by ASJAD NAZIR.
‘Making music that Echoes my life’
ONE of the most interesting careers in Hindi cinema is that of Farhan Akhtar – who has gone from being an ace writer and director to an award-winning actor and a successful singer.
That amazing journey into brand new territories continued last month when the multi-talented star launched his first English language single, Rearview Mirror, which is taken from his debut album, Echoes.
These songs are aimed at the global market and come ahead of his hotly anticipated UK concerts in November.
Farhan was in full preparation mode for his British concerts when Eastern Eye caught up with him to talk about music, his newsingle, recently launched career-path and upcoming shows.
Most people are happy being successful in one discipline, whether it’s acting, film making, singing, writing or composing, but you explore all of them and more. Where does that come from?
I think just from the need to keep expressing in some kind of way. Sometimes it leads me to wanting to write a script, sometimes it draws me to a character and sometimes it makes me want to write music and sing songs.
You are good at multiple things, but in terms of personal passions where does music fit in?
It is pretty much right on the top. It is probably more a first love of mine than before I got excited about films, so it truly is up there.
Do you remember your first connection to music?
It was The Beatles. My mum had an extensive record collection and they really did stand out for me as a kid. I loved listening to their music. The other person whose music and songs I loved listening to was Kishore Kumar.
Who are your musical influences?
It is difficult to tell, but when people hear the music and those who have heard the album feel that it, at times, is reminiscent of a certain artist from times past. But I guess it is a sub-conscious reflection of that.
The film songs you have done have been hits. What made you decide to do English songs?
This is material I have been writing for roughly the past two and-a-half years. I really did feel strongly that I wanted to share this material because it pretty much talks about what my life has been like in that period of time. So I found it slightly cathartic to share what was going on with me.
Why did you choose Rearview Mirror as the first song?
It wasn’t purely just my decision. I was happy for the album to be out, but people who have a better understanding in terms of the music business today recommended going with a couple of singles before we drop the album. It was a collective decision of the opinion of people I trust, and then I felt, given the kind of sound being played on radio today within the UK, it would probably be a nice place to start.
Tell us about the new album?
With any artist, when they record music that is truly their own, what you can expect is honesty and I do hope people will recognise that. Because it really has come from a place of dropping all facades and walls, and really speaking about what is inside of me.
You have gone really deep with the lyrics and emotions in your English language material.
I did not feel that it was too much. I did feel the things that I am feeling; it cannot be that I am the only person who has felt this way. And, somehow, music has always had that healing property – whatever I have gone through, over the years. When you hear a song that resonates, you realise you are not alone in feeling a certain way. I felt that it would be wonderful if my music could do that for someone. So I did feel it was important to share it.
What was the biggest challenge of putting the album together?
It was finding the right person to produce the album, because I wanted it to be as close to the kind of music I had when I played the guitar, when I recorded it as an acoustic song. I wanted it to have the same feeling when it was produced again. Tommaso (Colliva), who I finally connected with after connecting with two of three producers, really did get it.
He understood that it is about storytelling and not to focus too much on the technicality of the music. You know, to focus a lot more on the emotion. That, for me, was a process. Finding him was the best thing that could happen.
It is correct to say you are trying to connect with emotions ahead of any age demographic?
With music, it is basic human emotions we are talking about here, it’s nothing too complicated. So I feel the age doesn’t really matter. Of course, a certain experience in life does matter. I feel that people who have experience in love or even heartbreak will understand where these songs are coming from.
It’s an unfair question, but is there one track on the album that is closest to your heart?
(Laughs). That is an unfair question, Asjad. But I think the song that I have probably lived with the longest, which is the only one on the album that was written over 20 years ago, is Seagull. That will be the next single to come out. That, to me, just as a thought and something I have experienced, has lived with me the longest, so that maybe gives it a special place. But they are all special, so it’s very difficult to choose one.
How much has live performing helped you evolve as an artist?
It has, tremendously. There is a certain level of giving you the belief, empowering you and giving you the confidence to express yourself the way you really would like to. I think being on stage has done that for me.
If I think the first time I went on stage – when we were promoting the first Rock On in 2008 – to how I feel when I am on stage now, I really feel like a completely new person.
How much are you looking forward to the UK concerts and what can we expect?
To me, it is really important the crowd has a really fun night, so that is all I focus on. It is my film journey predominantly, from Dil Chahta Hai till Lucknow Central. We play all the hits; there are stories behind the songs, poetry from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and more. So all of that is kind of packaged together.
We really want people to have a memorable evening. We do realise that it isn’t cheap to go buy a ticket and watch somebody’s work you have enjoyed. So I do feel that it is important for me the audience has a great time and goes back with great memories. That is an important part of the performance.
A lot of singers do cover versions of classics. Are there any you love singing?
I haven’t really done that on stage yet. The closest I ever came to doing a cover on set was the first time I played in Chennai I did a song tribute to AR Rahman because he is from that city. But, apart from that, I have not felt the need to do any covers, but you never know – there is time between now and November. We will work out some details on the set before we arrive.
What music dominates your playlist?
I am pretty liberal with things that I listen to. Because of my mum, I have never closed my heart to listening to any kind of music. She had a very varied taste in music.
Now, apart from things that make me feel nostalgic, there is also music that my kids are listening to. They are way hungrier in terms of discovering new artists than I am right now. So they keep sharing playlists with me. I keep listening to stuff they share.
You have shown talent in so many creative fields. Is there anything else you will surprise us with, like are you also a great painter?
(Laughs) I don’t think that is going to happen unless really bad art starts selling. If anything new does happen, it will probably still remain within the writing space, whether it emerges in the form of a book or perhaps a play, who knows. But I have a feeling it will be within the writing space, if at all. I would imagine that is where my heart remains, with the writing.
Finally, what inspires you?
Watching good work and listening to good music. Spending time with my kids keeps me inspired and also keeps me wanting to like somehow be involved in creating a better society where I live. That keeps me going. So, predominantly, my kids, when I see them I see that it is important for me to stay focused and create as good a world as I can for them.
- Farhan Akhtar will be performing live at De Montfort Hall in Leicester next Friday (2) and at Indigo At The O2 in London next Sunday (4). Visit www.ticketmaster.co.uk and Twitter: @FarOutAkhtar