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Interviews |  25 Sep 2015 11:38 |  By RnMTeam

Karthick Iyer is a big fan of AR Rahman and IlayarajaÆs work in India

MUMBAI: Like most Indians, vocalist and composer - Karthick Iyer, has been influenced by both, Indian and Western music. Iyer, who is also a violinist, recently released a brand new album ‘IndoSoul’, along with his band- Karthick Iyer Live, which he formed two and a half years ago. The five piece band features Iyer on vocals and violin, Vikram Vivekanand on guitar, Naveen Napier on bass, Ramkumar Kanakarajan on drums and Sumesh Narayanan on mridangam and percussion.

Last year also saw the singer and musician make his debut in Bollywood, as music director for the film ‘Amit Sahni Ki List’.

In a conversation with, Iyer talks about the musical maestros that influenced him, the deciding moment of his life and of course ‘IndoSoul’.  


When did you start singing?

My mom wanted my sister and me to learn Carnatic music. So at the age of eight she enrolled us in vocal and violin classes. It is a very common thing in most Tamil families in Chennai. Since it is a traditional city, Chennai is a hub for Indian classical music. That is where my Indian musical training began. 

When and how did western music happen to you?

Well, my fondness for western music started when I bought my first western music cassette; that was Michael Jackson's ‘Dangerous’. Around that time cassettes prices were about Rupees 90. I bought one with my pocket money and played it lots of times. My mother was not so happy about it, but she let me do what I liked. Michael Jackson was the first artist I listened to. That was just the beginning, and then I went on to listen to Backstreet Boys, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Billy Joel and so on. They all influenced me in one way or the other. Billy Joel gave me the inspiration to write lyrics; I liked his ‘Piano Man’. I particularly liked watching and listening to Michael Jackson for he was such a showman. He worked on his lights, music and costume.

Are there any Indian artists who have influenced your work?

I am a big fan of A.R. Rahman and Ilayaraja’s work in India. They too have played an important role in how I perused music.  

Did you ever have to choose between western and classical music?

Not between western and classical music, but I did have to make an important choice. I remember, I was in college and I got placed in Cognizant Technology Solutions as a software engineer. That was when I had to choose between music and an engineering career. It was a very big decision to make and I chose music.  

When and how was Karthick Iyer formed?

I started playing for this band called Oxygen while I was in college, which I am still a part of. And then I gradually started playing for Raghu Dixit as well. During this time my Carnatic music started to take a backseat, as I got busy with concerts. Until then I used to be an accompanying member of a band. I only became lead vocalist when Karthick Iyer Live happened. When I formed my own band and moved towards more contemporary music, to get a mix of both, western and traditional sounds. And it turned out to be a natural mix for me.

Tell us a bit about ‘IndoSoul’

I have been playing for years with different bands, and all of them have had a unique sound. It is all about collaborative music. Indian music can gel with western music. It was a concept that I always thought about, and that is why I started my own band and made my own music. I wanted to have something that would delve into Indian classical music and at the same time bring out progressive rock. Once you immerse yourself in these forms of music, at some point there is a deep sense of connection. The quest to find this connection is ‘IndoSoul’. I am not saying that I have found the connection, for this could be a lifelong quest. I feel it is just the first step.

You shot a musical video for Sun TV. How was that experience?

Everyone was celebrating Madras Day in Chennai, and Sun TV approached me to feature in a Madras cover album for it. They chose one of my versions of A.R.Rahman's ‘Nila Kaigirathu’. The experience has been exciting and flattering because there are a lot of shots of the city, and me playing a violin on Sun TV, which happens to be a real big channel here. 

What have you got planned next?

I have planned a couple of albums. The second album - after ‘IndoSoul’- should take another six months to complete from now, and others will follow. There is another project that I do, which is Karthick Iyer Live featuring French pianist Dondieu Divin. He is a guest artist and we are doing an album together. We have finished four songs and plan to do two more. This album/EP will have a stronger Carnatic touch. A lot of these songs will have piano or keyboard backing, and will be very different from what just Karthick Iyer Live or ‘IndoSoul’ is about. It is very different in the way it sounds. For example there is a duet with the piano and violin. I play a very joyous Carnatic song and Dondieu follows with a western classical Sebastian Bach sort of arrangement. It is an interesting piece because it brings out the beauty in both the styles and is a creation of something bigger – ‘IndoSoul’.