Prateek Kuhad Curated

Indian Singer-Songwriter

CURATED BY :  

This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Prateek Kuhad have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Prateek Kuhad's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming singers. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • What’s next for your music in the coming months?

    A full-length album that hopefully comes out in Jan-Feb next year if everything goes according to plan.

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  • There’s a lot of talk about how you can’t just be a musician today in the business – you have to also be a businessman, manage your social media, build your brand etc. What is your view on this?

    I think you need to strike a balance. Definitely get management if you can. There are uncomfortable conversations to be had all the time, and more than anything your manager is the best buffer for stuff like that! You’ve gotta be involved in the process, because yes, it is about the business etc. but you can’t let it shift away from your focus from what’s most important: the music. If that is not right, then nothing else is going to help. And for practical reasons juggling your time being a full-time musician and a full-time manager for yourself, doesn’t really work. But yes, stay involved in all the non-music aspects of your career as well, just make sure you’re spending the bulk of your time on the music.

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  • What are the realities of being a musician and trying to earn a living doing solely that in India today?

    It’s difficult, but it can be done.

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  • If you could change one thing about the Indian music scene what would it be?

    Everyone suddenly becomes more professional and efficient.

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  • What is the best (or worst) advice you’ve been given about being a musician?

    Worst: “Don’t make music for yourself, write what the audience loves.” I don’t think that works in the long run. For any profession pretty much. Do what you love because that’s the only way you can hope to sustain it for a really long time. And you don’t get good at anything unless you do it for a really long time.

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  • 'Practice’ is a word that young guitarists dread. Now that you have a certain level of proficiency, do you also have a practice routine so that your guitar playing keeps getting better?

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot actually and I’m still not sure. A lot of guitarists have practice routines like that, but I’ve never really done that. I’ve picked up my guitar skills pretty much by learning songs by other musicians I like. But I’ve developed a certain style of fingerpicking which I like to think is somewhat original. And I think that has happened because I’ve also spent a lot of time just playing the guitar organically, without really an objective in mind. In fact in the past year or so I’ve hardly played any covers at all. It’s mostly been songwriting and aimless playing. But I’ve still got a ton to learn and I’m still in the process of developing my songwriting skills, so I’m not really sure about anything at this point. Everything is pretty much trial and error.

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  • People often have a romantic notion of what it’s like to be a songwriter – and I’ve heard them get very poetic when describing your music – but what is the songwriting process like for you?

    Thankfully till now it’s only been an emotional and fulfilling experience. Of course you feel frustrated every now and then when you can’t find the right words etc, but I pretty much only write music for myself till now. Songwriting is a way for me to express myself and I actually feel happier and calmer after an intense session of songwriting. Hopefully this will not change anytime soon 🙂

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  • Share some stories from gigs – any surprises, odd audience requests, mishaps on stage?

    So many mishaps, I don’t know where to start. Just this past gig at High Spirits, in Pune, was a pretty mishap-ridden set. I forgot words for one of my songs, made a few mistakes on the guitar, and to top it off my bassist was playing guitar on one of the songs, and he suddenly blanked out on the entire guitar part! So we had to skip that song. Stuff like that. Mishaps are a lot more common than I’d like them to be. But I believe that as I play more gigs, I’m becoming better and better at handling them. Odd audience requests are also plenty. Often people have asked me to play covers (to which I have to politely refuse). This one time a guy told me I was really good (awkward conversation in the bathroom after a gig) and then proceeded to say I should play some Punjabi stuff later. That was probably the oddest request I’ve gotten.

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  • I read a great interview with John Mayer where he talked about his early years performing live. He said, “It’s a very human place to play music and a very human place to live” You’ve been performing live a lot these past few months. Tell us how that has shaped your music and your guitar playing.

    I don’t think I’ve played live enough to have it start affecting my song-writing, but it has definitely changed my attitude towards things in general, and also made me think a lot more about my live set. You start to think of your live set from the perspective of the audience, and how to achieve that synergy where you’re having a good time on stage and so are the folks who’ve come to watch you. It’s hard striking that balance but it’s always a work in progress I suppose. So because of that, often I find myself playing some of the songs that I play live, a little differently compared to how they’ve been recorded in the studio.

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  • what would you consider the point at which the music took off and people began to take notice?

    Soon after the release of Raat Raazi pretty much.

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  • what were the early gigs like?

    I’ve personally improved as a performer (although I still have a LONG way to go!) but that apart early gigs were mostly hit or miss. Some days there’d be a lot of people and some would stand up and take notice and like the stuff, other days there’d be a grand total of 4 people in the crowd. The latter has (thankfully) not happened in a while.

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  • Tell us what it was like when you began putting the word out about your music in India: – what was the early reception to your music like?

    The first real release that we did was Raat Raazi the EP and I’d like to think it was quite well received. I don’t think too many other people are making music like this, especially in Hindi, and that definitely helped Raat Raazi cut through the noise and actually get noticed.

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  • What mics do you use to record your vocals and guitar in the studio/ home recordings? Your songs have a very warm, clear sound and I’m curious about what you use.

    Raat Raazi was recorded in a studio in Delhi. The engineer there had some cool mics. I remember recording some vocals on a ribbon mic the engineer had built himself. He also had a vintage AKG C414, which was used on a lot of the vocals. That was a really nice, warm mic. I have pretty basic gear at home. I use a Rode NT1-A for vocals and recently started to use the NT5 pair for guitars. But then again, some of the demos you’ve heard on the soundcloud page (like Be At Ease) was recorded on a really crappy USB microphone (vocals and guitars both!).

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  • Great job with the sound on the video! How did you record it and what gear did you use?

