EXCL: Sid Sriram returns to the Echoes of Earth music festival and we catch up with him for a quick tête-à-tête

Born in Chennai, Sid’s musical journey began at the age of three when he immersed himself in the South Indian classical tradition of carnatic music
Sid Sriram
Sid Sriram

Be it Deva Deva from Brahmastra, Inkem Inkem Inkem Kaavaale from Geetha Govindam, Samajavaragamana from Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, Kadalalle from Dear Comrade, Maruvaarthai from Enai Noki Paayum Thota or Srivalli from Pushpa: The Rise; few voices have resonated as profoundly and enchanted audiences quite like Sid Sriram’s. Over the years, the American-raised Indian carnatic music producer, playback singer and songwriter has woven delicate musical threads into a tapestry of melodies that have gone into tracks that were always played on loop, added into the hottest playlists besides becoming social media sensations. In an era where musical genres collide and boundaries blur, Sid Sriram’s ability to fuse carnatic traditions with contemporary sounds is nothing short of magic.

Born in Chennai, Sid’s musical journey began at the age of three when he immersed himself in the South Indian classical tradition of carnatic music. However, his exploration didn’t stop there; he delved into the realms of jazz, R&B and soul, discovering a rich tapestry of influences that would later shape his distinctive style. His breakout hit in 2016, marked by the haunting melody of Thalli Pogathey from the Tamil film Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada alongside AR Rahman, propelled him into the spotlight, earning him recognition as one of the most bankable playback singers in the Tamil and Telugu film industries. The artiste has only looked forward since then and gone onto creating soulful love songs that is sure to strike a chord.

After his debut with AR Rahman’s Adiye in Kadal (2012) and amassing collaborative work, despite his success, Sid Sriram did not confine his musical journey to the realms of playback singing. The 33-year-old artiste ventured into composing, contributing his musical prowess to projects like Mani Ratnam’s production, Vaanam Kottatum and in 2019, he took the big leap of releasing Entropy, his first ever 12-track self-produced album featuring a blend of his older material and new songs themed around various phases of his life, which influenced him as an artiste. Keeping himself quite busy this year, the musical multi-hyphenate has now taken his second English album, Sidharth, touring across America and is also recording for multiple Telugu and Tamil film songs like his most recent hit Aradhya from Kushi.

In a creative whirlwind spanning just one intense week at producer Ryan Olson’s Minneapolis studio, Sid, along with a talented team crafted Sidharth, his latest album, which comprises 13 tracks. Ranging from carnatic-inflected gospel to jittery alt-electro love ballads and expansive orchestral R&B, the album is a kaleidoscope of sounds, all bound together by Sid’s distinctive voice. As he gears up to perform Sidharth at one of India’s greenest music festivals — Echoes of Earth in Bengaluru next month, we catch up with the artiste for a quick conversation about his new album, his return to the music festival, other artistes he is obsessed with and lots more…

What drew you back to this festival after nearly five years?
My first time at Echoes of Earth a few years ago was magical. I love how they keep sustainability at the core of their mission. I can’t wait to be back performing Sidharth.

Give us a sneak peek into what the audience can expect from your performance besides your
latest album, any surprises in store?

My set will be a performance of the Sidharth album in its entirety. (Songs include The Hard Way, Do the Dance, Dear Sahana, Standstill and more).
 
Which artiste’s performance at Echoes of Earth  are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to German electronic music producer and DJ Parra for Cuva.

Since your last performance at Echoes of  Earth, how has your music evolved?
This album feels like my honest expression thus far, the first time I’ve really embraced and celebrated the whole spectrum of my musical identity. I feel like the creative seeds I’ve planted over the past decade really came to life with this album.

Your album Sidharth focused on a lot of topics like your inner circle, your loved ones, your existential crises and so on. What were your initial thoughts behind this album and how would you say it has turned out?
When we created this album, it really felt like a creative wave hit us and I just had to hang on for dear life to keep up with the creative wave. It was all about turning my mind off and channeling a higher power. We made something special.

Digging a little deeper, what kind of emotional journey did you go through personally while making Sidharth, especially the lead track — The Hard Way?
Most of the album’s lyrics were written near the tail end of the pandemic lockdowns, around June of 2021. I was in a space of reassessing my priorities and truly realising what mattered deeply to me. A song like The Hard Way is about the importance of not taking loved ones for granted.

Travelling between two continents has been a significant part of your life. How has this transcontinental lifestyle influenced your music and as a person?
I come from a deep background in carnatic music and I grew up in Fremont, California. This has been my journey since I was a kid. I feel like living as a product of multiple cultures has given me a unique perspective to bring to all my artistic pursuits.

Keeping your music career aside, what’s currently on your playlist? Are any tracks or artistes that you’re obsessed with?
Been listening to Rema’s new album  (Rave & Roses Ultra) that just came out, love his melodies. Always listening to AR Rahman’s albums like Kandukondain Kandukondain and Taal.

What are some of your favorite hobbies or activities when you’re not creating music? 
I love to read, go on walks, wander in a new city and watch films. These are probably my go to ways 
to unwind.

What shows are you currently watching? 
The final season of that show Atlanta (American comedy-drama series created by Donald Glover) came out a couple years ago but I’m only now getting to it. I’ve honestly kind of been checked out with regards to shows, been reading a lot more.

Let’s talk about fashion and style. What’s your go-to outfit when you’re performing on stage? 
I go for comfort above all else. A chill pair of jeans or slacks, a white tee and a vest. I love Carhartt, Sacai, Vans and I dig Uniqlo for essentials.

On a more personal note, is there a specific place or environment that you find most inspiring for your songwriting or creative process?
I normally have my deepest creative ideas on a plane. I opt to not activate WiFi when I’m flying, so there’s no distractions or extra information coming at me. My mind is quiet and the creative ideas normally flow.

In the world of music, who would your dream collaboration be with and why?
Rapper and singer Kendrick Lamar, I think he and I would create something that shifts movements of the world.

As an artist, you’ve explored a wide range of musical styles. Are there any uncharted territories or genres you’re eager to explore in your future work?
The music I create feels genre agnostic and the exploration is always at the forefront of my pursuits, so we’ll see what sonic territories I venture into next.

What are some projects you are currently working on or planning for the near future?
I go on a world tour for the Sidharth starting in March and I’m currently starting to envision what my next musical/artistic universe is going to look and feel like.

INR 3,820 onwards. December 3, 1pm onwards. At Embassy International Riding School, Yelahanka. 


srushti@newindianexpress.com
@Sru_Kulkarni

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