Prateek Kuhad: Taking Over Indie Music One Song At A Time

Music has been his one and only in life. Sometimes roaring and sometimes latent, but the affair never lost its fire. In four short years, Prateek Kuhad has created a treasured space for himself, championing the cause of indie music in the country. #DSSCSecretConversations catches the musician unplugged over espressos and iced teas, while discovering his only motto: work hard to bring great music to the world.

Prateek’s stint with songwriting & singing started when he was a teenager, and music hasn’t left him since. As the artist went on to pursue graduation from NYU, followed by a brief career in Finance, he continued to “do music on the side as a passion.” The scattered gigs around New York found a direction post the release of his first music video, Raat Raazi, “A lot of people liked it and I bagged a couple of gigs because of the song, which encouraged me to give music a proper shot for a year,” Prateek says. With that decision set, he bid adieu to Finance and New York, landing with bag & guitar in Delhi at the end of 2012, to focus on a career in music. And the rest, as you’ve heard, is history.

Image: Shiv Ahuja

Over the years Prateek has come out with several songs in both Hindi and English, including Be At Ease, Tune Kaha, and the Baar Baar Dekho winner Kho Gaye Hum Kahan as well as an album, In Tokens & Charms (2015). On his stellar journey till date he shares, “The initial years were kind of an existential crisis, like ‘what am I doing?’ and ‘where am I going?’. It’s in the last one year that I’ve become confident about my songwriting skills and feel like I’ve got this.” While his career is certainly an upward moving graph, the success didn’t come without its own set of struggles, “Back in NYC I’ve played gigs where the only audience was my girlfriend and the club bartender!” Prateek spills candidly. As his fandom grew gradually, so did the reticent musician’s ‘performer’ skills. He opens up to us about his social anxiety, “My initial shows were so awkward, people would come up afterwards and ask why don’t I smile more. The playing music part was great, but the speaking to audience part  – not so much.” If you’ve been to one of his shows, you wouldn’t know what he’s talking about as the gent has aced the game, and the ‘awkwardness’ has dissipated, “I’ve never been a fan of performing, but when it comes to work I really do want people to come and listen. So the only thing to do was to overcome it!”

From an audience of two to sold out shows, Prateek has created a loyal niche for himself in the industry. He’s made a conscious decision to perform at auditoriums rather than just clubs, “I was very lucky to have a manager from an early stage and the credit for this goes to him. We realised that without alcohol & food people paid more attention to music; and this ambience fits my quieter music better,” he says about taking this road less travelled. We asked about the inspiration behind his mellow love songs, “It started as a way of releasing all pent up emotions. Whenever I was low I’d pick up the guitar and a song would just naturally flow, but now it’s evolved to become a disciplined skill set,” he adds that though most of his outings are love songs no particular element inspires him, “It’s a mixed bag of fact and fiction of varying degrees.”

Image: Parizad D

With his tunes taking him across India and the world, we ask him about his experience with the different music cultures that came with his tours in the US, Singapore, and Australia, “While the audience is more courteous there and the experience is pleasant, that’s perhaps a result of their overall culture.” Back home he says, “There was zero attention from people when they didn’t know me at all. That’s changed, now a lot of fans come to listen and they of course end up being quiet.” Another difference he points out is that, “Folks go out with the objective of discovering music in these countries, in India it’s usually about an evening out and the music is an add-on,” though he acknowledges that it’s not the audience’s responsibility alone, “Everything has to come together for a good performance, the venue, the artist, and the patrons. You can’t just expect people to stay quiet, if they don’t like it then maybe it’s on you as a musician. I think it’ll be cooler if we don’t push them to be silent and they just go quiet themselves.”

Being a frontrunner of the independent music scene, we were curious to know his perception of the internet & social media helping artists connect directly with audience, “The internet has definitely democratised the process of dissemination. 15 years back it was impossible for a musician to make it on his own, without any backing from a record label. Now artists are able to support entire campaigns on their own, case in point Grammy winner Chance The Rapper.” With that positive light shining on the indie music industry, we reach the bottom of our iced tea pitchers and are ready for the adios moment. But not before the signature DSSC Rapid Fire is flashed to the musician as his fingers reach out for guitar strings.

 

One tip for budding musicians looking to enter the industry?

PK: Work hard.

Singing, Songwriting, or Composing – pick a favourite.

PK: Songwriting.

What’s the last album you bought?

PK: Adele.

One change you’d like to see in the industry?

PK: The indie scene doesn’t have a very strong writing culture, we definitely need more songwriters.

Last song stuck in your head?

PK: Issues by Julia Michaels.

Concerts or headphones?

PK: That’s a tough one. I really love both. If I had to had to choose it’ll be headphones.

If DSSC were to offer you Rs 10 crores, how will you use it?

PK: I’ll spend on the best guitars and building my dream music studios!

 

 

This conversation is a part of the DSSC Secret Conversation series, where we get candid with the ace of base industry disruptors.

 

Featured Image Courtesy: Parizad D