Prateek Kuhad: I support inclusiveness, which is the intent behind the anti-CAA, NRC protests

The singer-songwriter, who was in Bengaluru, also talks about being on Obama’s list, whether he enjoys touring now, and writing as catharsis

2019 was a good year for singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad by his own admission. The thing that capped it off? His song ‘cold/mess’ appearing on former US President Barack Obama’s list of favourite music of the year. The 29-year-old, who has won numerous awards, including an MTV Europe Music Award, and whose last EP, cold/mess (2018), topped the iTunes India all-genre album chart, has also written and composed songs for Bollywood films Baar Baar Dekho and Karwaan, and Netflix series Little Things.

Looking relaxed in a black tee, black shorts and sneakers, Prateek sits down for a chat with MetroPlus before the Zee Live Supermoon concert in Bengaluru on January 22. Forthcoming and articulate, he speaks on a variety of subjects from being on ‘that’ list, the anti-CAA and NRC protests, to writing as catharsis and whether he enjoys touring now.

Edited excerpts:

‘Cold/mess’ making it to Obama’s list. Did that feel like the pinnacle or did you have a far more restrained reaction?

It was a cool thing that happened. I wouldn’t say it is the pinnacle of everything. It is always nice to get any sort of shout-out from somebody as influential as him. But I think things had already been building up to that point. There was a bunch of stuff that happened through December of that year and in 2019, which was monumentally as big for my career, if not bigger. A week before, we had sold out a 9,000 capacity venue in Delhi on a cold night. That does not happen in India a lot.

‘Just write'
  • This idea of waiting for inspiration to strike is a fallacy. I think that's what artistes who are lazy use as an excuse to not write. Writing or any sort of artistic expression, first and foremost, is discipline, craft and work. You might not write amazing songs every single day but you can write. I think my job as a songwriter is to write as many songs as I can and I like doing it so why wouldn't I? Constructing a false reality around you and seeking inspiration is also not the right approach. Inspiration may or may not come but what stays for sure is your own set of skills that you have built through work and discipline. That’s the only thing in your control and that's what every creative person should aim at doing.

The six-song EP cold/mess is referred to as your ‘break-up album’. Can you take us through the song-writing process?

The title song was written at the end of 2015 and I was touring with it. The EP was recorded in 2018 in Nashville, US. The thing is that it is not that black and white. People think that you have a break-up, you write a bunch of songs and then you move on to the next thing. It doesn’t happen like that. I wrote a lot of songs when I was in that relationship and after it also. It was rocky, there were a lot of breaks. I wrote about other things also during that time. Because at the end of the day, it is not just completely personal or driven by writing in a mechanical way. There is a certain skill I have in terms of crafting a song and making a record that I have learned over the years. That is the main thing that enables you to write a song and finish it. The emotional aspect and whatever of your personal life that creeps in is not really controlled. I could write a song today about my break-up seven years ago. It is possible because you could be going through those feelings that day.

So, it’s not like you write about it and it is catharsis...

I used to think it is catharsis and it is, but not in the way that it helps to heal. It is catharsis just in the way that you expend that energy for that moment. It is like a distraction. It’s not necessarily that you write 20 songs about a break-up and ‘you’re like okay I’m over it’. It’s not that black and white. You feel better for the moment, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, it makes it worse because you are reminded of all that stuff.

Prateek Kuhad: I support inclusiveness, which is the intent behind the anti-CAA, NRC protests

Are you more comfortable touring and enjoy being on stage now?

I am definitely more comfortable playing live. I started off as a writer for years before I started touring. What I really loved was being alone in my room and just writing, finishing a song, polishing it, and then getting in the studio and waiting for that end result. The journey is what I really enjoy. Touring came up later because you have to do it. As an artiste, especially the kind of music I do which is live and singer-songwriter, you have to play those shows. It is also a great way to build your fans and spread your music. Also people who listen to your music want to listen to it live. So, I started touring and it started getting intense. That’s really the tough part. Being in the studio, sometimes I can’t believe I am getting paid for this. But the playing live is the part that kind of balances it out because it is very taxing. But over the years I have got used to it. It is better planned and I have a better team around me to smoothen out the rough edges and uncertainties. It’s still hard but I am more comfortable being on stage. I still love writing more but I don’t hate touring as much as I did.

You were scheduled to perform in Bengaluru in December but it was cancelled as Section 144 was imposed owing to the anti-CAA and NRC protests. What are your thoughts on the issue?

I don’t really have a very concrete opinion on it. I went to one of the protests in Delhi at Shaheen Bagh. I think the spirit of the protest itself is lovely. It is heart-warming actually because it is just people getting together and helping each other out. Obviously, the true intent behind the protests, which is basically inclusiveness, is something I support strongly. But, I think the CAA, the technicalities of the Act itself and the complications of the population and politics in this country are just way too complex to discuss in a small interview.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:28:14 PM |

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