From a modest Chennai college student to reality show winner in Vijay TV to a popular singer for the Tamil music industry, playback singer Ajesh Ashok has gone a long way over the past few years.Recently, the artist has launched his first independent album – “Rain, College, Love” after his Malayalam debut as a playback singer. We managed to have a brief chat with Ajesh and here’s our interview with the music artist:
We first saw you in Airtel Super Singer Season II where you were the winner back in 2008. How has the journey in the last 5 years been for you post the television show?
Yes, I won Super Singer Season 2 which started in 2008 and got over in 2009. Life has changed so much now. Back then, I used to be this guy who wasn’t bothered about what happened in the past or what was going to happen in the future. This was mainly because I was in college back then. I wasn’t even thrilled when I won the reality show and I had never thought about my future then. All I wanted was to be successful in music. But now things are way too different. I’ve learnt so much. Now, sometimes I yearn for those days – when I was this guy who was really cool-headed, calm, not really bothered about anything that happened and without any expectations.
You recently made your singing debut in Malayalam films under Afzal Yusuf. Can you tell us more about that experience?
Afzal is an amazing person. He is one of those genuinely-good-hearted people. He’s incredibly talented and gets the best out of you. Best of all, he believes in you. Working with him was awesome. He is technically sound and tells you what mistakes you make at once he listens to you. I had heard a lot about him before but had never really thought he’d be this down-to-earth.
You have worked with some young music directors in Tamil, how comfortable were you working with them?
I’ve worked with a lot of youngsters now. Today, the industry is so getting revolutionized by all the youngsters storming in, everywhere. Be it direction, cinematography, music, every field now has loads of youngsters and more than anything, they make solid stuff. Working with people of your age group is something which is always nice. For example, Anirudh was my junior in college and he exactly knows what kind of songs suits my voice. When he gave me the tune of “Idhazhin Oram”, I never really thought that song would suit my voice. But he knew. Today’s youngsters are exposed to all kinds of music – say Dubstep, Techno, Trance and lots. I am happy to see so many youngsters trying out a lot of experimental stuff in Tamil.
One person in the industry whom you like working with & why.
A.R.Rahman sir. Just because I grew up listening to his music and I’ve always wanted to be a part of his music.
Coming to your debut album – “Rain, College, Love”. Tell us more about it.
“Rain, College, Love – The Connect” happened just like that. This album is just a start for me. I wouldn’t say “I’ve been working on this for years and years” and things like that. I started saving money to make this album after Super Singer. I started composing the tunes a year back, started writing the lyrics six months back. Started recording in January 2013 and released it on 1st June 2013. This album totally has 5 tracks. Normally albums have 8-10 tracks. But this is a conceptual one. There is a Rain song (Oh Mazhaye), a Love song (Kaadhal Kandene), a College song(Namma Game), a Rain-Love song (Idhayame) and a College-Love song (Kaadhal Tune). As the name says it all, the concept is how the three – Rain, College and Love are connected and that’s what the album tries to bring out, musically.
Why an independent music album?
I’ve always wanted to make independent albums. Right from my childhood when I started listening to Backstreet Boys in school (those were the times when they were really famous in India), I used to wonder in which movie those songs featured. I never knew English movies didn’t have songs. We didn’t have the Internet to know things as soon as we wanted to. Later on, when I came to know those were from an album, I quite didn’t get the concept. But when I got exposed to more albums – Michael Jackson mainly, I understood how the whole thing works and that was when I thought I should come up with something like that. It’s a pity even now there are not much independent albums here.
After HipHop Tamizha, you seem to be the next one to come out of South India to make your presence felt in the independent-album-market. What do you think lies in the future for independent albums in India?
As I told you, youngsters need to do something to bring out the best. In India – South India especially, it’s all about films. Even the music people listen to – is from movies. There are so many albums various musicians have come up with, which are hardly known to the public. So, as a youngster, this was more like a responsibility for me. With today’s technology – like social networking, anything is possible. When we see the whole thing in this angle,
there are a lot of possibilities for the independent music scene to come up and get the limelight as to how much movies have. All it requires is a little push. I am happy am lending a hand.
