Regular visitors know that from time to time Fan Scene posts performances by musicians other than David Archuleta. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to recently interview Advait Sarkar, a talented and passionate young musician living in England who also happens to be a fan of David and whose interpretations of several of David’s songs have been posted here at Fan Scene. The positive reaction to Advait’s performances convinced us that other fans might want to get to know more about Advait and his musical aspirations, as well as how David Archuleta influences and/or inspires him.
1. Hello, Advait! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading about you and watching your performances. Thanks so much for agreeing to an interview. First, for those not familiar, where are you from? Where were you born and where do you currently live?
Ah, a tricky first question! I was born and brought up in Bangalore, a bustling metropolis in Southern India. However, I moved to England a year back for University, and visit my family in India over the holidays.
2. You’re currently in university, correct? Which one? What are you studying?
I’m at the University of Cambridge, studying Computer Science, Mathematics and Psychology, in that order of importance. Computer Science would be what you call a “Major” in the States. I’m a total geek.
3. In your bio at your official website (for those who haven’t visited, www.advaitsarkar.com), you say you began some formal training in music at age 5. Can you say a little bit more about that? You say it wasn’t the path for you, what do you mean?
My musical education was a bumpy road. I’ve had seven piano tutors on and off, never managed to keep a single one longer than a year. It’s like there’s some sort of curse. In retrospect, that has brought some richness into my music because they all transferred different tastes to me. One was a celebrated Jazz artist, another with degrees in Classical music, and one that liked Coldplay.
I was trained from 1996 until 2007, when a very unpleasant personal experience with the next teacher that I tried made me realize that the entire academic approach to music was built to infuse technical skill, and was more oriented towards classical and jazz. I steered away from all that and decided to continue my studies by myself. In the last three years since quitting formal training, my musicality has improved more than it did in the previous ten.
4. In your bio you mention Jordan Rudess and Rick Wakeman as primary musical inspirations. I suspect many of our readers are not familiar with them and their work. Can you tell us a little about them and how they’ve influenced you?
As a kid, I had a serious addiction to the new age musician “Yanni”. I didn’t listen to anything else. I still think he makes great music, but I’m nowhere near as obsessed with him as I used to be. Five years ago, I decided that I wanted to step out of my cocoon and take a dive into the universe of other music out there. In doing so, I discovered that the most talented keyboardists are found in the rock and metal scene, where they are more appreciated and given more to do than in the pop world.
I didn’t go long before I found Dream Theater. Jordan Rudess inspires me musically, because of his incredible technical skill, and I have learnt a lot from observing him play. As for Rick Wakeman, I really admire his pioneering work in the introduction of keyboards to serious music. Back when keyboards made horrible, screechy, plastic sounds, Wakeman was up there playing entire pieces with them. Some people laughed then. Now nearly every modern track has layers of keyboard playing. Nobody’s laughing now.
5. One can’t help but be impressed by your mastery of so many instruments. You are self-taught, correct? What instruments do you play? Do you plan to learn to play more?
Your usage of the word “mastery” greatly overstates my little ability with a few instruments, but thank you. Except for the piano, I am completely self-taught, and as you know, even the piano has been self-taught for a while. I play piano, keyboards, western and Indian flutes, saxophone, hand percussion, and my newly discovered instrument, the vocal cord. I would love to learn to play as many instruments as I can. The rarer and more exotic, the better. I was going to learn how to play the Vuvuzela but I’ve decided against it because people might throw stones at me.
6. Is keyboard/piano your favorite? I really enjoy your piano performances.
Thank you! The keyboard is definitely the instrument that I feel I am most adept at. But favourite? That’s a hard one. I don’t think I have a favourite instrument. I just pick whatever sounds good for the song/jam I’m doing.
7. Archiefandoc (AFD) has a great question: “I wanted to know about the process Advait goes through when he mixes two very different musical pieces into one. The item that I really enjoyed was how he combined Crush along with Canon Rock. When he heard Crush, did Pachabel’s Canon just pop into his head and he thought, oh, I can mix these? Or, was it a more active process of searching for something that would blend well with Crush? I think this is just genius! He was 18 when he did this? Wow! It’s amazing, especially for someone who was basically ‘self taught.’” (My thanks to AFD for that great question!)
Thanks AFD, for your delightful question and high praise! Most of my medley ideas come while I’m playing one song, and suddenly I start playing the other, because my subconscious blends the riffs, chord progression, rhythm or melody, finding some minute similarity. In short – yes, it is usually an “Aha, I can do this!” moment, rather than an active search for possible matches. It’s vague and arbitrary, but it happens surprisingly often.