    We got our sound engineer from the shoot, Anindo Bose, to answer this one. Here is what he said: “So the recording setup wasn’t very complicated, just used a few condenser mics to capture the sound as naturally as possible and placed them in a way that would suit the camera angles and yet not compromise the sound quality. There were two overhead mics from the sides and one each near the guitar and bass drum and the cello. The camera boom mic was also capturing a bit of the vocal. I recorded it on Cubase 7 on my Macbook Pro using the Motu Traveler interface. The track didn’t really need too much mixing, as it was well captured and the musicians had a good dynamic amongst themselves :)”

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  • Where did you film the Big Surprise video and was the sound recorded live on location?

    The film was shot at a farmhouse in Kapasera, Delhi. And yes absolutely, the sound was recorded live on location (and we’re pretty proud of how well it’s turned out). It is literally a live performance video 🙂

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  • I was going to pick Oh Love as the song to introduce your music to our readers but I thought I’d ask you – if you had to pick one which would it be and why?

    I think going forward Oh Love is a good pick. I recently put out a performance video for a song called Big Surprise, that’s also a good place to start. My sound has slowly evolved over time, and you’ll notice that the next album is going to sound quite different overall. These two songs are more representative of this sound compared to some of my older stuff.

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  • Can you share a personal experience that readers might find inspiring, motivating, and fuel for them to face the challenges and obstacles along the way in their own personal journeys?

    I don’t think I have anything that intense really or any particular story. There are good days and bad days and I think you just have to be aware of your past, present and future. Just be aware, be realistic and think independently — sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. I feel like the concept of ‘motivation’ and ‘inspiration’ in our society is so uni-dimensional. We think that the only way to fight obstacles is to keep going on endlessly and ‘never giving up’. While sometimes the hardest thing to do is fighting for something, other times the hardest thing to do, is to give up, because we get so attached to a goal, that giving that up seems like the worst thing possible. Sometimes, it’s important to realize when it is time to let go of something and move on.

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  • Why do you think people listen to or enjoy your music?

    There are so many different reasons to listen to music — even for me! There’s no one singular reason. I think sometimes, you listen to music when you want to feel something very strongly, and other times, when you don’t want to feel anything at all.

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  • In the millions of dualities that comprise life in India, one of the major ones is the “English/Indian language-speaker” divide. Native English speakers rarely feel entirely comfortable in non-English speaking spaces, while I presume that non-native speakers, of Rajasthani or Hindi or Kannada or whichever other Indian language they primarily speak, don’t feel entirely comfortable in English-speaking spaces. Are you completely bilingual? How has this affected your experiences as an Indi...

    While what you say in the earlier paragraph might be true to some extent it’s not the whole story. Firstly, there’s a whole bunch of the population where people are equally comfortable in both spaces. Secondly, I think the concept of language as a barrier is mostly in our heads. It’s more to do with what that kind of person is that creates barriers and our perception of them — a perception that we’ve been conditioned into mostly by society. Yes, I can speak, write and think in both Hindi and English quite interchangeably. I don’t really think about it much. In fact, I actively try and push myself (and everyone around me) to not think about it too much. I am first and foremost a songwriter — I write songs to express something — and in what language that is expressed is quite irrelevant, as long as I’m communicating my point. I think it has helped to a certain degree, because in India there are some people who prefer just listening to only Hindi songs, or only English songs, and then there are others who will listen to both. So a lot of people who would not be open to following a songwriter who writes primarily in English are open to listening to me – and vice versa. A lot has to do with the kind of environment we’ve grown up in, and that conditioning. Certain people will subconsciously respond to a certain language because of their upbringing, peer groups, and so on. I can’t really predict or control that, so I don’t like to ponder it too much. It’s quite simple to me: when I started actively writing in both languages, it was because I could. I just figured that I have a decent control over both languages – why should I limit myself?

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  • The songs on cold/mess appear to be written about someone – a “you” appears in all the lyrics. Who is the “you” – or is it a few different “you”s?

    It’s primarily about one “you,” and cold / mess comprises fragments of memories that try to loosely narrate this story centered around me and her. There is another person who happens to be in that story, so a little bit is about another “you”. In summary: it’s mainly about one “you,” and very slightly about another “you”.

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  • Your vocal performance has evolved over time. Would you say you’re a better singer and performer now than you were in 2013, or is it that you’re better at locating and communicating specific emotions within yourself?

    A bit of both. You know, I’m not a very good singer, but I think I can emote my songs well because I — more often than not — believe in them. My overall skills as a singer have definitely improved over time — the more you sing, the better you get, but I think the reason a lot of people think I’m a good singer is that I communicate my songs well.

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  • As an artist with a devoted following, your actions now carry more weight than the average person. For example, someone might be majorly bummed if you were too exhausted to sign an autograph after a show – through no real fault of your own. You’re still very much a down-to-earth, laid-back guy. How are you dealing with the responsibility of being the center of this community, and the center of attention more frequently than not?

    It doesn’t really feel like I have to really “deal” with anything yet. It’s not that frequently that it happens, and to be honest I don’t really feel like the “center of this community.” If a fan asks me for an autograph or a photo after a show, I literally never say no. If the same thing happens in public, then I feel like it’s really my call, because that’s my personal time. I really value and respect my fans — and I can usually tell the genuine ones apart from the ones who just want a photo because it’s ‘cool’ to get a photo with me (at least in their heads)!

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  • Tell us a bit about the recording process in Nashville, mixing process in New York, and everything that went into making this record – especially since you’ve been performing some of the songs for a while now.

