"A good song is a perfect marriage of the lyrics and the music": In conversation with singer-songwriter Arnav Maggo on his musical odyssey
A far cry from the razzmatazz of mainstream Bollywood music lies Delhi-based singer-songwriter Arnav Maggo, whose experiments in the genre of ambient pop constitute a seamless synergy between the melancholic and the mellifluous.
An alumnus of New York University, Arnav decided to trade calculations for chords as he ditched a nine-to-five in finance to pursue a full-time career in music.
A self-taught musician, he currently dabbles in both English as well as Hindi music, having cultivated his interest from a pool of artists as diverse as Pink Floyd and Amit Trivedi.
Capturing the pangs of isolation in a multicultural atmosphere, Arnav's songs are laced with themes of self-love, introspection and the search for a sense of purpose, in order to escape one's existential limbo.
In a candid interview with Sportskeeda's Saahil Agnelo Periwal, Arnav opens up about the burgeoning indie music scene, his creative songwriting process and upcoming plans as an artist.
Here is an excerpt from the conversation:
Arnav Maggo on music, lyrics and more
Q) Could you share with us some excerpts from your childhood which were instrumental in kickstarting your musical journey ?
Arnav: When I was about 12 or 13, I was introduced to bands like Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Queen etc., which got me interested in learning music. That definitely ignited something in me because I became deeply involved in it.
I would play and listen to different genres, jam with other kids with similar interests and become fascinated by the culture around music. I started developing my skills, taste and musical compass, and a bit later, I found that writing music was a cathartic and fulfilling process.
It has really been a constant companion throughout my life.
Q) What prompted you to make the switch from finance to a full-fledged career in music? How has the transition process been so far?
Arnav: Even when I was working in finance, I was pursuing music as a passion project, spending a considerable amount of time writing songs. I always wanted to explore it as a career, and I was increasingly becoming inclined towards it.
So there came a point when it made sense to give all my time to it and I just felt that it was the next step to take.
It has been very refreshing so far; I have been thoroughly enjoying the process of making songs and putting them out. I have also seen that people are connecting with what I have to say, which is a great feeling.
Q) Having been exposed to the melting pot of diversity i.e New York during your formative years, how impactful would you say your stay was?
Arnav: I think New York proved to be very impactful; it gave me a lot of experience to think and write about. The musical culture is quite rich, so I got to see a lot of amazing performances, both big and small, which got me closer to the art form.
I took music, film and photography courses at NYU, which further shaped my understanding of expression through art.
I basically did spend my formative years there so I think it plays a major role in who I am as a person and an artist today.
Q) Briefly guide us through your creative songwriting process?
Arnav: My songs usually start with an idea or concept that I feel strongly about, then I usually pick up the guitar to find ways to capture it musically.
While I'm at it, some arrangement ideas also start coming to mind depending on the vibe I am going for.
It really has been different for every song I have written, but I always stick to the idea that a good song is a perfect marriage of the lyrics and the music- they have to fit together well.
Q) What are your thoughts on the Indie music scene in India at the moment?
Arnav: I think the indie scene is definitely growing; these days I meet a lot of people who are fans of it.
There's a lot of interesting music coming out of it as well because artists are trying out new things and experimenting. It's a very exciting time for it.
Q) Three Western artists whom you consider as influences?
Arnav: Dire Straits, Radiohead and Sia are some artists I have been listening to lately.
Q) Three Indian artists whom you consider as influences?
Arnav: A.R. Rahman, Amit Trivedi, R.D. Burman.
Q) According to you, what are the pros and cons of being an artist/ musician during the pandemic ?
Arnav: During the pandemic, I actually got a lot of messages from people telling me how my songs gave them comfort and companionship during tough times, which was a great feeling.
So I think just being able to give back and doing your part for people has been the most valuable thing for me recently.
And like everyone else, artists have been affected due to the pandemic.
Q) Where do you see yourself five years down the line? Any upcoming music projects and plans for collaborations?
Arnav: In the next five years, I want to have further built a strong community of people who connect with what I have to say and whose lives are positively impacted by my songs.
I want to have a body of work that I'm proud of, one that touches different genres and styles. I am also really looking forward to collaborating with other artists.
I just finished work on my next song- Look At Me Now, which will be out very soon.
Q) Being a self-taught musician, what would you say is the biggest challenge when it comes to conquering a particular instrument?
Arnav: I think it makes a difference because if you are stuck somewhere, you have to find your way out on your own, which takes more time than taking help from an expert.
Although, I think it's quite easy now because of all the resources available. I think it takes a certain level of discipline, which can only come from passion.
Q) What are some of your favorite genres of music?
Arnav: I listen to everything really, but I have always been into dreamy and ambient sounds.
Q) There's a famous saying which goes "Life is Art. Art is Life".
How much of your music would you say is influenced by your personal life experiences?
Arnav: All of the songs come from my personal experiences; I think it's quite important to be honest and authentic. I do that by talking about things I have experienced or feel strongly about, and picking sounds and arrangements that naturally resonate with me.
Q) Apart from musicians, are there any authors or auteurs who inspire your work?
Arnav: Yes, definitely- I think all the songs, movies or books I consume influence my music in some way or another.
Even if I am looking at a picture or visiting a beautiful place, I find myself thinking of ideas just by being in the presence of those pieces of art; so I try to take inspiration from everything around me, not just songs.
I like the works of J.K. Rowling and her ability to create these imaginary worlds.
Q) Briefly elucidate upon some of the central themes in your songs.
Arnav: So far, my songs have been about self- love, breaking monotony and fighting stagnancy.
Those were the messages my songs Aa Chalein Hum Kahin, Jo Tu Hai Yahaan and It's Hard Staying Apart revolved around.
They talk about escaping situations that do not serve you anymore, which could be a job, a relationship or even just a mental state.
Q15) In the world of music, chance, caliber and competition often go hand in hand.
Which is why due to the perceived fear of a lack of stability and certain societal constraints, we often see artists forsake a career in music.
However, being one such shining example of a rising success story yourself, what advice would you like to personally offer aspiring musicians?
Arnav: I have seen that recently this career has become more mainstream than it used to be 10-15 years back, and we are in a better position in terms of stability and societal constraints.
I think what's happening in music is quite unprecedented and exciting, and anyone who has a genuine interest in exploring it should definitely go for it.