Sid Sriram’s First Solo Album is Deeply Personal
Sholeen Damarwala · November 12, 2018 · 4 Minute Read
Sid Sriram’s voice is not an instrument for making modest statements. From the very beginning of his professional career, his powerful vocals have garnered a fan base that is loyal to every single piece of work he puts out. But his forthcoming debut album, Entropy, doesn’t quite follow the same trajectory. Set to release in February 2019, Entropy veers away from the 28-year-old’s usual body of work.
Sriram’s first solo album invites listeners into his deeply profound emotional world, giving them front row seats as he musically explores his identity, memories, and purpose for this lifetime. “My intention was never to make this mainstream and I’m not apologizing for that,” he says, “and while I am cognizant of what other people want to hear, I did what I wanted, I wrote what I wanted, and I am saying exactly what I want. And I am saying all of it from a place of quiet confidence.”
Using Carnatic music as the cornerstone for the 12-track album, Sriram beautifully blends his love for Indian cinema music, specifically A.R. Rahman, with jazz, hip-hop, and R&B elements, to create a unique new sound that sumptuously echoes his varied musical influences. What he wants to say in his opening track, “Eyes Open,” is complex yet assertive: the track starts with a haunting chant, leading into a poignant two-minute nadeswaram solo, dropping into a Yeezus-era Kanye West-influenced song. The music of “Six Weeks” is broken up into halves – driving drums race into quiet ambient sounds. He examines heartbreak and relationships over soothing strings played by his long-time friend and collaborator, Sean Tracy, in “It Isn’t True,” which made its official debut to rave reviews a few weeks ago. “They say your debut album tells your whole life story, and it’s definitely true for Entropy, which digs through my life, both as a person and an artist,” he says.
The contemporary nature of his work is also a reflection of his own identity as an Indian American. Growing up in Freemont, California, Sriram spoke only Tamil till the age of three, “and then it slowly went away when I started school,” he adds. His interaction with his cultural roots was reflective of what many first-generation children experience growing up in diaspora communities.
In 2011, Sriram scored an opportunity to work with Rahman on the music for the film, Kadal, kickstarting a successful career that has resulted in chart-toppers, rave accolades, and a devout fan following. “I now spend six months in Chennai, which would never have been possible before,” he says, “and this has allowed me a unique opportunity to re-contextualize my relationship with my cultural identity and native language.”
The end result is a sense of empowerment that has stirred the intent behind Entropy – a coming together of both his Indian cultural roots and his American identity. While the complete album was finished in just under three months, the actual work spans over a decade of carefully crafting lyrics that epitomized significant moments of his life, from heartbreaks to affirming and embracing his brown identity, to diligently chipping away at sounds, and focused dedication at honing his skills as a music producer. “This was always a passion project,” he says, never intending to put it out into the world.
Back home from a lengthy stint in Chennai earlier in March this year, Sriram casually played some songs for his parents, who are both deeply involved in his journey as a musician. “They thought it was dope and were surprised I wasn’t releasing it,” he says. Encouraged by their support, Sriram began intricately assembling fragments of his work, thrilled at how it all seamlessly flowed. “There are times in life when you don’t feel like you have to control something, but it’s just pushing you – taking you to a certain place,” he says, “and that what working on this album felt like. A lot of the music sounds left field and experimental, but it sounds good.”
This is a stark contrast from the work Sriram does for Tamil and Telugu cinema, which tends to be sonically upbeat and made for cinematic glory, unlike his own work, which is aiming for a more soulful, immersive experience.
Save for a few snippets in Tamil, the majority of the album is in English, a language in which Sriram is most comfortable expressing his emotions. The lyrics are deep and nuanced, steering clear from triteness, a skill he learned from reading Haruki Murakami. “My girlfriend put me onto him, and that really switched up the way I write, because the way he describes emotions, it’s not in your face, it’s not tedious, and yet there’s a lot of information at the same time,” he says, “and that uncanny ability to be descriptive without being taxing to your listener is what I want to achieve with my songwriting.”
While Entropy marks Sriram’s first independent album, it’s also completely written, composed, and produced by him. Known for collaborating with some of the most renowned artists and musicians from around the world, Sriram chose to let his first album be all him. He does, however, admit that he’s open to collaborating on his next project. “There are just a few pieces where I have friends perform the guitar parts or the bass parts; otherwise, it’s just me locked up in my bedroom giving this album my all,” he says.
“It’s Sid Sriram, 100 percent.”
Entropy is set to release in February 2019. For an exclusive listen to “It Isn’t True” on Saavn, click here.