In Chennai for a house gig, Prateek Kuhad talks about cold/mess, Karwaan, and his musical inspirations
Prateek Kuhad’s social media pages are filled with fans gushing over his music, sharing how his songs have helped them overcome depression and anxiety. Popular comments say that ‘Prateek Kuhad’ should be declared as a mood and there’s no surprise why.
The Jaipur-born New Delhi-based artiste has a penchant for strong melodies. His vocal-led songs, backed by minimalistic guitar lines with its sing-along quality can easily get stuck in anyone’s head. Dreamy and evocative at the same time, his honest storytelling approach makes his songs feel very intimate and personal. The indie folk singer-songwriter recently released cold/ mess, his first EP in three years (after Tokens and Charms in 2015) in an unconventional way. Sans any promotions, he mailed the album directly to his fans last month, further asking them to announce it. And now, instead of doing the usual launch tour, the 28-year-old is now spending ten days, starting August 6, doing intimate house gigs across 10 cities including Chennai, Goa, Hyderabad, Nagpur, among others. Having chosen cities where he doesn’t perform often, his gig in the city had only 20 spots available, all of which got sold out right after he announced it.
Just like his songs, Prateek likes to keep things simple and, admittedly, house gigs are his favourite way to perform. “I really like to play my songs in intimate settings. I feel like it’s a win-win situation for the listeners and the performer both,” says the 28-year-old artiste, who added that he would rather play for an intimate set to 20 people in a room than to a thousand people in a large venue with a complicated sound setup. Having shot to fame with Kho Gaye from the movie Baar Baar Dekho (2016), Prateek takes a step beyond his acoustic folk roots and ventures into a rather dreamy pop and rock territory with his latest. However, he says, he doesn’t really think of music as genres anymore. "Being a songwriter, it’s less about the genre for me and more about the song itself,” he adds. Having decided to pursue music after graduating from the New York University, Prateek released his debut single in 2011 and later came up with his first EP, Raat Razi in 2013.
Honesty is key
Within a month since its release, cold/mess has become the newest Indian independent music release to top the iTunes India all-genre album chart. The six-track EP follows a loose narrative that reflects different stages of an intense relationship. Calling it a breakup album, he says it is the most honest bit of songwriting he has ever done. While revealing that the tracks describe fragments of his past relationship, he says that the backstory is too personal for him to spell out. Calling his songwriting process intuitive, natural and free, Prateek, who works most of his songs using piano and guitar, says his lyrics are mostly born out of self-reflection. Talking about his musical inspiration, he says, “Although there are many who have inspired me, American singer-songwriter, Elliott Smith is one of the first artistes who got me into songwriting."
Having recently contributed a couple of songs to the soundtrack for Akarsh Khurana’s Karwaan, he says his foray into film music composing was a great experience. “Creatively, it was quite great. I personally only dealt with Akarsh who was lovely to work with. If any worthwhile film projects come my way, I will surely take it up,” he adds. However, Prateek feels that the way most film music contracts are structured in India is quite unfair to the artistes. “I think the ownership of the songs needs to remain with artistes and not with labels — that doesn’t make sense to me. I would hope for that to change before jumping into another project,” he shares. After Chennai, this Sunday, he will be performing in Guwahati on the 13th followed by Kolkata, Lucknow, and Chandigarh.