Exclusive Premiere: Sid Sriram’s Emotive New Single ‘It Isn’t True’
The Indo-American singer-songwriter juggles deeply personal music with a universal message of healing
Last week, we caught an emotional set by Indo-American producer/singer-songwriter Sid Sriram at Mumbai’s Above The Habitat. His first ever performance in the city was met with thunderous applause and a pervasive curiosity as he debuted material from his upcoming 12- track debut album Entropy, an R&B record featuring hints of hip-hop, pop, soul, rock and elements of Carnatic music. “With this album I tried to shut my mind off and just channel, make myself a vessel for all my different influences,” says Sriram.
Today, the musician releases his first single from the LP, the emotive “It Isn’t True,” exclusively on Rolling Stone India. The track is a vulnerable account of heartbreak, drawing stylistic comparisons to R&B stars like Frank Ocean and The Weeknd. Penned three years ago, Sriram says, “I wrote it when I was living in L.A., going through the tail end of a relationship.” He adds, “I lived with the piece for a few years and when I started assembling my debut LP, this song was a necessary part of the album’s journey.”
To anyone who enjoys South Indian film music or traditional Carnatic music, Sriram isn’t a new face. The Indian-American vocalist moved to San Francisco at a young age, and began learning and performing music at just the age of 3. Since then, he’s explored many avenues, finding passion in composing and covering R&B, getting picked up by composer A.R. Rahman and representing a new age energy in Tamil and Telugu film music. “What I’ve learnt from the film world, especially working with Rahman Sir, is how to make music that people latch on to,” says Sriram.
“It Isn’t True” has been released through Saavn’s Artist Originals label. Stream the track here. Watch the video below.
The musician spoke to Rolling Stone India about marrying his diverse influences, what he learnt from the movie business, and where he looks for God. Excerpts:
Entropy is such an eclectic mix of all the music that has shaped you. Was it a challenge to compile it into a coherent whole?
I feel like the world is comprised of different systems. Human beings themselves have smaller systems that make a functioning whole. They still make sense together, despite their differences. A lot of the personal music I was working on during the past three years or so was bogged down by my insistence on making it sound a certain way, and having certain expectations. I was trying too hard, and I could hear it in the songs. So this time, I followed my gut, and I knew that everything I’d learned in the last few years would manifest anyway. In a lot of ways, Entropy wrote itself.
A lot of the tracks from this record were composed almost a decade ago, and in the meantime you’ve had quite an illustrious career. Did you alter any of the tracks to catch up to the progress you’ve made since?
I think I reinterpreted all of the older songs. In fact, the closing track, “Limitless,” there’s an old, old version of that online. If we start from that piece, I was kind of over it. I didn’t really want to go back to it. But when I thought about this project… it’s an introspective project that goes to some really dark, profound places. It’s sort of taxing, both to create and consume. I needed at the end of all that, to give the listeners a sense of hope.And my parents encouraged me because they love that one. Even the track “2AM Prayer,” the time I first released it, I didn’t have the production ability to do it justice. I’ve grown immensely since then, and what’s really dope is that the way I produced it now, is how it sounded in my head years ago.
What’s an important lesson you learnt from working on movie soundtracks?
I don’t want to be a super obscure artist. I want to make accessible art. And what I’ve learnt from the film world, especially working with Rahman Sir, is how to make music that people latch on to. The task was to make it accessible but never compromise on my artistic vision, which was a welcome challenge. It forced me to have major realizations and execute them very quickly. I’d work on a song for a day or two, and at the end of the night I’d listen to it five or six times. If it made me cry or gave me chills… have some kind of visceral reaction, then I knew I had something. I made sure to differentiate between “That’s a really cool thing going on there” and “Man… that hit me.”
Were there any specific artists that influenced ’Entropy’?
I wasn’t listening to any other records during the making of this one, so there weren’t any conscious influences. But that’s not to say there wasn’t a subconscious influence, because I had already spent so much time inputting information into my system, whether it was reading books or listening to music. An interesting influence actually came from literature [through] Haruki Murakami’s writing. He’s so beautifully descriptive without using any hyperbole. His books are easy reads, you don’t need to toil over them, and yet they’re effortlessly emotional and have a strong sense of place. I remember the way I felt reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. That’s how I wanted my music to make people feel.
You’ve touched upon spirituality in a lot of your work and interviews. Where does your faith come from?
My dad’s super spiritual and my mom’s very religious. They express it in different ways: My dad thinks about the philosophy behind things, and my mom’s more traditional, prays every day. I saw how it benefitted them. For me, it came from music, because as far back as I can remember there have been moments where I sang… and I would just mentally check out. Be transported to a different place. And not just on stage, it even happened when I practiced at home by myself. Carnatic music especially, allowed me to find that portal. Divinity is so deeply ingrained in it. Traditional Carnatic compositions often ask questions, simple questions like ‘Where are you?’ You know, trying to speak with God. And I think if you’re open enough, you catch a glimpse of the answer.