The video of “Oh Mazhaye” is actually a 2D animation; are all the other video songs animations as well?
No. When I thought of releasing ‘Oh Mazhaye’ as a promo of my album, I thought – “Why not try something different?”. I could’ve easily gone for a real-time video as told by a leading music label, which they used as the sole reason to reject my album; I just wanted to do something different and off-beat, just like the concept of the album. I’ve been getting mixed reviews for it. In the end, I am happy as people have at least noticed it.
The promo song was a huge hit – did you expect such an overwhelming response?
I never expected people to like my music. Even in my school and college times, when we go for competitions, whatever response I get from the audience was secondary to me. The first thing is I should be satisfied with what I’ve done. I made this album for the love I have for music and not for anything or anyone else. This way, I am fully satisfied. Then comes the audience’s response. “Oh Mazhaye” was a hit among youngsters, who were the target audience. Social networks helped me a lot in making the video reach the masses. It wasn’t a viral hit (if I had done a cover version of a famous number with a video, I could’ve achieved that), but it was and is spoken by a lot of people. An independent album from South India reaching the ears of a normal college-going teenager who lives here? God, am happy.
After super singer, you got your break into films with ‘Idhu Varai’, how did you feel when you got that break and how is it different from your debut independent album?
When I sang Idhu Varai, I was in college – I was only 19 and I didn’t know anything – I mean the importance of it. It was only after receiving a couple of awards, I finally knew how big it was. Idhu Varai will always be closest to my heart and I will be thankful to Yuvan sir all my lifetime. Ofcourse we cannot compare my first song and my album. This album is my first step to bring a change – a difference. This was made to make the people realize “Music is music! Wherever it is from. Be it films or independent albums.” Moreover, this makes them support good music.
There are five songs in the album and Raghav has written lyrics for all of them. Tell us more about working with him? And you have penned lyrics for two songs? How difficult was it to write lyrics?
Raghav is my schoolmate. We studied in this school called Sri Krishnaswamy Matriculation Higher Secondary School and that was the place we lived, literally. It was all about music. He used to be my bandmate- singer. He was in a different division and we used to study Tamil in the same class. It was in school days when we started writing songs. He is an amazing talent to work with. It’s easy when you work with your friend – always. And yes, I have written for a couple of songs as well. The pallavi of Kaadhal Kandene is totally my work. I don’t know about others but it was pretty easy for me. It’s because you know what words will suit your tune .. and you’re the best judge when it comes to your work. Like what I said before, you need to be satisfied before others.
How are your future projects lined up?
Things are pretty fine, as of now. Still searching for my next big break. I hope that will happen soon.
Where can we see Ajeesh in the next 5 years? What are the projects which you have in the pipeline?
Next 5 years? I hope I sing for Rahman sir. I want to do more music. This is fun, you know. Making your own music! I mean, you never know how it’s going to turn out. The next day you listen to it and it sounds awesome, that’s the best feeling ever.
About my projects – Two songs are yet to come out in Tamil. I can’t really tell you the names of the projects because anything can happen before it comes out. I’ve sung couple of songs in Malayalam as well. And I’m currently working on my second album. This is pure experimental stuff. It’s in the composing stage.
What do you think of Musicperk? Is there anything you want to tell your fans?
Musicperk is doing an awesome job. Something which everyone loves. I personally think the reviews you give are great. Keep up the good work.
To my fans! Support good music. Listen to good music irrespective of where it is from, if its good –give all your support. It’s because what drives us to give you more – is your appreciation. And thank you so much for the love and support you’ve given me. I am honored.
Thanks Ajesh, We hope you sing many more film songs across many languages and also come up with more independent albums. We wish you the best for all your future projects.
An Interview by Pramod Kannan & Vishal Gautham.