    As a record, cold / mess ended up almost conceptualizing itself. I didn’t ever think, when I put these songs together into an EP, that they necessarily had a common thread or any thematic consistency. But when I had to write a note about the EP — for my producers, for press, it forced me to think about the songs more deeply. It struck me how, collectively, they were surprisingly telling a bit of a story — or if ‘story’ is too strong a word, at least somewhat of a narrative. That’s always a nice thing for a record to have. Then it was about figuring out where to record it, mix it, and stuff like that. I had worked with Peter Groenwald, and Konrad Snyder the previous summer, and the three of us got along so well (creatively and otherwise). I reached out to both of them about working on the EP with me as co-producers. They also happen to be co-songwriters on one of the tracks (“with you/for you”), so it made a lot of sense. But more than that, I just had a good feeling about it. After that, it was around two weeks of nonstop studio time, which despite being exhausting, is (after the songwriting bit) my favourite part of being a musician. It was stressful and amazing at the same time. Then there was about a week of mixing at a studio in New York with Warren Riker — he’s a boss mix engineer who was actually recommended by Neal from Artist Originals. I had a chat with Warren, and he was super excited, and I got a good vibe from him, so we decided to bring him on board as well. Warren mixed the whole record pretty much entirely analog — Neve board, riding faders, outboard gear, and even real reverbs recorded in the empty stairways behind the studio. I think the analog approach adds a lot of character to this record.

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  • What does the cold / mess EP represent to you as an artist and as a professional? How would you describe its significance or importance at this stage in your career?

    It’s the same as all my previous releases, really. I mean, you write songs, and then sometimes they come together to tell fragments of a story from your life. cold / mess came together to tell a loose narrative, a personal one. It’s new for me. We worked hard on the production and the detailing, and while it’s not perfect, I can safely say I feel quite proud of it — at least today!

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  • What does it take for you to write songs, and perform them? Did it require courage, initially? Has your fear lessened or grown with time?

    Writing songs and performing them are two really different things for me. Writing comes to me very naturally. It’s just what I’ve always really liked to do, and I still do. Songwriting kind of keeps me going, and gets me through difficult days. Sometimes it makes me happy, sometimes it makes me sad, but I need to write frequently to keep my sanity. I still feel the same way about writing today as I did seven years ago, when I started writing properly. With performing it’s a different story. It was quite challenging in the beginning because opening up to strangers and being out in the open with my feelings is not my comfort zone. I used to be a really private person, but with time, and all the touring over the years, I’ve changed. Today, I’m a lot more comfortable socially — and hence on stage as well. It’s still not my preferred place to be, though!

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  • Lastly, what’s in store for you in 2019?

    Lots of touring and then hopefully a short vacation.

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  • Your songs seem to tell a story…is that what you intend from them?

    Do they? I feel like my songs never tell any stories. Like there’s really no start or an end or any sort of a narrative. I think they’re mostly fragments of feelings woven together into a somewhat wholesome entity.

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  • The artwork that came out with ‘cold/mess’ seems like an integral part of the storytelling process, tell us a little about the idea behind the postcards.

    There’s just a subtle visual story with each song that I wanted to put forth, that’s how the artwork and the postcards came about.

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  • Did you anticipate the video to be the massive success that it was?

    No, I did not. I loved the video though even before it was out and I was very excited to release it. I knew my fans would like it but I didn’t think it would go much beyond that. I’m also generally a bit of a cynic.

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  • Why did you call it cold/mess?

    It’s a dichotomy – for me feeling cold is associated with a nice thing – like when you feel cold, you want your lover next to you for warmth – and the mess is well, just mess.

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  • Tell us a bit about your songwriting process. What do you emphasize more on, the melody or the lyrics?

    For me it’s more about the words – I feel like melodies can still be moulded around words and there’s a lot you have to play around with. I could have a nice melody but if it’s not working with the words, I won’t think twice before changing it. I would rarely, if ever, change words to suit a melody – you know if you have found words that are saying exactly what you want to say, finding a replacement for that is very hard. Melodies are quite flexible. That’s what I think, though and really there are no rules to songwriting – what’s good is good.

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  • From your self-titled debut EP to cold/mess, your music has gone through a transformation. Tell us a bit about your journey from the debut EP to the massive success of ‘cold/mess’.

    I tend not to dwell on the past too much so it kinda feels like a blur. Still not sure if I would call cold/mess a ‘massive’ success but I feel proud of this record and I feel like it has affected a lot of people in good ways and I feel very grateful that I was able to do that. I think the sound changing is just an organic process any musician would go through. Every passing year you listen to new music, get inspired in different ways and improve upon your own craft – so an evolution of sound is bound to happen.

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  • What kind of mind space are you in at the moment? How's 2019 looking?

    I'm trying to deal with a lot of new emotions, understanding my songwriting process better and reconciling with aging. 2019 is looking hectic - we’ve got a month-long US tour across almost 20 dates, maybe a UK tour after that, and then hopefully a bunch of songwriting in the US later this year. And then I'm back to India for more shows - but to be honest, post-July looks quite hazy as of now, so let’s see what really happens. You never know.

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  • Which is your favorite poem of all time?

    Colostrum by Kevin Young might be my favorite poem of all time because I think no poem has ever made me feel such strong emotion in a mere three sentences: We are not born with tears. Your first dozen cries are dry. It takes some time for the world to arrive and salt the eyes. I also like a lot of stuff by Dylan Thomas and Allen Ginsberg, but to be honest, I’ve never been an avid reader of poetry. I’ve always read it intermittently and for short periods of time. I never thought of my songwriting as poetry at all, and then later a lot of people started to call it that and I still don’t know if that is true or not. To me, a song needs a certain cadence, rhythm, and music to make it wholesome. A poem can sometimes say a lot more than a song without employing any of those tricks.

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  • And the books that have inspired you?

    The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and Steve Job’s biography by Walter Isaacson are possibly the two most impactful books I’ve read. I’ve been reading a lot of Murakami the past year or so, and while Norwegian Woods made me cry a lot, his other books are just plain fun to read.

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  • What are some of your all-time favorite films?

    No movie has really affected me as much as Pyaasa. I watched it back in 2012/13 for the first time, and re-watched it in 2016 and I wept through the whole thing. I had to keep stopping to take crying breaks (laughs). I’ve loved most of Christopher Nolan's films and almost all of Richard Linklater's films, especially Before Sunrise and its sequels and also Boyhood. I also watch a lot of straight-up action films and all of the Marvel films!

