Photography: Mahnoor Soofi
There are seven dimensions of music and they show up along a varying spectrum in every song. We all have an individualised taste for the configuration of these dimensions and how closely a particular song aligns with this pattern of sweet spots, accounts for whether we like it or not. Part of our musical taste also has to do with the way we prefer to move our bodies. Of all the art forms, isn’t music the most immediate, quickest and the easiest to consume? We tend make up our minds about it almost immediately...as is with our taste in food and fashion, our taste in music starts developing when we’re really young, based on what we hear in our environment and based on what happens when we decide to either approach or retreat from a stimulus. Musician, Dhruv, grew up very shy and in an environment where his orientation was seen as one to brush under the carpet and music became his escape, “Music is definitely an escape for me. My favourite kind of music is music you can daydream to.” His experiences helped him determine what sort of music matched his emotions.
“I grew up in Singapore. My dad’s family is from Jaipur and my mom’s family is from Delhi, so I ended up spending a lot of time in India until I was about sixteen. My whole extended family lives there,” shares Dhruv. “I always wanted to be in music but it was a bit complicated because Singapore didn’t have a big English music scene at the time so I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. Still, I loved song-writing and wrote every day.” Early memories of music were about jamming with his sister who loved strumming the guitar. “I loved improvising and writing melodies with her,” he tells us, “Same with my cousin, who was a really good piano player. I also remember writing some sort of jingle in my music class in fifth grade, which my music teacher really liked and made me perform in front of the other teachers in our year.”
Photography: Mahnoor Soofi
The focal point of inspiration for his debut album, Rapunzel and the big tracks in it was an album full of memories of experiences. And it is exactly the kind of music he grew up listening to...music to daydream to. It is melodious, meaningful and makes you want to sway. “At first, Rapunzel was just a way to document my first experiences in love. Double Take is really about falling for a friend and it refers to how jarring that switch from friendship to romance can be. I wrote Moonlight about a hypothetical rela- tionship. I grew up in not the most queer-friendly environment and when I moved abroad and the romantic possibilities opened up, I started imagining what my first relationship would be like. That idea is what birthed Moonlight. It’s a really naive, hopeful view on romance.” This project almost feels like a re-discovery of life with songs like Stable Life and Retrograde, which were written about his upbringing in Singapore.
Apart from being rewarded with plaques when his track Double Take topped in Asia, what completely changed the face of his career was when Japanese-American, singer-songwriter Joji invited Dhruv on tour. “Before the tour, I had only done my first couple of shows, which were like three hundred people each. Some of Joji’s shows had like ten thousand people crowds so it was a massive step up. I honestly was freaking out the week leading up to the first show and felt so much impostor syndrome. After the first couple of nights, I eased into it and was able to enjoy it. It was pretty surreal overall. Going back to normal and mundane life after that felt very strange. Very grateful to Joji for inviting me and giving me that level of exposure.”
Dhruv’s creative process is punctuated with isolation followed by bouts of collaborations with the burgeoning community of creatives abroad. “For Rapunzel specifically, I wrote the melodies and lyrics alone in my bedroom. I started some of the songs on piano and others with friends who played the guitar/other instruments. Typically, I like bringing in a lot of ideas to the studio, especially if I’m working with someone new. I also can’t write something that isn’t honest, it’s my number one rule. Even if the song is catchy, I just won’t put it out if it feels empty or insincere in any way.”
As Dhruv begins to work on his forthcoming project, we also asked him what has been the biggest learning of his journey. A lesson he’s going to keep going back to... “I think the biggest lesson has been that my gut does not lie to me. Also, I really, really loved music as a kid, so any time now where things may start getting a little much, I focus onmentally getting back to that place I was in when I wrote my first song: full of wonder, awe and perhaps a little bit of naivety – and that’s where I always want to be.”
Words Hansika Lohani