**AFD says you MUST listen to this**
David Archuleta’s Crush and Canon in D Medley
Continue reading Fan Scene’s interview with Advait Sarkar to hear his thoughts on David Archuleta and his music…
8. I am not musically inclined at all. Can you explain how you go about overlaying so many different aspects of a performance in a recording? For example, in your performance of Evanescence’s “My Immortal,” you play the flute and piano. How long does such a process take to finish?
Modern software facilitates the merging of recordings that were done at separate times. For “My Immortal”, I recorded the piano’s audio into my computer, simultaneously capturing the performance on camera. Later, listening to my previous recording of the piano for reference, I played and recorded the flute. This is done for every instrument in the video, as well as several other sounds that you don’t see me play, such as strings, bass, drums, etc. This can take anywhere from 5-6 hours for a small piece up to 6-7 days for a major, heavily orchestrated project.
9. You have reinterpreted many famous pop songs as showcased on your YouTube Channel. You play numerous instruments in them, depending on the song. How do you begin the process of deciding how to interpret a particular song? For example, on your piano cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” one of my favorites of yours, by the way, you decided to just use the piano without vocal. How do you decide which songs to sing and which ones to only reinterpret instrumentally?
There can be many reasons, it varies from song to song. Since I didn’t sing until about a month back, all my work before then all had to be instrumental. It was not a choice, it was a necessity. After I started singing, most of my videos have had vocals in them. However I still do instrumental music, for example my flute cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow“. I found an old Indian bamboo flute in a cupboard somewhere and I was enjoying its delicate woody tone when I decided I’d showcase it in a video.
10. How would you define or categorize your style of music?
Music categorisation is only done for the convenience of retailers, so they know which shelf to put the CD on. Modern artists create such a delightful potpourri with their work that the genre changes from album to album, even from song to song. The record labels categorise music, but I don’t think the fans need to; it doesn’t aid the enjoyment of the music anyhow. However when people ask what kind of music I make, I usually say “pop” or “world fusion.”
11. What is your opinion of American pop music? What do you think about David’s place in that world?
American pop has gone through a revival and has become extremely creative these days. Artists are willing to experiment with arrangements, melodies and sounds that were previously never considered ‘appropriate’, and from that willingness has arisen freshness. As for David, based on his first two albums alone, I feel that he has a very strong following in a large-ish subgroup of the whole listener population. What I mean to say is, his target demographic isn’t the largest chunk of listeners, but it is a very large one. That may change with time. Musically, in comparison to other pop artists, David is right up there with the best of them.
12. Your first album is entitled “SoulPepper.” How do you interpret the title? For interested readers and listeners, what might one expect to find on the album?
I was on holiday with my parents two years ago, drifting slowly on a houseboat along the scenic backwaters of Kerala. We were sipping coffee on the deck, discussing possible title names. I posed the question: “Well, what comes to mind when you listen to my music?” to which my mum replied: “Well, it gives my soul pleasure”. I said, “Let’s name it Soul Pleasure”. We’d just been given a tour of a pepper vine garden, which probably prompted my dad to say: “How about Soul Pepper?”… The name stuck. I think it represents the youth and vigour of the album. If one’s soul has the fiery quality of pepper, then one is not bland.
On the album, expect to find surprises around every corner! I travelled to Calcutta to work with the finest musicians for two months. Guitarists, bassists, percussionists, flautists, saxophonists, keyboardists, cellists, and violinists of the highest calibre can be heard painting their unique energies into my compositions. I was truly fortunate.
13. Wow! What a wonderfully creative experience that must have been. Do you consider yourself more a composer, vocalist or instrumentalist? Which do you enjoy more or how do you view them differently?
I really enjoy both singing and playing instruments, but they don’t compare to the kick I get from the creative process. When you create something out of nothing, and it lives and breathes and succeeds… there’s nothing else like it. It’s like giving birth minus the pain. And the best part is that once the composition is done, I get to do all the other things like sing it and play it!
14. You have a beautiful rich voice. Who are some of your primary singing influences?
Ah, thank you very much. Funny story, I have no singing influences. I have never sung before. I only started singing about a month back, in June 2010.
David Archuleta’s “My Hands” cover by Advait
15. What do you think of David as a singer?
I think the fans have already spoken! He’s absolutely top notch, both in his vocal timbre as well as technical skill. He already has years of experience behind him. The thought that he can only get better is truly delightful.
16. Have you ever heard him sing live?
Regrettably, no. But the next time he tours the UK, I will be right up front, screaming and waving a camera.
17. I notice you have collaborated on a few songs, including David’s new single, “Something ‘Bout Love.” Can you tell us something about your previous collaborations? Who are some of your dream collaborators?
