly. So, I feel if I did not deliver at the age of nine in front of the mic, I would not have made it.