Stepping About with Tushar Mathur: An Interview

1 May

Bangalore-based Tushar Mathur has made quite a splash in the short time since he’s gone solo. With two singles out already, “Mend” and “Groove Pool”, he’s earned a sizable following for his signature chill R&B sound and sharp production quality. He’s been featured on BBC, VH1 and countless media publications for his fresh and unique sound.

But as laid-back and breezy as his music may sound, Tushar Mathur’s work ethic is quite the opposite. In launching his music career, he’s learned to don many hats: songwriter, producer, video editor and social media manager, to name a few. Fittingly enough, his upcoming track “Stepping About”, talks about our generation’s struggle to strike a balance between hustle culture and self-care. The track features Shayan Roy, a Mumbai-based rapper and producer of Buzzfeed fame and releases on May 1st.

We sat down with Tushar Mathur last week for a detailed chat about his music, his influences and what it means to be a musician in the social media age.

Tell us about yourself!

Let’s start with the name. My name is Tushar Mathur and I’m originally from Coimbatore. I’m a chemical engineer. I finished my degree and didn’t want to pursue engineering at all. I moved to Bangalore around three years ago to do music full time.

I have a band that mainly plays blues-rock, and now I’m working on launching my solo career. The song I’m coming out with, “Stepping About”, is my third single; “Mend” and “Groove Pool” were my first two tracks and they released last year.

We really enjoyed your first two tracks! What made you interested in music? What would you say is the starting point for you?

The starting point for me, I’d say, is my family. I have a very musical family. My parents and grandparents sing Hindustani classical music. But the moment I really got interested in English music was when my brother went to Jaipur for his summer vacation and he came back with a CD. That CD had 12 tracks – mostly hits by Guns and Roses and Deep Purple. We’d sit down and listen to that CD on repeat, the entire day. That sparked an interest in me and I took it forward from there.

My dad also used to play a lot of John Denver and country music around the house. I grew up listening to a lot of guitar-centric music. My brother would also introduce me to a lot of metal and rock. My music has been centred around the guitar ever since.

So would you say these are your primary influences? Or has this evolved as you’ve evolved as an artist? What would you say your main influences are now?

Right now, I’m hugely inspired by Tom Misch. He’s a guitarist and producer from London. My music has been hugely inspired by him- the style that I have now is mainly because of how much Tom Misch I listen to. Another recent influence of mine has been FKJ. When I start touring and playing live, my idea is to incorporate a lot of loop work onstage. FKJ has sort of been a pioneer in that field.

Your first two tracks feel so effortless and breezy! How was the process of writing, producing and releasing these songs?

My first track Groove Pool” is about an introvert at a party who wants to let loose. I’m not exactly why I wrote about it.. I’m not usually an introvert, but maybe I felt that way and just wanted to write about it. (Laughs)

My writing always starts off with simple guitar work. I usually start with a basic chord structure and build on top of that. The vocals, for me, usually come at the end. I tend to work on all the instruments and then sit down at the end of the day with the finished instrumentals, and write the lyrics and put in a nice vocal melody. That’s my process.

“Mend” was pretty similar. Groove Pool was released in July 2019 and Mend was out by November 2019. “Mend” was special because I worked quite hard on the music video for it. I had dancers, directors and photographers coming in so that took quite some time, but I’m happy with the result.

And how has the reception been for these tracks?

It’s been great! The songs have been on BBC Radio, both my videos were featured on VH1, and I’ve been featured on radio stations across the world. The response has been phenomenal, and people have been so supportive!

As a musician who’s transitioned between cities, how would you say the Bangalore scene compares to the Coimbatore scene?

The scene in Coimbatore is basically non-existent, which is why I moved to a city like Bangalore. Even before, we’d always travel to Bangalore for shows and competitions with my band. Bangalore has always been a great place for music; there are always people who play and appreciate different styles of music, especially when it comes to English music. Coimbatore’s scene is slowly developing as well, but the live music culture is yet to pick up. I’d say Bangalore is a hundred times better, in that aspect.

It must be an interesting experience to have to release music during this pandemic. Has it been a challenge to work on and promote your new track in these times?

I’ve actually been working on this third song for the last six months. It’s been a very long process. I’m usually very picky about my music, and with “Stepping About”, I was even more particular. It’s about our generation’s battle between hustle culture and self-care. Productivity has become a measure of self-worth, and it took me a while to gather my thoughts and pen them down, given how much this affects our generation.

The pandemic hasn’t really affected my release schedule- I’d say I’ve been going about my work as usual. Whenever I release music, I give myself an entire month to promote. I’ve been doing what I’ve done for every song. But I think during this pandemic, a lot of people are sitting at home and consuming more content than they usually would. I don’t think it’ll negatively affect the reception of the song per se; but my touring and live sets have definitely been impacted.

Even though it wasn’t written recently, the song’s subject matter seems more fitting than ever.

