A talk with Dhruv Visvanath

A Humming Heart spoke to the very talented Dhruv Visvanath, a New Delhi born singer-songwriter who has plenty of achievements under his belt from releasing a 14 track rock opera Orion under Vishal Dadlani’s label to being featured along the likes of Ed Sheeran in Acoustic Guitar Magazine’s “30 Great Guitarists under 30” as the only Indian, and all this at the age of 23! 

Q- How did you get into music? 

I got into music at the age of 7. I started as a pianist after my mother found a teacher in the same building as I lived in. Se led with “Women fawn over pianists”. 7 years later I picked up the guitar and the rest was history. I’ve been playing professionally for close to 6 years now.

Q- To someone unaware of your music, how would you describe it?

I am a solo percussive acoustic guitarist or SPAG for short. I tend to use the entire guitar body and the strings as my orchestra. I try to make the acoustic sound as big as possible, and often do songs which involve multiple layers. But I look at it as being very acoustic guitar-centric. I like to take a more modern twist to what has been otherwise been seen as a one-dimensional instrument.

Q- Even though you’ve been making music for a while, your career is still relatively young. What is the biggest problem you have faced in it? 

Well, the fact that the work is a little seasonal can be a little bit of a put-off. But it really gives me time to write, and do other work that I’m really passionate about. It can be frustrating when I’m not n the stage, or not constantly creating new material but I feel pretty grateful to be a musician.

Q- Which musical and non-musical sources do you draw inspiration from? 

I really love comics and graphic novels. I love the conflict and stories that are expressed through each frame. I watch a lot of movies too and I think the one thing I always look to is the score of the film and the mood it sets. I also tend to draw a lot of stories and inspiration from my family, the fact that my interactions with them give me an opportunity to tell stories worth telling is actually pretty fun!

Q- You were recognised by the prestigious Acoustic Guitar Magazine, where you were mentioned in the “30 Great Guitarists under 30” category, and had the company of the likes of Ed Sheeran and Laura Marling. How huge was this achievement for you, especially considering you were the sole flag bearer of the entire country? 

You ever have those moments when you try to wake up because it’s all a dream? That’s exactly what this was. I feel very proud to have had the chance to see my face up there but I can’t wait to see many more Indians take the stage, globally. I look at it as a milestone and always look to become better at whatever it is that I do. And when I look back to that list I want to do justice to it and make sure that my work speaks for itself!

Q- Your album “Orion” was launched by the incredible Vishal Dadlani. Can you tell us how that happened?

It was a pretty long process. About 2 years in the making! We started talking about doing something like this at a festival in Hyderabad, I was opening for him. And basically, everything went from there. The concept of the album, the story and everything about it basically came out of nothing over that period of time. I think it was a pretty generous period of time to get the right material for the album. All in all, it’s been rather surreal, and I can’t wait to do more with the music I’ve released!

Q- The album has 14 tracks in it, that’s a bit long than what we see usually. Tell us a little more about it. 

It’s actually a rock opera that tells the story of how Orion, the protagonist, goes on to become the constellation we see in the sky today.

He fought through natural disasters and the death of his father to save what was left of his family. Watching his mother and brother taken prisoner, he fought the gods for their freedom. The battle lasted long, however, it was met with Orion’s defeat. The gods, took pity on the boy, having finally encountered a man who was willing to fight for something far greater than the material immortal desires of man; love. In return for his bravery, the gods freed his family and chose to honour Orion’s cause and cast him to the stars, where he sits as the constellation we see today. Forever shall he be immortal.

I do know that’s it’s a little long, but it just means that I’m ready to take on the challenge to make a more exciting story come to life, the next time around!

Q- You have a college education to fall back on. Was the intent to have some security as music isn’t the supposed “ideal” choice in our country. Do you give this advice to aspiring musicians in India, to have a sort of backup plan?

I always like to tell people that no matter what you do, get a college degree. It’s a must because we’re pretty lucky folk to be doing what we do, and at the end of the day, it’s very easy for the arts and culture to be the first thing that gets cut by the government. A good solid education allows you to build networks early, navigate through harder times and also quite honestly can be the difference between being exploited or not. I’ve worked whilst pushing through with my music, but I learnt so much from there that made me a better thinker, more mobile and more humble. It definitely opens a lot more doors, and you don’t ever want to sacrifice something as simple as an education when you’re already risking a lot. Whilst most people tell you that taking a job is safe, the thing is even if you had to take the safe option, an education will definitely guarantee you a better spot at an office, no matter what your passions are. Who knows maybe that education you receive could be the very thing funding your dreams!

Q- Do you wish to feature on a Bollywood album sometime? 

I wouldn’t mind being featured actually!

Q- What do you think is more important, a (cult) fandom or commercial success?

I want to say cult. Because that’s what the Pink Floyd’s and the Nirvana’s of this world have. The fact that the whole Indie scene really thrives on a Cult following, and years from now, that success turns into commercial success.

Q- What’s the ultimate dream for you and where do you see yourself in 5 years

I really want to be scoring films and blockbusters, and playing at the Royal Albert Hall.

What are the five essential songs on your playlist? 
  • Vaults – Lifespan
  • Nothing But Thieves – Tripswitch
  • Alter Bridge – Find the Real
  • Foals – My Number
  • The Reign of Kindo – The Nightingale
Who are your all time favourite artists? 

Alter Bridge, The Reign of Kindo, Dream Theater, Andy Mckee, Antoine Dufour, Maneli Jamal

Who is your favourite Indian independent artist?

Definitely Nicholson. Total beast

When you are not making music, you are-

Playing Video Games. Lots of them.

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