Now, he is back to beckon the spotlight with his first music album 'Khwaab' under the label of Universal Music.
He speaks at length about his musical journey, his mentors who helped him along the way up and of course, the various elements that his album 'Khwaab' consists of…
Why did it take you more than three years to cut your first album?
As soon as I finished with Indian idol I was booked for one year for shows in north and all around world. Naturally, there was not enough time to even think about an album, let alone work on it, that too solo. After a year music director Gaurav Dayal told me his plans of an album. He told me that we can make it as a thank you gesture for all the people who had given me my platform on national level. He said that I need to give something back to my supporters.
Till now you have done more than 44 albums in Himachal folk music? How is this album different?
It's so obvious that people would expect folk influence in my Hindi album also, because of my knowledge and experience of Himachal music. But in real it's not like that. I have tried something completely new for the first time in my album and that is rock music. Gaurav also wanted me to do something new and completely different. I worked extra hard and tried rock songs.
How have you managed to move from folk to rock as a singer?
Gaurav had given me some CD to get familiar with the flavor and texture of rock music. I listened to them intently as study material. Few days later when I visited him in his studio, he was busy recording some song. He asked me to try it and what I sang was rejected by him. It was a rock song. Later he gave me a CD and asked me to practice the song. He left me alone for thirty minutes.
When he came back he told me to sing on mike. I did and he then went on to correct me, for voice modulations, literally train me on a different music platform. I followed his advice. At that time I did not know that in reality Gaurav was actually recording the song. In 2 takes it was done, after finishing recording he told me.
Tell us your experience of shooting video for your album Khwaab?
We shot our video at Bangkok. It was the season of Holi. In Bangkok Holi is played with gusto and for three days they celebrate. Normally it takes 2 hours drive from air port to our shooting location but on that particular day it took us 11 hours to reach.
Our camera person wanted to take my shot with locals playing Holi in the background. But the driver of our car did not allow it since we had not taken any permission. We all felt so bad because the festival and the activities would have looked so very beautiful in the video. We just kept driving for 11 hours.
But then the places that got sanctioned didn't come that bad on video too (smiles).
What kind of feedback are you getting on your performance in the video?
Well, many people have said that I'm looking very handsome in it (laughs).
What has been the response of your listeners on this new album?
We were at Bangkok and our guitarist wanted to just go through the flow of the song. So we were sitting at some market place and listening to title song Khwaab while the guitarist was practicing it. Suddenly some people came to us and asked which song is this? When is it coming out? I said it's my album song, so they congratulated me and said please let us know when it is coming out. We will love to buy it because the song is very different and lovely. Same reaction I have received from some of my friends who have heard the songs.
How does it feel now that your album is finally made?
It's my first album in Hindi. After a long wait, finally it is coming out and that too through a big label. It's a moment of pride for me. I am very much happy with it.
What kind of influences does your album carry?
My album is basically very youth oriented. It is mainly influenced by pop and rock and most of the songs are a mixture of these genres.
Do you come from a family of singers?
Nope. In fact according to my father- Hamare poore khandaan mein door door tak koi singer nahi raha (in our entire extended family no singer can be spotted for miles and miles away).
So how did you enter into the world of music in such a professional manner?
Actually, I used to be what you can say a bathroom singer. I never used to sing in front of anyone except my brother Manoj. But whenever I heard someone else sing, I knew in my heart that I could always do it… maybe a tad bit better too (laughs). My brother used to push me to sing in front of other people but I always refused. Later my sister suggested that I should go to Dehri College in Kangra, HP where they had introduced music as a formal subject. My sister was like – 'You really have a heart for this field and you must go for it'. And I joined the college.
Eventually, during my first year of B.A I faced my fears by singing for the first time in my college fest. I sang Hariharan's Ghazal - the lyrics to which were penned by my own guruji at college Balwant Thakurji- Kuch door hamare saath. There were about 400 people in the auditorium and throughout the whole song I kept my eyes closed. Yes! I gave a complete performance without opening my eyelids even a bit!
How did Indian Idol happen?
After graduation I moved to do post- graduation in vocal music from Guru Nanak Dev University at Amritsar, Punjab where I pursued my goals under Guru Ravikant Verma. From there I went to Delhi to seek guidance counseling from Guru Baldevraj Varma. At this time I was also learning sound mixing from an academy. This is also the time the Delhi auditions were going on for Indian Idol-2. So I just gave it a go. I was at the right place at the right time and I will always be thankful for that. Indian Idol was a great learning experience and I never thought, I'd make it so far but I surprised myself. Now I'm a much more confident and able singer thanks to my association with the show.
Do you play instruments too?
I can make my way through the harmonium and keyboard.
How is your family taking up your fame?
Obviously they are very happy. I'm also happy because they used to tell me- Yeh kya awaaz kar raha hai (why you making so much noise?), when I used to sing as a kid. Now I tell them- Dekha ab awaaz kar kar ke kahan tak aagaya (look where all that noise got me!).
Reporter and Author: Susan Jose