Game, set, music: Somdev Devvarman serves up an ace with the release of his debut album 'one3two' 

We touch upon a broad spectrum of chords from what it takes to step out of your niche and try something new, to coaching and giving back through sport... 

With the release of his debut album on YouTube earlier this month, Somdev Devvarman is a New Man. The latter also happens to be the name of the first ever song he wrote, on the decision to leave professional tennis six years ago. You definitely want to give this track a listen if you’re in a season of transition right now. The opening lyrics might just be exactly what you need to hear to navigate the sometimes daunting unknown: 

As I walked into this new life
Wondering what was meant to be
I gave myself no ending
In order to be free...

Now just say one3two — that’s the album title — courtesy Somdev’s birthday (February 13), and jump. This ace tennis player certainly did. Although, he clarifies that making music and showcasing his songs to the world is very much a passion project, not a career change. “I was recently covering the Australian Open on Sony Sports and plan on covering tennis for the rest of the year,” he shares over a candid chat at his Mahalingapuram home. This is apart from coaching stints in Europe with intermediate and tournament players as well as promising juniors. Sweat and discipline aside, the juniors in his life that get the biggest share of ‘love all’ are his dogs, Bullet and Raja. We discover this behind-the-scenes of our photoshoot where the furry members of the family were most keen on posing. No warm-up necessary. 

The first song I wrote was a song called New Man, which was about
the decision to leave professional tennis and after that I just kept 
writing and writing...

In the studio 
Between licks and tail wags, we find out that while going from pro tennis to singer-songwriter is a touch unconventional, the support from the tennis community has been pouring in. Without dropping names, Somdev tells us about the response to his album drop, “Everyone I have talked to has been encouraging and have said they like it. But I guess we’ll find out, you know.” Still, from the high standards and pressure to perform that come with being a once pro tennis player, being a novice in front of an audience is likely a scary place. “I mean yes,” the 38-year-old responds. “It was daunting at times stepping into a studio with accomplished musicians who play in different bands and are really respected for their craft. So, I can’t be thankful enough to them for making me feel comfortable and at home during the entire process.” 

What started with 30 to 40 songs written over three years has been thoughtfully pruned down to 15 for the album, then recorded and arranged and mastered over an immersive one month spent at a studio in Shillong, which is close to Guwahati where Somdev was born. “The whole project was eye-opening in every sense,” he says. “And am I insecure about some of it? Yes, I am human. But I am also very proud of the work that has gone in. What’s important to me is that all the songs come from an honest place.” 

<em>In his home studio</em>
In his home studio

Guitar hero
Long before he took the time out to make music though — his guitar travelled with him as a reliable ‘unwind’ companion while on ATP tours, for almost a decade. Some of the highlights over this period include winning gold at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games back in 2010, before he was honoured with Arjuna Award the following year and later, in 2018, the Padma Shri, which came a year after he announced his retirement on Twitter with the popular hashtag: #newyearnewbeginnings

<em>Chilling with furry family members Bullet & Raja</em>
Chilling with furry family members Bullet & Raja

Marriage & mistletoe
And a whole lot has changed since then. ‘Som’ as his friends call him tied the knot with wife Shivali Wal who inspired the sole love song on the album, Below the Mistletoe. He is also active with giving back through sport with a non-profit for underprivileged kids in India called Life is a Ball, that he runs alongside friends. “We’re currently working with a girl’s orphanage in Kilpauk that is a focus this year,” he tells us. And when he isn’t in the studio or on the court, you will most likely find him ‘putting’ on golf course or stand up paddling in Kovalam. Like his music, which started off as a hobby back in college, and carried him through ups and downs, this athlete puts in the reps with other interests, as well. “I like staying busy,” he says.

We wrap up with some thoughts to set the tone for the rest of the year. “In 2023, I am most excited about the music obviously because it’s new, it’s fresh and honestly at this point, I have no idea what to expect when people hear it, so, it’s exciting.” The prospect of an album tour is not out of the question either, so this is left to be seen. Meanwhile, we also ask about whether having kids is something Somdev is thinking about in the near future. “I didn’t realise you spoke to my mother before this interview,” he jokes. But then he pauses and gets serious for moment, “Listen, 2023 is a special year. Anything can happen.”

‘one3two’ is out now on YouTube.

Related Stories

No stories found.