With words that string together stories and acoustic beats that leave you nostalgic, singer-songwriter Anuv Jain has quickly garnered immense love among audiences. Only three years since his first release, the 27-year-old musician is already making big noise in the musical industry by crossing three million monthly listeners on Spotify! In a conversation with Travel+Leisure India & South Asia, the soulful serenader gets candid about his career so far, inspirations, and more.
Excerpts from the interview with Anuv Jain
T+L India: It’s been a big year-end for you with more than 114 million streams on Spotify. What does it feel like?
Anuv Jain: There’s many levels to it. I’m extremely happy with the numbers that we’ve achieved. At the beginning of the year, I had made a promise to Ayushman, one of my managers, that I would cross 100 million streams in 2022. At the time, I didn’t know whether it would be possible or not. But I’m so happy we did!
T+L India: What inspired you to make a career in music?
Anuv Jain: I’ve always been into music, but I never thought I’d make a career of it. It was more of a hobby, even when I was writing songs that were doing pretty well on YouTube. I would be okay with releasing just a couple of songs every year. Due to some personal incidents in my family, making music seemed like the best career path for me. Plus, as the streams and numbers became bigger than I expected, it also felt like a responsibility for me to try and pursue this. It’s been three years since!
T+L India: You started your career in music by pushing out music on YouTube. What motivated you to take this step?
Anuv Jain: I was 16 at the time when I recorded a song on my phone and put it up. People really liked it! That gave me a lot of confidence to keep producing music.
T+L India: As a songwriter whose music is deeply inspired by personal instances, do you feel vulnerable or extra cautious of what you pen down?
Anuv Jain: Even when 10 people would listen to my music, I would be in the same stress and pressure that I am in now! Obviously, it’s very nerve-wracking as you’re putting yourself out there and things can go south. After all, you are writing something that is very close to you and sharing it with the world. It’s very scary when the world critiques it; it’s scarier when they’re critiquing your life, as is the case with my music. All my songs are inspired by snippets and memories of my life.
Even though its scary, I would not do it differently. I feel if your art is not inspired by your own life, then you are probably doing something wrong. As artists, we always try to put bits and pieces of yourself [in the creations]. I’m good with the discomfort, as long as people can relate to them and find their own stories.
T+L India: There’s a notable rise in India’s Indie artists’ scene. How do you ensure you stand out from the crowd?
Anuv Jain: I feel I’ve had the first mover advantage because when I started out, there were not a lot of independent artists releasing music. That gave me an initial push. I also feel that my lyrics and songwriting is something that people can connect with. I rarely repeat my lyrics. There aren’t any hooks—it’s pure lyrics and stories that unfold.
I also feel I have leveraged social media a lot because I’m genuinely extremely close to the people that listen to my music. They’re not fans; they are family. I am happy when they are happy. I have the biggest smile on my face when I meet them! So I think the audience has helped me a lot, too.
T+L India: Speaking of social media, does the pressure of views and likes get to you?
Anuv Jain: When you upload a song and it doesn’t get as many views or streamed, it does affect you. It makes you feel like maybe there’s something wrong from your end. But I think more pressure comes from constantly being in front of people.
I also think our attention spans have lowered. If you cannot grab someone’s attention in the first 10 seconds, they will move on to the next thing. That’s something that presurrises me. I write songs as stories that are meant to be heard in its entirety. But I’m really happy that people have accepted my songs and enjoy it.
T+L India: Apart from the music, your cover artworks and music videos also have a following of its own. What is the process of creating these visuals?
Anuv Jain: Like everything that I put out, there’s a lot of thought that goes into the visuals, too. Every detail and colour has been thought of. For the music videos, we sit down and come up with concepts. Being a business student, I feel its very important the way you package everything because that’s the first thing people will see — the music video or cover art. That sets the mood of the songs as well.
Usually, we come up with the song first and then the visuals. Whenever I hear a song, I can imagine the colours unfolding in my head. Whenever I talk to the illustrator of the song, I tell them the colour I visualised and we come up with a concept together.
T+L India: Has travel ever influenced your songwriting process?
Anuv Jain: One of my most popular songs, Alag Aasmaan, is a travel song. It’s about a girl leaving the guy’s house and returning to her home in a different city. There’s a line in the song where she is coming back from Mumbai to Ludhiana in a plane and looking outside the window. I got inspired to write that line while I was looking outside the window myself.
T+L India: You often credit your mother for your career. Tell us more about your relationship with her.
Anuv Jain: My mom is like my best friend! We do argue sometimes, but also watch a lot of movies together and have the best time. When I’m writing, she’s like a school principal! She always reminds me to stay focused and stay away from my phone. She’s equally involved in my music. Every time she sees something on Instagram, she sends it to me.
There’s a running joke in my family that everyone has seen me perform live, except her! Having said that, I feel my craft is still imperfect. I’d like her to join for a show where I know everything is going to be perfect because her opinion matters a lot to me. If she comes to my show and she says something was not nice—she’s very blunt!—I’ll be heartbroken!
T+L India: Any destination that has had a lasting impact on you personally or professionally?
Anuv Jain: I would like to call people my ‘destinations’. People who have come into my life have been an important part. They inspire my work. But there isn’t any geographical place.
T+L India: Having performed at various places in India, which has been your most memorable gig yet?
Anuv Jain: There have been so many! I opened for Post Malone in Mumbai a few weeks ago—that was insane. I performed in Nepal and that was absolutely mental. But if I were to pinpoint one gig, I would say Bengaluru in 2021. There were thousands of people. But the reason it was so memorable is because there was a power cut while I was performing the last set. Because my mic stopped working, I had to gesture to the audience saying that it will be restored in two-three minutes. But the audience was kind and patient that they started singing the entire song for me. It felt like I was in the audience and everyone was giving me a concert! Situations like these are very rare to come by, and when it does happen, you feel like you may have caused an impact.
T+L India: What’s on your travel playlist?
Anuv Jain: It might sound narcissistic, but I listen to a lot of my music. There’s also this guy from the UK, Novo Amor. He makes very soft and melodic music which I like listening to.
T+L India: What kind of a traveller are you?
Anuv Jain: I like to live a little luxuriously. I like staying at good hotels and getting the best seats while travelling. For the longest time, I’ve had motion sickness and haven’t been able to travel much. So now, I like to travel comfortably.
T+L India: Any bucket list destinations where you would want to perform at?
Anuv Jain: I would love to do a show in London. In India, I would love to perform in my own city Ludhiana.
T+L India: A destination you’d like to go for a holiday?
Anuv Jain: There are many! I want to go Australia. I would love to go to Japan and Bali, too.
T+L India: What’s next for Anuv Jain?
Anuv Jain: So many things! 2023 is going to be insane. I’m going to finish off all the things I have planned. I’ working on many unique songs. I’m also working on many things that I can’t talk about right now but people will find more as the year unfolds.
All photographs courtesy Anuv Jain
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