Most renowned for his song, “Coffee”, we sat down with one of the indie scene’s rising stars in Akshit Dhall. A wonderful person through and through, we dive into the music and the man behind the music with ten open questions.
1. Give us a brief background of yourself? How did you start your musical journey?
AD: I’m from Haryana and I’m currently pursuing engineering from Bharti Vidyapith in Pune. I started learning music when I was 6 or 7 years old. I was very notorious and was sent to the music teachers that lived near my home to learn Hindustani Classical music to channel my energy into something positive.
I continued for a few years but decided to end it after a few years. That’s not what I wanted to do back then. I was not really into music until I was in 9th grade when I picked up a guitar and managed to learn it by myself.
- How did you start creating music?
AD: I started writing songs in the 10th standard. Those songs were intended to be mine, they were just for me.
By the time I reached 12th, I realized that I wanted to be a musician. However, I wasn’t sure if it would work out. So, my mom took me to a few musicians in the city. They all told me that it wasn’t worth it and that you couldn’t do much being a musician. I was disappointed but had not given up.
In 2018, I was in college, the head of the band, Mr. Achal Nayyar was holding auditions and asked me what made me different from the rest. I played him my originals and he was quite impressed by them. He motivated me a lot and pushed me to pursue music.
Being selected, I participated in every fest and met a lot of great musicians. In 2019, I made a pact with myself to sing my originals to one new person every single day.
Mr. Naiyar helped me release my first single, Stay in the same year. I worked on my EP afterward.
- We heard you curated an entire India tour all by yourself. Tell us the story about it.
AD: I was discovered by a band called Friedelcraft, and they asked me to open for them in the UK. I was very excited to have a gig abroad, but unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get a Visa.
After that, I told myself that I had to do something big.
I had a gig in Mumbai and then in Pune and decided that I’d play the Secret House Concert when I got back to my hometown of Rohtak in Haryana. It was a bit random, but I searched for venues online and texted, called, and mailed them about allowing me to play.
I learned a lot from the first tour, and I was paid very little. I was just looking for some audience at that point. However, the second India tour was much better than the first. By then I had a decent profile and had a few originals out as well.
- What was the hardest part of touring the entire country all by yourself?
AD: One of the hardest parts was the economical factor. I was paid very little on the first India tour and had to play commercial gigs to support myself. On the other hand, it was a very hectic venture. I had three separate venues on three consecutive days (Rohtak, Chandigarh, and Pune) and the timing was very packed, which gave me a lot of trouble in the beginning.
A lot of artists can’t perform very well if they don’t get enough sleep, and it applies to me as well. It was difficult getting enough sleep while playing in different cities every day.
- How did you make the transition to classical music to Western Music?
AD: I didn’t know much about English music before I started listening to Linkin Park in the 9th standard, and it changed everything. I listened to more and more artists and was drawn in.
On the 10th, when I started writing, every song turned out to be in English and I just couldn’t write in Hindi. As of now, I’m taking formal vocal lessons with a teacher who helps me out with that as well.
- Do you think writing in English puts your music at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the music scene in India?
AD: I thought about that earlier this year, and I’m working on writing music in Hindi now. There are plans of releasing an EP in about two months which will be totally in Hindi. I’m a bilingual songwriter now.
- You’re quite vocal about mental health issues on your social media. What are your views on it?
AD: Though I’m not a preacher, there are a lot of things that I see around me that I feel are wrong. I try to convey that message through my songs so that my audience gets to know. In Pune, things are so busy that you barely get a chance to look outside and think.
Now, during the lockdown, I’ve started noticing that people aren’t focused on mental health. A lot of people aren’t even aware that mental health is important. I came across the concept that a happy childhood leads to a person becoming confident.
I also believe that it is important to positively confront kids about their mistakes instead of dealing with them negatively.
- As an artist, how do you think your music impacts your audience, and in turn, society?
AD: Everybody can write about topics like love. While I’ve written songs about it myself, I believe I’m at that point where I want to convey messages through my songs that most songwriters avoid. I want to make changes in society through my music, even if they are extremely small in stature.
When bands like Linkin Park played to so many people, I always used to think that they have such a great reach. Even if 10% of people believe what they’re saying, they can have such a positive impact on society.
I feel like it is my responsibility to inform people about the things that are going wrong in and around us.
- If there was one artist that you’d like to be compared with, who would it be?
AD: I don’t believe that you can compare art. So, I don’t think that I’d like to be compared with any other artist because it’s not a meritocracy.
- What’s your favorite memory as a musician?
AD: It has to be Sofar, Bangalore. It was my last show before lockdown. I remember walking into the room and I saw Samar Mehdi, whom I am a big fan of. The thing about Sofar is that you don’t know who you’re playing with until you’re in the room.
So, when I walked out I was excited that I got to be on stage with one of the artists that I admire. On top of that, he complimented me on my performance, and people sang along to my songs as well. It was great.