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Soundcloud Profile (shilpa317):

Life Motto: All bad things happen for a good reason!

Musical Inspirations: Kelly Clarkson and Carry Underwood

Musical Idols: AR Rahman, Illaiyaraja, Amit Trivedi

Shilpa Natarajan

 1. Your SoundCloud profile is very informative yet humorous. Can you describe your “On and Off relationship Carnatic Classical music” because I think I am in denial of the very same phenomenon?

Well, thank you so much! Like I mentioned in my profile, I began learning Carnatic music when I was three (It was sort of a rule to learn music in our household really). But at that point, I just wanted to play and have a good time with the other kids! So I would chill with them most of the time. But my family is also quite into music…So I guess listening to my uncles/ aunts/ folks/ cousins/ sister, I eventually ended up liking music classes. But that was much later on in life!

Anyways, I described it as “on and off relationship”because I have discontinued and re-continued Carnatic lessons many, many, many times. I stopped during my 10th (blamed it on the board exams back then), rejoined in college 1st year, discontinued in the second year (I was in the student council at that point), rejoined in the third year, discontinued again after college (Had to go to Pune for my masters) and rejoined recently.

 2. How did you even get involved in singing for films?

Well, a friend of mine from school introduced me to his musician friend from college whom I worked with for a few years on jingles, tracks for films, and demo compositions. This composer then introduced me to Girish Gopalakrishnan who gave me an opportunity to sing “VanakkamVaazhavaikkum Chennai” from the film Marina.

 3. Who are you favorite music directors/ composers and why?

A.R. Rahman! I sort of worship the man! His music is something I turn to when I experience all sorts of emotions! It somehow calms me, soothes me, makes me saner, helps me understand things… yeah well, music does that.

While he is my favorite, I do have other music directors whose work I follow. In particular, I love listening to Illaiyaraja. The man is such a genius; it’s wonderful to listen to his music. His sounds take you to a whole different dimension! I’m also a huge fan of AmitTrivedi! He’s young, makes classy music, gives it back to those who say our generation has “destroyed” music, and experiments a lot with music!

Then there are Hans Zimmer, Karl Jenkins and the likes!

 4. What are your favorite songs…if you HAD to name a few for the sake of a totally formal interview ?

I have plenty, so­­­­­­­­­­ it would be totally impossible to list them out. My playlist is basically based on my mood. One day I’d feel like listening ONLY to Coldplay and one day, I feel like listening only to Enya. One day, I want to listen only to ARR’s 90’s music, one day I will dedicate the entire day to Raja sir, one day only for Pritam, etc., so it’s difficult to pick out my favorite song! I do have “favorite song of the moment”– tracks, which I will play continuously, non-stop, on loop for 1-2 days at a stretch. I’m quite crazy that way. Currently I’m addicted to Royals by Lorde.

But if I had to name a few, they would include:

– SundariKannal- Illaiyaraja

– Ennuyirthozhi- AR Rahman

– Kannanvandhupadugindran- Illaiyaraja

– Yen Mel vizhundamazhaithuliye- AR Rahman

– Asaiyakaathulathoodhuvittu- Illaiyaraja

– Katrilvarumgeethame- Illaiyaraja

– KannathilMuthamIttal- AR Rahman

I can probably go album- wise that would be easier-

Bombay, Roja, May Matham, PudhiyaMugam, Duet, JaaneTuYaJaane Na, Guru…It’s not fair to list just a few albums of the musical GODS!

 5. Are there any songs that you instantly did not care for but then got addicted?

Yes. There are plenty of songs, but the one song that comes to my mind would be ‘IshqWala Love’ from Student of the year. I didn’t care much for that song, but I was addicted to it for 2 whole days.

 6. What are your guilty pleasure songs? C’mon be honest…

I knew you were trouble-Taylor Swift, TikTok- Ke$ha, The climb- Miley Cyrus… need I say more?

 7. What were your favorite subjects in school? What did you study?

English and Entrepreneurship were my favorite subjects in school. I did my UG in Sociology and did my MBA in Communication Management, with a specialization in Public Relations, Events and Corporate Communication.

 8. How do you prepare your voice for a recording?

Oddly enough, I end up catching a cold before every show/ recording. So I tend to drink a lot of warm water. I make sure I drink a lot of warm water after every cold drink I have. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but it works for me.

Apart from that, honestly I don’t do any vocal exercises, although I should!