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  • Was cold/mess close to how you'd have imagined the video? Did the film help you process whatever was happening in your life that led to the last album?

    Yes, quite bizarrely, it was very close to what I had imagined it to be and I am so grateful to the team - Dar, Dheer and Aditya, and many others from Jugaad Productions which worked on the video. By the time we started working on the video, it had been quite a while since whatever that happened to me the song and the video was about, so no, not really. I think I had already processed most of my emotions related to it by then.

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  • What makes you say yes to one artist and no to another?

    That's just instinct with a little bit of rationality. I find a lot of artists have a lot of really excellent ‘ideas’ but no execution skills at all - something you can judge quite easily by the quality or lack of prior work. I try to stay wary of such artists. I’d much rather work with and trust someone who has deep knowledge of their craft and the correct attitude but no unique ideas.

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  • I have enjoyed seeing your collaborations with different filmmakers/artists to come up with music videos. Take me through the process of how your music is visualized, either by you or others.

    Actually, I’ve somehow never thought of them as collaborations. It’s been a process for me and I guess it’s just a few people getting together and doing their job to make something nice. I find that when I really trust someone then I completely give over - like with Tum Jab Paas, I got a really good feeling from Reema Sengupta - about her craft, skillset in filmmaking, and her overall vision, so I almost had no inputs there. I also feel like visual art is not my expertise, so when I decide to work with someone and trust them, I try and interfere as little as possible. On the other hand, I almost never work with someone I don’t trust, but if for whatever reasons I find myself in that situation, I can be quite paranoid and controlling. (laughs)

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  • Right. And do you feel like you are doing exactly what you were born to?

    Sometimes I feel I am, and other times, I think I entirely picked the wrong profession. I find the life on the road and live performance aspect of my profession exhausting and quite challenging, even though I love the songwriting and production aspect of it. I’m also a bit extreme in my thought process about most things and tend to oscillate between decisions and feelings a fair bit. So maybe this sentiment is just a byproduct of my predisposition.

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  • Is intuition and trusting yourself a big part of your creative process?

    Intuition, in my opinion, is deep knowledge of something to the point where your subconscious is capable of processing a lot of information into a simple decision. If that is true, then yes - a lot of songwriting is just that. You have to trust yourself a little bit, otherwise, you’ll just keep stopping and would never be able to finish a song. I try to be completely non-judgemental during the time I’m writing and very, very critical once a song is complete. So I end up scrapping a lot of songs.

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  • I feel that one has to be a sensitive person to write music the way you do. Is it difficult to be vulnerable and put yourself out there?

    The way I do it, I try to keep the songwriting and production process separate from the business side of things. You need to think objectively and independently when writing - so it’s a one step at a time process. When you’re writing, you’re just writing. Then you arrive at the production part and make a record, and once all that is done, you figure out a way to get it out to people in terms of distribution, marketing etc. I am not yet sure how this is all affecting me - I like to think I’m a rational and objective person who takes rounded decisions. But of course, I have ups and downs and writing does affect me from time to time. Some of the songs are very personal and bring back thoughts and feelings that I maybe don’t want to deal with? It’s all very contextual.

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  • What impact does visual art and design have on your output as a musician? Is there even a co-relation?

    I really don’t know if there a correlation or not, but I think that visual art became important to me when I was deciding on my first artwork. I don’t think I ever thought about it earlier but when the artwork for Raat Raazi was being made, it was a really long and arduous process. I went through several hundred options with my designer. I realized that the artwork is extremely important because it’s a visual representation of your music, so it’s crucial for the art to be cohesive with what the song represents for me. Otherwise, I’m already biasing the listener. As the years have gone by, I’ve realised I like visual art independently as well - I like taking photos and drawing for fun sometimes, and just generally discovering/absorbing visual art wherever I can find it.

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  • Which is the first piece of art you bought in your life?

    My mother is an art curator and runs a gallery in Jaipur, along with also running a school - she’s quite a badass! - so I grew up with a lot of paintings and sculptures around me. I can’t really remember what the first piece was that I personally bought, but if I really liked something, sometimes she would get it for me. In the photo below, there’s a painting of a guy playing a horn next to my bed. I remember really feeling that painting when I first saw it, and my mother got it for me. I’ve bought lots of art in general though - when I’m traveling, I pick up lots of little things that I like if I can afford to get them. Like I said...I’m a bit of a hoarder.

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  • Were there specific cartoons you watched growing up?

    I used to watch a bunch of Cartoon Network, I remember getting into trouble because my mother thought I was overdoing it, lol. I watched literally everything that was on TV back in the mid-90s like Dexter’s Lab, Swat Cats, lots of Looney Toons, Duck Tales, etc. I mean, I don’t think I was very choosy. I got an iPad recently and sometimes, I’ll doodle things on that on a flight or when I just want to tune out.

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  • Do you ever make art apart from music? What was your go-to thing to draw as a kid?

    I don’t remember my childhood very well, to be honest. But I do remember doing a fair bit of origami and I have faint memories of drawing every now and then. I always liked to sing - I was never very good though - but other than that, I’m sure I was drawing/painting something or the other - most kids do, right? I still suck at drawing and I’ve been really wanting to get better for the longest time.

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  • Are there specific objects that define your sense of home?

    It’s been kind of hard defining ‘home’ these days in general because I’ve been moving around so much. I feel like I have a mini-home pack that I travel around with - just things I cannot do without on the road like a portable espresso maker, my iPad, some diaries and pens and a guitar. Relatively speaking, my house in Delhi does definitely feel the most like home to me because I’ve lived there for a while and now I’m used to it. I have almost everything I could possibly need there. I like to know where my things are and have a routine of sorts and I think my house in Delhi supports that well. I have a small piano set up in my bedroom and my studio is fairly well equipped for basic recordings at this point. I find having a desk quite essential as well, so there are a few around my place.

