Lovesick Charm - Saavn

On the title track of his new English EP cold / mess, Delhi-based singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad, who also performs in Hindi, seems to be doing a bit of method singing. Kuhad did indeed have a cold when he laid down his vocals for ‘cold / mess‘. However, the rhinitis was not self-induced but a result of frosty temperatures in the US, where he recorded the EP this year.

“The day I landed in New York, the city was hit with a snowstorm,” says Kuhad. “[This] was a few days before we were starting to track in Nashville. I was just freezing the whole time.

On the other hand, he was frequently a mess during the two years he wrote the six songs on cold / mess, a free copy of which was sent to everyone on the mailing list when it was released last week. The EP is available for streaming on Saavn.

“I had a pretty bad breakup. I went through a lot of emotional turmoil,” says Kuhad whose songs have featured in television commercials for brands such as McDonald’s and Shoppers Stop, on the soundtracks of Hindi films like Baar Baar Dekho (2016) and Lust Stories (2018), and in international TV series such as Lethal Weapon, thanks to his deal with the US-based publishing company Cutcraft Music.

Kuhad’s 2015 English album In Tokens and Charms and the English and Hindi EPs that preceded it also documented a relationship. But that one ended amicably. This time around, he was left far more unsettled, and the tumultuousness is represented in both the lyrics and the artwork of cold / mess.

“I wish I could leave you my love but my heart is a mess,” he sings on the title cut. “Not mindless, I’m just spineless/ Put cellophane on my mouth and kiss”, he croons on ‘with you/for you’. The EP’s cover is a photograph of a couple kissing underwater. “To me that image is like the relationship the record talks about,” says Kuhad. “It’s a lot of love and passion, but they’re underwater so they’re suffocating.

Expectedly, Indian independent music’s biggest romantic has a large female following. “We were at the Saavn office [where they showed us that for] all their other acts [the listener base] is usually 75 per cent male and 25 per cent female,” says Kuhad, who is part of the streaming service’s Artists Originals platform. “[I’m] the only one [for whom the gender ratio is] flipped around.

Cold / mess is filled with the sort of confessionals these fans have come to expect of Kuhad, whose ability to make relatable music about matters of the heart has turned him into one of the most popular singer-songwriters in the country. Such intimate lyrics warrant intimate settings, feels the composer, who will promote his new EP with a series of house concerts across India. He prefers performing where “there’s no amplification, just me on a piano or a guitar [and] 15-20 people”, he says. “Then it feels like I’m playing the song the way I wrote it, on an instrument in my bedroom, without stressing about sound issues. On stage, there are other things at the back of my mind.

Over the last few years, Kuhad has become successful enough to do things on his terms-from asking venues to give him a larger portion of the ticket sales as opposed to a landed fee (a flat sum with which touring artists are expected to take care of their travel and accommodation) to ensuring that he has creative control over commissioned projects.

Recently, he contributed two tunes to the Bollywood movie Karwaan, and though he “had complete freedom”, Kuhad “was a little wary that at the last minute, they’d change my song around or do something to the mix. We were pretty clear about having in the contract that [they] cannot make any changes.” The job provided him an opportunity to do something different. “One song is supposed to be really inspirational; I’ve never written anything in that vibe before.Interestingly, Kuhad does not consider his Bollywood work playback singing. “[If] I wrote it, played the guitar [and] produced the whole thing, it’s completely my baby,” he says. He might even include some in his live sets, half of which now comprise tracks he wrote on the piano, which he taught himself to play three years ago.

“My future [releases] will have a lot more piano songs because [that’s] what I’ve been writing lately,” says Kuhad, who frequently switches between the guitar and keyboard at shows to play tunes such as his last Hindi single ‘Tum Jab Paas’ and the unrecorded English composition ‘Darling Darling’.

His next effort could be out in 2019, believes his long-term manager Dhruv Singh. “This EP is a bridge between everything he’s put out in the past and all this new material he’s sitting on,” says Singh. “There’s enough [for] a 10-track album within a year.”

Copyright Living Media India, Limited Jul 30, 2018

This article was written by Amit Gurbaxani from India Today and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.