 9. What are some tips you would give aspiring singers looking in terms of a) improving singing skill and b) improving stage presence?

I’m not sure if I’m there yet to give advice to aspiring singers. I mean, I’m one too. Regarding stage presence, it has taken me a lot of time to open up. Like I have said, I’m still not there yet so I can’t advise anyone. But practicing and performing more in front of audience, helps one open up more.If you’re feeling shy, shoo it away!

 10. Studies have shown singing is tainted by the visual medium. What I mean by that is that audiences judge a song not simply on what they hear but they see as well. How much of your stage presence is natural and did have to really strive for?

My performances while growing up were restricted to school cultural events and GC classes in school where I would sing in front of friends. I had stage fright for a very, very long time. I was even nervous listening to my own performances. It went away recently, when I performed at a festival and it started raining! It was such a beautiful experience; and for me, that moment strangely helped me open up. I just sang and now when I sing, although the nervousness kicks in, it’s not that bad! I’ve opened up a lot and sing more confidently. But like I said, I’m still not there yet…but will soon be :).

 11. Composing music is such a spontaneous, creative process. That being said, do you have a method for composing or do you just let the magic happen on its own?

I CANNOT just sit down and compose music. It hasn’t worked that way. Same goes for writing lyrics to atune. With my three own compositions, there are three different stories.

Yenakku Nee Sondhama– I wrote the lyrics in English, worked on the tune and sent it to a friend who translated it to Tamil. It somehow fit, and I ended up liking it.

Shadow on your wall– the song was written by me and composed by a friend- G.D. Prasad.

Dirty Little Secret– I took my own sweet time (still am, considering I haven’t released it as yet) to work on the lyrics. That’s one song where the lyric sheets has a lot of strikes and scribbles, and have numerous drafts of.

So yeah. I don’t know whether to classify it as something spontaneous or what.

I don’t sit down and think if there should be a verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge or a different pattern to the song. If it flows, it works! That’s good for me.

 12. Do you wish to see more classical music in films in this age of techno/electronic music?

Well, classical music is a very integral part of light music. But I’d like to see some classical- electronic fusion for sure. But then again, it’s a bit of a sensitive genre. It is a traditional genre which has a very, very strong and rich history in India- be it Hindustani or Carnatic. So, excessive experimentation, in pushing boundaries might also push buttons somewhere else J So…I’m not sure. I really like what Karthik Iyer does; his Carnatic fusion is really interesting. And I love the music created by Anil Srinivasan and Sikkhil Gurucharan. So why not?

 13. What is some valuable advice you have picked up along your journey?

Well, when I wanted to enter the industry, my dad told me that it would be a major struggle and that if I’m going to focus on music, I need to never ever give up!

He still tells me that, and I do believe that organic growth helps one sustain in the industry for however he/ she wants to.

Advice #1: Struggle it out!!

Advice #2: focus on your accent and ensure that it is natural

My sister, Pavithra, and my best friend, Shreyas R. Krishnan, are two of my best critiques. Their advice to me has always been to focus on my accent and ensure that it is natural. Sometimes, when we sing Western music, we tend to either imitate the original artist or their accent. For me, when I started off singing pop songs as a kid, I would always imitate the accent and my sister has always been there to help me tone it down and make it natural so that it doesn’t sound heavily accented or ‘fake’ or like someone else.

Advice #3: “Open up and sing”…show some facial expressions while singing… if you’ve had a horrible day, don’t ever show it out while singing/ performing!” My friendly constantly remind me about this.

 14. Rahman, Illaiyaraja, Hans Zimmer. These are all background musical GODS. What is your opinion of BGM? Do you think they’re harder to compose because they’re more subtle and situational as opposed to sporadic tunes that most songs tend to be?

Well, I think the background scores are somewhat underrated. I think composers should start releasing the BGMs on a CD as well. Look at VinnaithaandiVaruvaaya’s BGM for example. Aaromale- the CD version sung by Alphons Joseph was completely different from ShreyaGhoshal’s version of the song, which she sings as a BGM. The BGM of Bombay– the signature tune that it became!!!!! Nayagan… MounaRagam!

BGMs are constant throughout and the subtleties differ according to the mood of that particular scene…. bringing that across through music and making sure the audience understands and syncs the visuals and the music is something that requires separate talent! Musicals are completely different!

You’ve heard it here first guys. Check out Shilpa!