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  • Are you a hoarder?

    As much as I’d hate to admit it, I do think I’m a bit of a hoarder. But I also have a ‘minimalist’ side, so there’s almost a constant battle between the two urges. So sometimes you’ll find my room looking like a dumpster and other times, it’s spotless and clean.

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  • What’s next in store for us?

    Mostly touring that you will find out about from my website.

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  • You’ve been a part of ensemble soundtracks with ‘Baar Baar Dekho’, ‘Lust Stories’ and now you’ve even composed music for the upcoming film ‘Karwaan’. Is mainstream visibility the ultimate pit-stop for an independent musician?

    I can’t speak for others but I don’t really think about it that way. There’s no ‘pit-stop’ really per se. I started doing this because I like making records and I want to continue do that in a professional manner. I don’t like labels like indie and mainstream.

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  • Are you a very romantic person in general since your songs are mostly centered on love and relationships?

    Lol. I think I can be a bit emotional at times but I’m not only in my songs.

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  • You have pretty much dabbled in between performing in English and Hindi. Do you think language contributes a lot in reaching out to an audience?

    No. I write songs. The language is irrelevant. When I write, words come out in either language and it just depends on the moment.

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  • cold/mess has been described as a gift to your fans. How instrumental has the love of the audience proved in your body of work, in your opinion?

    I am always overwhelmed by the reactions of my fans to my music. It drives me forward and keeps me going. However, I try and stick to my songwriting roots – I write instinctively and selfishly. If I stopped doing that my music wouldn’t be honest and to me, that’s the whole point of art - to express oneself sincerely.

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  • A recent article headline read, ‘The return of Prateek Kuhad’. The question is, why did it take you so long to put out new music?

    Yes I saw that, but honestly I don’t really think it’s been that long. Although this is the first multi-song record since 2015, I have been putting out singles and other content along the way. That being said, records cannot be forced. You have to let them happen organically – the attempt was to put out a record for the past year or so but everything only came together now. Sometimes there’s a reason for things to happen the way they are supposed to, and beyond a point, I don’t like to interfere with the ways of the universe – and I have learned this only recently.

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  • What can we look forward to from you?

    Just shows mostly but I want to put out a record soon. I don’t want to rush into it and put out a bad one. I have to sit down and produce and make proper demos and that’s what I need a month in Delhi for. I just need a basic piano-drum-bass guitar track and I just mix it and make a demo and that’s when I get more perspective. When I am happy with the demo, I share it, get feedback, play it live and see how it goes and that process is yet to begin but I am hoping that it happens soon.

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  • What do you do to step away and unwind?

    I don’t feel the need to because it does not get too much for me. Maybe because I don’t do too much of it. During cold/mess, we spent two months on just that and I loved it! I want to keep doing that. There are days when I am lazy and just on Netflix.

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  • What about invasion of privacy?

    I am not concerned about it (data privacy), I think. I mean if something has to happen, it will happen. If one day some evil corporation controls the world then whether or not you’re on social media, you are screwed. When it comes to fans, the invasion is not okay because I get conscious when I am working and I am focused on something else. Like during a show, I am in game mode but during soundcheck, I am not.

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  • As an artist, do you like having to use social media?

    It’s conflicting. I do all my social media posts myself mostly. When I started off, it was Instagram and Facebook only. Instagram is my favourite thing because I like taking photos. These platforms definitely make it easier to reach and share — it’s kind of like digital word of mouth. It’s a curse and a blessing. But I hate how addictive likes and follower count are — I know it’s stupid and it’s annoying!

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  • Does playing the festival circuit and touring eat into your time to make music?

    I don’t remember spending more than two weeks at a stretch in Delhi. Also, I grew up in Jaipur, where my mom still lives, so I keep going back. Travel is a part of life but I really wish it wasn’t. I don’t have to write songs but I push myself to write them because I think the more you write, the better you get at it. Maybe there’s an overkill to it but I haven’t yet reached that point of crazy. At times, I have written two-three songs in a day and I want a month like that... where I write almost 100 songs and then just stop for a bit. Not travelling would help that but anything is really possible if you’re disciplined. I could write on the go as I have my guitar everywhere. I have been feeling less inspired on the guitar lately. It has been the piano and every time I am back in Delhi where my piano is and I have set it up in a way that is right to me. That is why I like being in Delhi because that’s where I write a bunch. And then you’re away and it throws you off the zone that you’re in... of writing a little bit every day. Then you’re suddenly off for a week. I have so many half-written songs, it’s not funny. I am first and foremost a songwriter and that is why I started doing all of this. It starts feeling pointless when I am spending a disproportionate amount of time touring. But at the same time, I understand that it’s practically very important and that’s where I make a lot of my money that sustains me. Live shows are special for sure as I can see the fans connecting, so I kinda have to do both, even if it’s not my ideal scenario. I would like to do one long tour in India and then disappear and make my music. I write on the go but not as well or as much. There are no excuses and you should be able to write anywhere but right now, my comfort zone is writing at home in Delhi.

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  • How did the piano happen?

    That happened a couple of years ago — I always wanted to learn it but I just sucked at it. I am okay at it now and it took me years. After not being able to play for many years, I bought a cheap digital piano two years ago. Then I spent a lot of time at home and learned one cover and then another and then it happened and in six months, I was okay at it. I make music on it too now. It’s not intimidating any more but I am yet to be as comfortable as I am with the guitar — I can close my eyes and play it. I play simple stuff but it’s very, very comfortable, and almost an extension of me. With the piano, I still have to focus a little bit and be careful, especially when I am on stage and a little bit nervous.

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  • You write in both Hindi and English. Was that premeditated?