Somehow it’s become very relevant. Even in this situation, everyone’s constantly doing something, or learning something new. People of our generation constantly make themselves feel bad about not being productive enough, and that’s something I had felt six months ago when I came up with this song as a concept. It’s suddenly become way more relevant to the situation that’s going on right now.

Your track also features Shayan Roy, who’s popular for his viral Buzzfeed videos and his burgeoning rap career. How did this collab happen, and how was it working with Shayan?

I was looking for a rapper for my track. I got in touch with a lot of people but it wasn’t working out. Somehow I came across Shayan and I just sent him an email. That’s all I did. I attached my track and told him “Your part would be between these timestamps”, and asked if he’d be interested in laying something down for me. He actually got back to me instantly saying he loved the track and he would give it a shot.

It was that easy! A lot of people have asked me this: “How did you end up working with Shayan? How did this happen?” I’ve actually never met him- this has entirely been through email, Instagram and WhatAapp. And this all happened because of a single email. People don’t realize how important an email can be. That’s how I’ve got VH1, BBC and interviews like this.

You seem like quite the hustler!

(Laughs) Technically yes. It sounds a bit ironic that I’m writing a song about self-care. You’re right, I do hustle, and I do a lot of things. But there are times when I feel that I do need to chill out and take it easy. This song is to remind me to take a break. One of the lines actually is “At times I need to chill out” – that’s me telling myself I need to chill. So it’s very relatable to me and kind of a message to myself.

I’m always telling people to take it easy, but my friends tell me that I don’t follow my own advice and that I’m constantly doing something or the other. So I think that this song would be good for me as well, as a reminder that sometimes, I should take it easy.

Do you find it challenging to be a musician at this time? Between the music, the promotions and the social media, it feels like you’re doing the work of a three or four-member team!

That’s true, but the thing is: I love doing this! The music part is amazing, of course, but I believe that if you’re a musician, you need to see that music is a business. I think a lot of newer musicians think they’re above everybody, and think “I’m not going to learn how to promote myself, who wants to do that?” or “I’m just going to send this song out to a couple of my friends and it’ll blow up on its own.”

But I feel that with the music industry nowadays, the actual music makes up 30-40% of your success- the remaining 70% is just marketing and promotion. You might write the best song in the world, but if nobody’s going to hear it then what’s the point?

You’re right, it definitely is a three-person job, but I enjoy it, and I find the producing, marketing and promotion aspect of it extremely interesting.

Do you produce all your own tracks? How did you get into that?

Yeah, I’ve produced all my own tracks. I’m such a fidgety person, the type that loves to mess around with controls and buttons for hours, and that’s how I got into producing. I have a friend called Sandeep who’d take my calls and kind of guide me through some of the questions I had, but apart from that there’s always YouTube and Google. You can literally learn anything on the internet! This was essentially a product of me having a lot of time on my hands and being able to sit down and figure out how to achieve different sounds.

There was another advantage of getting into producing. I was already a musician at that point. Earlier, when we’d jam, I’d know what I want from the sound. Now it’s become easier to achieve that sound on my own and manage the different aspects of the final product. It’s given me more control over my music, in a way.

So you’re a self-taught musician as well as a producer!

I actually did go to guitar classes for a year, but I didn’t like it back then. It was mainly Carnatic stuff, and all I wanted to do was play Zeppelin. So yeah, I’d say I’m self-taught.

I’ve also taught myself video editing- all the videos you see are edited by me. I also take up a couple of freelance projects on the side, to support myself financially.

Wow, so it’s more like you’re doing the work of a six-member team!

Yeah I do quite a lot, you’re right. But I really enjoy the whole process.

RAPID FIRE:
Top Five Desert Island Album/Songs:

1. Beat Tape 1 by Tom Misch

2. Geography by Tom Misch

3. Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd

4. Led Zepellin 1 by Led Zepellin

5. My own music!

What are you currently listening to?

I really make use of Spotify’s daily mix feature- lots of times I’m not really sure who the artists even are!

I’ve been very excited about FKJ’s new album, Tom Misch’s stuff and this artist called Raveena.

Describe your sound in two words.

Let’s make it three: Smooth. Like. Butter. (Laughs)

What’s been your favourite gig? And why?

My favourite gig is actually my very first one. I had a gig back in Coimbatore, in this Punjabi Association that we were a part of and my dad had pushed us to go play a show there. A lot of my friends and family were at the show, and they still fondly recall the gig to this day. That was the first-ever time I got up on stage to perform and it felt magical- it’s my most cherished performance that I’ve given.

Dream collab?

Tom Misch, if I could, but I wouldn’t be able to function if that happened. If not him, then I’d really like to collaborate with a Hindi rapper – maybe Divine (I love his style) or Raja Kumari.

Is there anyone you’d like to shout out for helping you along the way?

I’d like to shout out my friend Pavithra. She’s been with me the entire way, and she’s supported me throughout!

You can visit Tushar’s website here for more information. His music is available wherever you regularly stream music. Listen to “Stepping About” now!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: