Andrew Sabu on his debut EP, music as an escape and mental health

While never imagining pursuing music as a full-time profession, Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Andrew Sabu has placed himself firmly in the city’s vibrant songwriter scene with his self-titled debut. Andrew had a chat with us over the telephone about his plans with everything SABU.

An integral part of the Mumbai-based record label RECK, Andrew co-founded its DIY house gig property LVNG. However,  he has always counted music as an escape rather than a livelihood. Using YouTube and the guidance of his musician father to learn how to play the guitar early on, Andrew would use the correspondence gained from these DIY shows to gain an insight into different songwriting styles. “I don’t think it influenced my sound per se, but it allowed me to better my craft for sure,” he says. Alongside these shows, Andrew would also take his music to small spaces across India, honing and shaping his material into his first self-titled EP as SABU.

The EP, a sombre collection of Andrew’s vocals accompanied primarily by an acoustic guitar and occasional synth washes, revolves around the themes of love, isolation, confusion and mental health. ’Sheets’ professes humans’ need for protection and security, be it in the form of a blanket. ‘Processed Cheese and Wine’, the second track, speaks of relationships as superficial cures to superficial itches.

Initial spins of the EP immediately bring to mind the works of similar emotionally-wrought artists such as Nick Drake and Elliott Smith, both whom Andrew counts as influences. The more parallels we draw, the bleaker they become. Drake and Johnston struggled with their mental health. These struggles gave way to absolute beauty, but not before wreaking havoc on the psyches of the artists themselves. When asked about the trappings of being vulnerable on tape, Andrew says, “It has got good and bad sides;  I didn’t mean for this EP to be centered around mental health. It wasn’t a conscious decision. Going through depression altered the course of a lot of things, and that’s when I realised I wanted to use my music to make a statement. Forcing it makes it seem like creating content rather than art; like manufacturing wokeness. It’s important to talk about these things, and even more important that it is sincere.”

Through LVNG, Andrew has set up a platform for young artists eager to showcase their skills, even through collaboration. While sonically, SABU is within the same realm as the music created by the other artists performing at LVNG, Andrew is enthusiastic at flexing his chops with artists from different spaces, including electronic. The EP features assistance from Ramya Pothuri on ‘Find Another Man’, a great collaboration but not Sabu’s first. Andrew is also keen to work with artists across the genre spectrum, as witnessed in earlier partnerships with the young electronic music talent Chrms. That, and collaborations with upcoming acoustic artists, all make up parts of the extended SABU canon.

Sabu does find solace in the current dialogue around mental health. He says, “It is all changing, especially with this generation. With this current pulse, things revolving around mental health are being discussed more often, and that allows people to address their internal issues. Everyone is more aware of their thoughts now and are gradually moving closer to understanding and accepting their true feelings.” Lead single ‘Rest’ drives this point home: “It’s okay to feel this way.”

SABU is out now on all streaming platforms.

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