    It happened organically, and I am pretty sure I think in both languages because I talk in Hindi a lot too. It’s a mental barrier that some people have. There are a few people who can speak Hindi perfectly but say they can’t write as well in the language. But how can you have the vocabulary and not be able to write? It has to be a mental barrier then, right? And growing up, we have consumed so much Hindi music, so how can you not know how to write or express in it? This should be something very normal, really. Literally, the first song I ever wrote while in school was in Hindi, I remember. And after college, I was in a phase when I was watching and listening to a lot of beautiful old Hindi films and music from the ’50s and ’60s, and that got me interested intensely. And when you consume something so intensely, it happens organically. I think it’s very cool that Raat raazi used to be my most popular song, and now cold/mess has taken that place.

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  • What’s your songwriting process like?

    I think all artistes rely on their personal experiences to do what they do. You can’t really help it as all of this happens at a subconscious level. That being said, I started writing because it was a way of catharsis. I would have a sh**ty couple of weeks and then a song would come out. When I get depressed, I sit at the piano and the guitar and play them.

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  • What’s your take on the “indie” tag?

    I try to stay away from the indie tag and I don’t listen to much from India. Historically, “indie” comes from the time when there were just big record labels and then these people started making music independently and put it out to a tiny group of people. But now, I feel it’s more DIY than that. It’s like if you have limited resources, you are indie. If you’re signed with a big label, you’re not. Saavn supported me through the release of cold/mess and a fair amount of resources went into the production, so I don’t think I can call myself indie anymore. Sometimes I get messages like: “I wish nobody discovers you but for me.” And I am like: “Don’t say that! This is my livelihood — I am going to go broke if that happens, so don’t say that!” (Laughs) I remember meeting a digital marketing person to push In Tokens & Charms and he wanted to know if I wanted to push the album to only a limited number of people and keep it really exclusive, cool, and underground. Why would I want to limit my audience? I want everybody to listen to it. You can be indie or whatever but why would you not want anybody to listen to your music. I don’t get the “cool and underground” thing. I look at this as a profession; my job is to make music and I have no business to say who should or should not listen to it. I try to stay true to the craft of songwriting, the process of production, and stay as real. When it’s done, you push it out and try to focus on the business aspect of it because that’s also important. I think there’s this big divide between indie and Bollywood in the heads of some people but frankly, I feel this will become irrelevant in five-six years and the only thing that will matter is good music because of the monopoly in distribution will be gone completely. As long as the project is something I can do justice to, I can make music for anybody.

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  • How has the journey been?

    I still have days when I am like, “What the f**k am I doing?” I had that moment four days ago, in fact! I think it’s existential and I still sometimes think that I suck — I definitely did when I started out. If you listen to my older stuff, it’s horrible! Like Chahe ya na chahe and Voh from Raat raazi were terrible. Now I am okay with calling myself a songwriter, so it’s confusing sometimes. It’s actually hard to say what was hard about my journey. I think it’s dealing with the ups and downs. For three months there’s silence and you’re on the verge of giving up and then suddenly something happens. I am lucky that I have a very supportive family and a group of friends and they were always there for me and whenever I had those moments they would tell me to chill out. It’s an up-and-down cycle.

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  • So at NYU you were still not thinking of becoming a musician?

    I was on the way to becoming an analyst at a bank or a consultant at a firm or something, which I did for six months after college and interned at a bunch of banks and stuff. Music was never a plan at all. I played a bunch of local shows in New York that nobody came for and a few in Delhi — all for fun. My life was going well in college and I used my free time for music. But then I was working this job where I got really frustrated and I hated it and was depressed. I got a termination notice and I was probably going to get fired anyway, so I quit. I came back to India in 2013 and gave music one year and put out Raat raazi in August that year and it did well. I got booked by a bunch of festivals and people started talking about me in the small indie scene, which was a little bit of encouragement. That prompted me to make another record and I had written a bunch of songs and had an English album ready as well.

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  • From a New York University degree in economics and math to cold/mess....

    This is a really silly story but I was failing at guitar in school when I was 14-15 because I had no discipline. My professor called me and said he would switch me to carpentry or something electrical and I freaked out as all my friends were in the guitar class. But then I started taking guitar tuitions outside of school to just pass the exam and then I got really into it and got decent at it in a few months. And when I could play it, I got obsessed with it and started teaching it to myself and ended up playing it a lot over the next two years for several hours a day, every day. I used to jam with my friends and was into metal, which is really fun to play — from a songwriter’s perspective, I don’t get it anymore but from a guitarist’s perspective, I totally get it. The songwriting also happened around the same time when I was trying to write a little alongside but I sucked real bad. Towards the end of school, I wrote a couple of songs that were decent enough to make my friends hear, and in college, I wrote one that I sent to my sister and friends and they sent it to more people. Suddenly, a lot of them were singing it.

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  • What was your personal response to the video(Cold Mess), beyond just being involved in its making?

    By the time I saw the first cut, I was too detached because I had seen it being shot in front of me — the footage, the rushes — and I had already gone through all of the emotions when the record actually came out in August, when it really hit me for a while, though I didn’t see the rushes till November. I have been living this whole process for the past nine months now since we recorded it. So I have reconciled to it at this point. I mean, I had also watched the video obsessively because I was trying to find every tiny mistake and during the eighth or the 10th watch, I cried at some point. And I think it was more because I had been wanting to shoot a video like this for ages and every video I have shot so far has been nice — like the Tum jab paas video was really nice — but shooting on film really did it for me. It just gives it this quality that is very unique and really good and not some half-a** DIY but really professional. You can achieve that with digital as well but this was that plus amazing performances by both the actors, amazing editing, cinematography, it was written well — everything was really good. I wanted it to be like a short film and it ended up being like that. This was the first time I saw a video and did not even share it with anybody for the longest time for any opinion. I was like: “This is great and I know it is. Don’t care what others say so when do we put it out?” And frankly, it did way better than what I expected it to. It reached 600,000 on YouTube in like a week!

