Mahesh Raghunandan

Mahesh Raghunandan

Youngest of the three children of a typical middle class family in Bangalore, Mahesh picked up the guitar at the age of 15. It was just a hobby to start with, a weird kid's sanctuary. But interestingly, listening to John Mayer's Gravity for the very first time changed that into a love for expression through words and melodies. 'I still consider that to be the moment I became a songwriter, if I could call myself one. Getting my hands on the greatest hits albums of Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Chet Baker and spending days on loop definitely pushed me in the right direction at the time.' He tells me more. Peep in! 

Has music always been the way of life?
With the fear of sounding pompous - yes. It has always been a way of life. By saying that, I don't mean that I know more about music than I actually do. In fact, I have a long way to go as a musician and I'm happily working on it every single day. But music has always been that something that I don't completely understand but it always understood me. I could always connect with it.

How would you describe your sensibility as a musician?
If I were to write a song about punching someone in the face, I would want the unfortunate listener of this song to feel as punched as the real thing, literally. In other words, my goal with music is to replace the actual emotion with words and melodies as accurately as possible to my satisfaction. The language I would use to do this comes from all the music that I listen to and how it makes me feel. Damien Rice, John Mayer, D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, The Reign of Kindo, BB King and so many more have all have played a huge role in the kind of musician I am today. 

What inspires you?
Apart from the greatest gift of having so much great music out there, I draw inspiration through embracing struggles. It's not easy being a full time musician but all the experiences that come my way, the people I meet in the process, the way I choose to handle my life because of it - all of this makes me a better musician, a better human being and it is all great fodder for songwriting.  

Do you have a particular creative process that you follow? Walk me through a day in your life.
I don't have a specific one. A lot of my songwriting is driven by intuition. I'm a nerd when it comes to learning more about songwriting and vocals through books and videos. I'm exposed to many different kinds of music through my friends and band members apart from what I listen to myself. I have the habit of journaling my thoughts. I'm sure all of that influences my creative process. But I do not restrict myself to a pattern although having some structure to the process helps. 
My day is filled with music throughout - listening to, making and playing music. All my activities revolve around it. I spend a lot of time in public BMTC buses moving back and forth across the city for rehearsals, recordings and other music related work. I spend two evenings in a week teaching passionate music lovers and budding musicians how to sing. I also spend my time as a volunteer and staff crew for the UK-based online music community - Songstuff. 

You broke into the scene with an EP back in 2013 but you don’t count it as your debut. How was that work different the one you dropped in 2017?
When I released the EP in 2013, I was in the very early stages of discovering my capabilities as a musician. I'd never played a gig before, my guitar playing was extremely simple at best and my songwriting - adolescent. Because of the encouragement and guidance of my mentor and close friend John Moxey (who happens to own Songstuff), I did it anyways. It proved to be a stepping stone into the local music scene and I'm grateful for it to have launched my music career. In the past few years, I have released a few singles (later in the form of a compilation EP) that were mostly home recordings. My career has survived without a fully produced studio record so far but I'm excited for the 2018 EP that I've been working on with producer and bassist Leslie Charles and guitarist Ramanan Chandramouli. With the first single and music video to be out in the next 2 months, I finally feel that this will give my kind and patient audience a true and complete representation of what I am as a singer-songwriter today. 

I read somewhere that you have performed with Christian Galvez, one of the best Jazz musicians in the world. How did that come about and what was the experience like?
Performing with the great Christian Galvez was a lifetime opportunity and a highlight in my career that I'll cherish!
There have been many people in the local scene who've taken a chance or trusted me with opportunities for which I'm grateful for. Besides Arati Rao from B-Flat and Nikhil Barua from The Humming Tree, music producer Sandeep Chowta is one of them. When he got down Christian Galvez to Bangalore in 2016, I was part of the line up who performed with Galvez. He is a legend, in and out. We had one rehearsal and a soundcheck for the two songs we did together - The Nearness of You by Hoagy Carmichael and Sleep, which was a song of my own. It was an empowering and nerve wracking experience and an immense honour performing with him.

What are you working on right now?
2018 is gonna be a very special year. I'm working on the very first studio produced EP that I mentioned earlier which is going to come out in the next few months. To be on the line up for Backdoors 2018 with names like Anderson .Paak and Wolf Alice is otherworldly and I'm looking forward to what will be one of the biggest gigs of the year. Being the front-man for Ramanan's project "Blushing Satellite", I look forward to touring with them across the year as we support our recent album "The Union".
In other words, so much more music!

Text Hansika Lohani Mehtani