I enjoy collaborations because they bring freshness to the music. I have played by myself or to my own backing tracks for several years, but when I perform with other musicians, our very different musical energies and styles get to interact and feed off each other. I have been very fortunate to be able to collaborate with such interesting people, and I am always on the lookout for people suitable for collaboration videos. I would love to collaborate with the big names on YouTube music such as Lisa Lavie and Boyce Avenue, and going forward I would like to collaborate with established artists such as Alicia Keys, Eric Clapton, and of course our beloved David.
18. As you know, David has a very devoted following. When did you first see and hear David?
Like many others, I discovered David when he auditioned for American Idol. I didn’t really notice him that much until later in the season when he did the “Hero” duet with David Cook. That was one of the best moments of the season, in my opinion. After that I’ve kept a keen eye on him.
19. Anything you admire specifically about David?
His perfect hair, and his eyes that make you melt But besides those things, I admire his humility. Humility is extremely rare in famous people, but David has oodles.
20. You’ve reinterpreted songs by Lady Gaga, the Goo Goo Dolls, Coldplay, the Rolling Stones, Evanescence, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Metallica, Eric Clapton, and David, to name a few. Such impressive range. What makes David one of the artists you enjoy reinterpreting? Why David, in other words?
David’s music is great. His songs are very relevant to his own age group and since I’m almost exactly his age, I relate to them too. It’s nice to think we’ll grow old together! But there’s another reason. The support I received after my Crush/Canon medley was like nothing else I’d ever experienced. David’s fan base is a loving, accepting community built around the pillars of good music, goodwill, giving and reciprocity. When I make a video of another artist, it’s usually just to increase my repertoire; a stab in the dark. When I make a video of one of David’s songs, I know that the community is ready to view, review, comment, rate and share the video. It’s a great, organic buzz machine. I feel more personally fulfilled when I do David’s songs.
21. Ah, yes. The fans are active and always ready to support David and others who support David. I’ve been somewhat amazed the fan community has continued to thrive the way it has. Part of that, I believe, is that David touches people in a way most pop singers do not. David, as you know, is a very spiritual person. It is very much a part of who he is as a person and artist. Your music strikes me as spiritual, or at least quite emotional. Are you inspired by spirituality? If so, how?
I appreciate the fact that spirituality is important to innumerable people around the world. I am strongly in favour of anything that helps or brings happiness to people without any other external negative outcome. I personally am not very spiritual, certainly not as much as David is. However from time to time I do feel that faith and spirituality has helped me and people I care about.
22. What are your favorite performances by David, either recorded or live?
My favourite songs of his are “My Hands” and “Barriers”. I also really enjoy listening to “Riu Riu Chiu” off the Christmas album. Of his live performances, “Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton is beautiful. His duet with David Cook for Nickelback’s “Hero” was also spectacular.
23. Some of my favorite recordings by David are those from his Christmas album. It was wonderful to hear David perform in a more traditional genre. Also, the subject matter of the songs made a perfect fit for David. What did you think of the album? Any particular favorites?
I think it was a great decision for David to do a themed album. It is a totally different challenge for a singer to try and do justice to songs that have not been written for him, especially those that have been sung by myriad others for several centuries past. I feel David rose to the occasion admirably and produced an extremely enjoyable album. My favourite is definitely “Riu Riu Chiu” – whoever arranged that chord progression with David is a genius. The song gives me goosebumps.
24. What are your hopes for David’s upcoming album?
Based on what we’ve heard so far, we know that there are going to be several hit worthy songs on this album. I know David is going to surprise and enthrall us, I just hope that he’s happy with what he has created.
25. Have you been to America before? Do you plan on performing here any time soon?
I have never been to America before, but I would love to and I am planning to come there for next year’s VidCon, if time and funds permit.
I want to work with the greatest musicians on the planet. I don’t need credit, fame, or money. I just want the opportunity to chat, laugh, lay down tracks, and have coffee with the giants of today’s music world. If any fame comes from this, I will use it to try and organise donation to worthy causes, as well as spread awareness of some of the more complex emergent issues with the world.
Well, Advait, I know you’re a very busy guy. I don’t want to keep you too long. Is there anything else you’d like to say to David’s fans? I’ve included your website address and YouTube channel. What other sites or locations can fans listen to your music?
Thanks so much for having me, Keith. Contrary to popular belief, I am not in fact very busy. Besides, I will always make time for Archuleta Fan Scene as does the tummy make room for dessert. My website and especially YouTube are the main rallying points for my music, so I think we’re adequately covered on the link front. The message I would like to leave David’s fans with is this: the singer you all know and love is a true gem. He is a great artist and an even better human being. The David Archuleta fan community consists of the most diverse, vibrant, tolerant and selfless people who I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with. The artist and the fans are a match made in heaven.