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  • How was the experience of shooting the video of cold mess, since you were around for the most part of it?

    You know we did one pool scene and that failed completely because this was all done on a fairly tight budget and we were trying to find the cheapest options possible. So the first pool we found was a really cheap pool, one hour away from Mumbai, and it ended up being a really shady area. We got late and we were going to shoot around midnight and it was shady. So we just had to pack up and leave because there were Zoya and Dar and it wasn’t safe for women. We went there with the lights and the crew and we just had to pack up and leave. The entire video took us five days and we also got so much more footage than is shown in the video and almost everything was nice. There’s a whole 10-minute sequence we shot in a kitchen that did not make it at all, though it was so nice. Aditya is a genius for editing that thing.

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  • What’s the best response you’ve got for the video of cold mess?

    I mean there are so many. I remember I got a message from this girl saying that she saw the video and got back with her boyfriend. There were so many messages and comments. I haven’t been reading anymore because if you look at my Instagram, there are like hundreds of really long, detailed messages in my inbox about how much they love Jim in it and how much they love the song, the video and how it has affected them and how they can’t stop crying. It affected some so intensely that I got a few messages saying, “F**k you, Prateek!” and “F**k you for making this sh*t” — it’s pretty cool! (Laughs) there is bad stuff as well with the trolling.

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  • Whose idea was the casting of Cold Mess?

    So Jim and Zoya (Hussain) are both good friends of Dar and Dheer and so they got them on board. They are also both incredible actors.

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  • And you also appear in the video of cold mess?

    For a second and I was forced to do that! So when that scene was being shot at a nightclub in Lower Parel (Mumbai), I wasn’t there for the first half of the shoot that day. I was there during 85 per cent of the shoot in general because I just wanted to be around. And I think Jim (Sarbh) said: ‘You should be the guy to come and push me away.’ And then Dar and Aditya agreed. But I was like: ‘I cannot act, I don’t know how to do this sh*t, it’s going to be awkward and I am going to look terrible.’ But then I was there and they really pushed me to do it, so I did it and I didn’t really think it would make it to the final edit because it was just one take for three seconds or so. When I saw the first cut, it was there and I was like: ‘Guys, are you sure about this? This thing looks freakin'’ awkward!’ But at the end of the day, it’s their creative call, frankly, with the video. Obviously, it’s collaborative in that sense — if either party really hated something, they would point it out. But there was no conflict at all and this was the only thing I wasn’t sure about and I never liked looking at myself. But then everyone I showed it to liked it, and then I just let it be.

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  • What was your involvement in the making of Cold Mess

    Just the initial concept note and the fact that I wanted to show a very real and basic relationship — two regular people living somewhere, having this issue and having the metaphorical aspect of the underwater stuff and then Dar basically wrote everything. I agreed with her point of view because she basically did what I had envisioned. Even the lemon tart has nothing to do with me. There are a few other personal recurring stuff that I am not sure where they came from, perhaps they are personal to her.

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  • The video of cold/mess has captured the fancy of so many people. Whose idea was it?

    I wanted to represent the record with the album artwork, which is also the same — two people kissing underwater. It was supposed to signify passion and love but suffocation at the same time — that kind of dichotomy — and that’s where it stemmed from. It’s just very real and I wrote the song — it comes from a very personal space and I have a lot of stories associated with that. When we were working on the artwork, that’s how the imagery came up and that is very important for me. The video stemmed from that as well. I wanted to portray a really real toxic relationship and it’s very common actually, which I realised later because so many people told me it happened to them too. The point was to not really show that there was one bad person in it — it wasn’t working for whatever reason and it is inexplicable why. The underwater imagery came with the artwork to metaphorically represent that. I just gave this basic concept to Dar (Ukrainian filmmaker Daria Gaikalova) and she basically wrote a script around it. It’s shot on 16mm film, which is why it has that texture, except the underwater stuff. I just got lucky with an amazing team — Dar, Dheer (producer Dheer Momaya) and Aditya (cinematographer Aditya Varma).

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  • Your biggest pet peeve would be…

    I don’t like the middle seats of the aircraft. If anyone stands really close to me, it starts to bother me. I like my personal space.

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  • Your biggest pet peeve would be…

    I don’t like the middle seats of the aircraft. If anyone stands really close to me, it starts to bother me. I like my personal space.

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  • New York or New Delhi?

    New York, for sure. Delhi’s pollution has really ruined it.

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  • If we were to raid your closet one day, to understand your sense of fashion, what would we find?

    I don’t really have an opinion of, or much of an attachment, to fashion, to be completely honest. I like to wear comfortable clothes and try to be presentable. Somewhere, I like colours in general, and maybe you will find some cool printed shirts in my wardrobe.

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  • Your music videos tell beautiful stories of their own that match magically with the lyrics. What goes on in the making?

    It varies. Sometimes, I leave it all up to the director. In the Cold/Mess music video I was more involved. I had a pretty strong idea of what I wanted. I am not a filmmaker, but I knew I wanted emotions, the underwater scene; some conceptual and metaphorical ideas, that I gave to (writer/director) Dar Gai.

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  • One musician whom you idolize the most.

    There are many… I am a big fan of (American singer-songwriter) Frank Ocean, as a songwriter. I like Kanye West’s work. They are both very relevant and current. And one person I look up to, in terms of his entire body of work, is A R Rahman. I would love to work with him.

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  • How did music happen to you?

    I cannot recall a particular moment when I decided to take up music. It started in school as a hobby, and I was doing it for fun. In college, I started putting in more effort into it. It was only after I returned from New York after completing university, when I was 21-22, that I started doing it seriously and full-time.

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  • You compose songs in both English and Hindi; which one do you prefer?

