A little tenderness: Siddhartha Khosla's haunting ballad for This is Us

As fans of the TV drama This is Us swear by Siddhartha Khosla’s haunting score, the composer speaks about a sense of emotional honesty in his music.

author_img   |   Published :   |  23rd March 2017 02:48 PM
Siddhartha Khosla

Siddhartha Khosla

Easily one of the most emotionally laden shows in recent times, the TV drama This is Us is also making news for its track We Can Always Come Back To Us, by composer Siddhartha Khosla, frontman of the New York band, Goldspot. A sweeping tale of life and death in the modern age, the show follows the connections of a bunch of people who all share the same birthday, although they are similar and different in many ways. While the song is a soulful lament that rekindles the golden years of
soul and R&B, Siddhartha speaks about channeling mixed Western and Indian sensibilities in his music.

How personal was We Can Always Come Back To Us for you? There's a great deal of soul in it, and as a ballad, it's quite moving.

Much like our fans, I've become heavily invested in these characters. So, yes, writing that song was deeply personal to me, as it was about William's journey, his beginning, and ultimately, his end. Knowing that he'd be leaving us in this episode was especially heartbreaking, and I channeled that heartbreak through the song. Show creator Dan Fogelman, and directors John Requa and Glen Ficarra wanted it to feel like a classic Motown song, something that legendary soul record label Stax Records might have released. And I think we accomplished that.

Poster image of This Is Us

Did you shed a tear when you played the song for the first time? What is it like to be channeling that manner of emotional depth, and what does it take, to convey that sense in a piece of music?

Dan, Glen, John, and I knew we had something really special here with this song. I did cry, but it was only after seeing the song set against Glen and John's visuals. Honestly, that emotional depth is about the song as much as it is the script, the acting, and direction. The sum of all of those elements really hit an emotional nerve, one I've never quite felt before.

What does it mean for you, in terms of success, for the song to officially be ranked as one of the top 20 tunes on iTunes?

To have a song that charted alongside Bruno Mars and Adele was surreal. The song charted across various formats, too - R&B, hip-hop, blues, rock - and that was incredibly gratifying. With a show as critically and commercially successful as This Is Us, the stage was already set, so credit goes to the show first. But the key was making sure the song was right, and the performance top-notch. Easily one of the highlights of my career.

You've spoken about your mixed musical preferences before - from the songs of Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi to The Beatles. Is there an aspect of songwriting, and perhaps, vocal traditions, that connects your favourite music?

The key for me is emotional honesty. When a performance of a song feels genuine and honest, I believe it, and then ultimately love it. All the artists you mention do it for me.

Siddhartha Khosla

There's a strong "home-away-from-home" sensibility in your music, even as the Goldspot genre is described variously as indie/alternative pop-rock to "retro filmi". How do these elements come together for you?

As a child, I moved around a lot, from the US to India, back to the US, and then to different cities in the US - all before the age of 5. There is something in me that is always searching for that sense of home, that comfort of being home. And when I'm my most honest and vulnerable in my music, that sentiment comes out. I can't describe how it all comes together, except that it does naturally and organically.

Are there any Indian bands on your playlist? Do you actively seek to bridge Indian and Western sensibilities in your compositions?

I don't actively seek to bridge those sensibilities - it's a natural part of who I am, and part of discovering my identity as a first-generation Indian American. As far as Indian bands go, there are many great ones out there. I haven't been exposed to enough of them. There are a lot of Goldspot fans who send me their own music, and some it is great.

In India, for long, film scores and soundtracks have always found more popularity than solo acts and bands. How do you see this aspect gradually changing, what with newer platforms by way of reality TV and talent shows, from the school and college level?

Technology has redefined how we discover music. In the past, especially in India, film was the way audiences found their music. But now, with so many mediums through which we discover art, we've become less and less reliant on traditional forms of entertainment, to inform what we listen to and how we listen to it. And it's a good thing, as we're discovering really interesting music and art that previously might never have seen the light of day.

A note on balancing commercial work - the jingles and soundtracks, with live gigs and studio albums. Financial aspects aside, is there a thread of thought that unites your musical experiments? Do you approach the OSTs differently than say, the studio recordings?

I approach every musical project as if I'm meticulously making an album. I put every ounce of myself I can into the work. I treat every project with excitement, as if it's the first piece of music I've ever made, and also with a commitment to making the best possible art I can, as if it's the last thing I ever do.

The finale episode of This Is Us will air in India this Saturday, March 18th at 10 pm on Star World Premiere HD.