Karshni Nair, a singer-songwriter based in Mumbai, began her career as most young musicians starting do — by uploading her works on Soundcloud. Her honest music reached an astounding and loyal following, which gave her the courage to explore her own talents more. She claims that she expresses herself best through music, and to see others resonate with her words is a source of unbridled joy. Her music is hauntingly beautiful, with dreamy vocals making the audience yearn for more. Her lyrics often explore the vulnerability of human emotions and experiences. She recently performed at Magnetic Fields Nomads in March of 2021, and with a couple of new tracks up her sleeve, we spoke to her to learn more.
How did your rendezvous with music begin?
I was born in Mathura, brought up in Pune and attended College in Mumbai. In school, I was one of the many participants in the Annual Day choir and had an extremely memorable music teacher, Mrs. D’Souza, whose technique I borrow heavily from still. I remember, I could never make the higher notes, which is why I didn’t have much confidence while singing. Then I began to learn the guitar and that encouraged me to have my own style of singing while playing, even if it was in a lower range.
I’ve been fortunate to have some stellar music teachers over the years, who have taught me the importance of finding a way to effectively express myself through the instrument. I was always fond of writing, which is why my first song came quite easily. In school I was trying to fit in, and at home I was writing music, thus came to life Josephine on the Floor. Thereafter, I started exploring ways to add to these phone recordings. I’d add several vocal and guitar layers to make it sound fancy and big, and once I was done, I’d upload it to Soundcloud.
How would you describe your musical sensibility?
When I listen to the music I’ve made within the past four years, the two emotions that I feel are hesitation and despair. I know I’ve written a song I’ll like when I feel empty after writing it.
What influences you as a musician?
What stories do you aspire to tell through your work?
My own. Those are the ones I know best. I’ve seen people who have no knowledge of what my song is about, say that it’s beautiful and that it’s moved them. So I know that the story that I wanted to tell doesn’t matter. It’s the one they hear, and they see themselves in, that’s beautiful.
daddy hates second place speaks of the relationship of a father and his child. Why did you choose to sing about this topic? Can you tell us more about the song?
As I grow older, I realise how so much of who I am comes from my father, the way he was, with all his flaws. He always wanted me to come first in everything, and anything else was not valid, and not enough. The song is about a father who likes to put his child down for not fulfilling his own definition of ‘the best’. This father expects too much from his offspring, and then finds a way to abandon all responsibility for her and leaves.
I chose to sing about this topic because a lot of my insecurities stem from the fear of not being good enough, a fear that was instilled in me when I was really small. The song moves to this more ambient place in the second half, kind of like when you dissociate and get consumed by these thoughts and question your existence, how valid it is and how much you matter, all because you think that you didn’t do your best.
You also released Gurl under the moniker babiecinno. What was the inspiration behind this song?
Gurl is about turning tropes that are associated with men, into more delicate, admiring, feminine things. It’s about realising that we’re all a product of the male gaze, but we can reclaim everything that’s been glorified by it. The song is whimsical and a sort of foolish meditation about the girl I like, but she wants a man, so I try the hardest to be that for her, even though I’m not a man. I’m telling her that I can be those things for her, I can be hungry and sexual and horny and masculine, but the truth (and you’ll hear it in my voice) is that I’m cowardly and I only talk big. So it’s basically a blend of that vulnerability, as well as this badass side of me, that I’m trying to embrace.
Why did you choose to release Gurl under a different name?
Babiecinno is sexier when it comes to songwriting, that’s literally the only difference.
Has the pandemic changed your relationship with music in any way?
It fluctuates. Sometimes I’m extremely inspired, and sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I’m not able to write. I listen to much more music than I used to and have discovered great artists thanks to a few friends. I do feel that currently, I receive much more comfort from listening to music than from making it.
What are you working on currently and what's next for you?
I’m currently working on releasing music! It’s a long process, but I can tell that it’s going to be super exciting. I can’t wait to see our ideas brought to life and presented to people.
Text Devyani Verma