    I don’t have a preference. I am fully comfortable speaking, thinking, writing, singing in both languages. It is pretty much the same thing for me. It is about the songs, not so much about the language.

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  • Some people time their romantic milestones — breakups and proposals — around the time of your concert. How does that make you feel?

    Do people actually do that? That is ridiculous. If they are doing that and are out there (reading this), please understand that it is extremely stupid.

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  • Your songs often swing between love and longing and heartbreak, why is that? And what goes on in your mind when you sit down to compose a song?

    It’s not like every song I have written is about heartbreak and longing, a fair number of them are. I think people just respond to that stuff, in general. You will see that the most popular songs tend to be sad love songs or party numbers. There are not many happy love songs. And most of my songs that are popular, are about heartbreak. The perception out there is that I only write about one particular thing — that is not completely accurate. And when I sit down to write a song, I write about whatever I feel — sometimes it’s a sad song, sometimes it is a not-so-sad song, it depends. Sometimes, I end up writing about something that is on my mind. Other times, I feel like just writing a song in general, nothing intense. I like writing songs and I want to get better at that

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  • People often say that ‘Prateek Kuhad’ is a genre of music in itself. What do you have to say to that, and what genre would that be?

    It is flattering to know that people are saying that. But, I don’t specifically write music to stand apart. It is just about writing good songs and putting in my best when it comes to recording the track and the production. It is about being serious about the kind of work that I do. And I am grateful that people are finding my songs unique.

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  • Do you prefer outdoor shows or auditorium shows?

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  • What is the craziest compliment that you've got?

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  • How did your journey move on from Baar Baar Dekho to Karwaan?

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  • Which are the artists you look up to?

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  • You've done both, Hindi and English songs. How did you manage to bridge that gap?

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  • What were the songs that you grew up listening to?

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  • How did your journey begin?

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  • Do the lyrics of your songs have something to do with your own life?

    “There’s definitely a part of me in my music because a lot of it comes from my personal life, so I get that a listener may have an image of me that’s introverted, shy, sensitive, romantic, whatever. But there are other sides to me too. I am not all my music. I am sure there’s more to me.”

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  • What according to you, is the most important part of a song?

    “For me, the lyrics come first,” Kuhad said. “That’s the most important. Then, the production. And then, the music.” The melody acts as the vessel to push forward the lyrics for the composer. “Sometimes, melody comes first too,” he said. “Sometimes, I twist the melody depending on a new word that I have changed. So I decide the melody in a way to see how to deliver this new word better.”

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  • A lot of people call your music the “perfect break-up music.” Does that bother you?

    Not really, because that tag keeps changing since it’s based on your most popular song or record. I have songs that are cheerful and romantic as well but they’re just not as popular, ‘cold/mess’ is the most popular. And that is is a quintessential break-up song for sure. So that tag got stuck. But a song like ‘Tum Jab Paas’ is a happy, cute song. Everything from the video to the words of the song. But since ‘cold/mess’ has taken over, the whole image changed. But I don’t really care as long as I get to make good songs and people like them.

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  • How do you think the Indie scene has grown in India?

    It’s definitely better. The scale is better so there’s relatively more professionalism. Just the fact that this tour is happening and Zee is supporting me just goes to show that there is commercial promise in this. Also, musicians are blooming, studios are getting better along with a lot of other things. So yeah, the scene is growing in every aspect.

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  • What is your goal when you write a song? Hoping people relate to it or do people just happen to connect to what you’re saying?

    People just happen to relate to it. Because I started writing for myself. I mean, I still write for myself. But it all started off as a way for me to release and was cathartic and therapeutic. Now, it’s become more of a craft and less of that. And that’s simply because I’m just emotionally at a better place in life right now. But I still run everything through my internal barometer on what a song means. Because it’s impossible to know what people will like. So I believe in writing and releasing songs that I think is good, beyond anything else.

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  • Your music videos aren’t just you simply sitting on a stool playing a guitar. They’re artistic, beautifully shot and have mini-stories hidden within them. So do you feel a need to express your music visually in the best way possible? Is that something that’s important to you?

    It depends on the song. With ‘cold/mess’ I had a very strong narrative in my head already because for me that whole project was a lot more special than all my other stuff. It was the most personal project I’ve ever done. So I had a lot of imagery which I wanted to express. With a lot of my other stuff, it’s not like that. ‘Tum Jab Paas’ also had a really meaningful video, but I never imagined it to be like that. But the director, Reema Sengupta, came up with that concept completely and I just thought it was really cool. So it just depends on the song for me.

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  • Tell something about your songwriting process. How does a Prateek Kuhad song come into existence?

    There’s no set process as such. It just depends on how I feel and what I’m writing on. If I’m writing commercially for a film or show, then there are structures, because it’s more focused and built towards the emotion of the project I’m writing for. If I’m writing for myself, it’s just free thought. Sometimes I get a chorus and build around that while sometimes it just starts with a few words.

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  • Prateek Kuhad has shifted from writing songs on guitar to writing songs on piano. Is there any difference and what was the main reason behind doing it?

    “The songwriting process for the piano doesn’t change from how it is with the guitar,” Kuhad spoke of the change in his instrument of choice. “But how I wrote songs become different. Majorly, though, it helped me get out of a rut. After three-four years of guitar, just hearing my new work began to feel like deja vu. With Little Things, since I just knew this has to be a piano song, I sat on the piano and it happened naturally.”

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  • What was your concept behind the songs of Karwaan and Little Things?

    “The concept was to make a song around the difficult things in a relationship that blows up and become tough and complicated as they grow, These are things we don’t want to talk about but we should.”

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  • What are the things that you keep in mind while making music?

    The trademark wispy vocals, the sublime musical arrangements, and the conscious attempt to keep the song’s inherent sentimentality have been a steady accompaniment in Kuhad’s music.

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