When I last met him, it was before the lockdown and then the 24-year-old was having a packed schedule, flying in and out of Mumbai for concerts and recordings. He was just about to release his first international English single Control, which he also wrote the lyrics of, and the promotions were on in full swing. But then 2020 pulled a shocker and life came to a standstill owing to the pandemic. Things went downhill for almost all of us. But a few made sure they make the most out of whatever the situation they are in. Armaan Malik was one of them.
Today, Armaan has wrapped 2020 on a high. He released his debut English single in March, which has been streamed more than 35 million streams across platforms to date, and became the first Indian singer-songwriter to be featured on the coveted Spotify’s Time Square billboard in New York. He won the ‘Best India Act’ for Control, at the Europe Music Awards 2020 and by the end of the year, he had topped the Billboard’s Top Triller Global chart twice.
He also became a bonafide multilingual singer this year with his Butta Bomma becoming the most viewed Telugu song ever on YouTube. Just before ringing in the new year, we caught up with the prolific singer, who has put out more than 20 songs, including 10 originals. Excerpts:
So, how was 2020 for you?
In all honesty, it was a really difficult time for me and all of us. 2020 will go down as the year we all grew and learned to realise the importance of the smallest things that we never cared to acknowledge before. If there’s anything that has kept me going all throughout is music. Professionally, I’ve just had the most unreal year so far and I experienced so many firsts; debut English single, the Spotify Times Square billboard, topping a Billboard chart twice, winning the MTV EMA, and surviving a global pandemic!
It seems the lockdown got you more productive!
I have definitely grown a lot during this lockdown. Honed my skills as a singer, got to learn new ways to self-shoot video content, and in general, learned to be super self-sufficient as an artiste.
How was it to release your first international single in the middle of the lockdown?
A few travel plans had to be canceled, but that does not matter. What’s important is to keep me and the people around me healthy as well as safe. We can always travel and do whatever we need to once the situation is under control. I wanted to do a big launch party, but 2020 had other plans of its own (haha). We had some promotional activities in place for the Western markets along with some shows but we couldn’t. However, that never stopped us from going all out on digital platforms.
I want to focus on being a healthier me; physically, mentally, and emotionally.Armaan on his New Year resolution
The lockdown saw a spike in online content consumption… do you think that became a boon for independent artistes?
From a creator’s POV, I think the digital space is very helpful in promoting new music and artistes. Social media has definitely contributed to my journey in a big way. My YouTube channel really benefited from my social accounts. It’s one thing to make good music that connects with fans, and it’s another thing to actually connect with fans, and that happens via social media. In today’s day and age, we cannot ignore the importance of it. For all emerging artistes, I think it’s very important to use these digital platforms effectively because it is definitely a place where they can be discovered and get a big break. The possibilities are endless!
With Bollywood taking a backseat and theatres getting shut, do you think more musicians have started to look beyond film music?
Due to the lockdown, people started paying more attention to independently released music, but it needs to be noted that indie has always been out there, flourishing. It has regained momentum due to the fact that Bollywood songs/releases couldn’t be pushed as much as they were previously because shooting music videos has been very difficult due to the pandemic and in India, a song doesn’t work until there’s a proper video asset for it. Therefore, indie music filled the void in the most brilliant way.
I don’t want this independent movement to stop growing as soon as Bollywood music takes over the scene like it was before the lockdown. I love the momentum it’s picked up this year and I wish to see it grow stronger year by year.
Why do you think India still doesn’t have that great an independent music scene yet?
The majority of our country listens to Bollywood music/ film music. We don’t have a separate “music industry” like in the west. But that has changed this year. I can see that independent music is parallelly carving its own place and I’m very confident that in the next 5 years we will have a great independent music scene!
Do you see the live music scene getting back to normal any time soon? What according to you is the way forward for musicians?
Two of my shows got canceled much before the national self-quarantine. I am glad the organisers and my team took the right call. At this point, it’s best that we all stay home and stay safe. We need to stop the virus in its tracks and control its rapid spread. Genuinely, I don’t know how and when “in-person” live performances will make a comeback; we’ve seen some concepts around drive-in concerts, ghost sets, and whatnot but, nothing matches the excitement of a gig as we knew up until last year. I cannot guarantee, yet, I feel whenever the gigs are back in place, I don’t think they will be the same because we’d have to think twice before facilitating fan interaction, managing the crowd, figuring out food and beverages, etc. While I’ve done selective digital concerts during this time and even though virtual performances are the only readily available and safe alternative at the moment, they don’t feel as good as an actual live performance. I’m guessing we will all have to adapt on the go.
2021 wish list:
1. Collaboration in a new language
2. Reduce my screen-time on social media
3. Eat healthier
4. Take India closer to the global stage
5. Learn how to speak Spanish
6. Learn how to cook a full meal
7. Re-start Tennis as a sport
8. Help young Independent musicians in whatever way I can
9. Start an independent label of my own
10. One month-long vacation in New Zealand
1. Surround yourself with people who vibe with you and will stick around no matter what goes down.
2. Ignore negativity on your social media and life in general. Scroll the troll.
3. Work is a part of your life, not your life.
4. Invest money wisely.
5. Don’t let anyone tell you “you cannot do something.”