Mahesh Raghunandan: One Song at a Time
The Bengaluru-based artist on making it as a singer-songwriter, being compared to John Mayer and his new vlog series
Mahesh Raghunandan knew a new chapter in his life had begun when he first heard “Gravity,” the bluesy 2006 megahit by American singer-songwriter John Mayer. “I was around 16 and it was the first time I was so drawn towards a song–what was being expressed, what he was trying to say,” recalls the Bengaluru-based singer. “In my head, I knew this is what I would be doing for the rest of my life.”
Now, at 24, Raghunandan is steadily moving closer to his goals. His performance at Gujarat’s free indie music festival Into the Void last weekend–both as a solo artist and as a member of Bengaluru alternative rock band Blushing Satellite—drew an encouraging response from the audience, thanks to his mellifluous acoustic guitar playing, gripping vocals and eloquent lyricism. While this does lead to frequent comparisons with Mayer, it’s not something he’s worried about. “It’s funny because apart from small clips on Facebook, I haven’t really covered any of his songs onstage or in a video,” Raghunandan says with a laugh. “But it’s good because when people can still see the influence, it’s like looking into my true beginning… if you can call it that.”
Raghunandan released his first EP Beyond the Door in 2013 but feels it doesn’t count as his big debut. “That was my entry into the scene but I don’t consider it my EP at all!” he says, adding that he plans to make a bigger splash in 2017. His SoundCloud page is filled with examples of what’s to come; tracks like “Sleep” (featuring Shillong-based cellist Adiel Massar), “Drowning” and the more recent “Finders Keepers” have gained Raghunandan a loyal fan following across social media.
As far as getting lost in the growing guitar-armed, ballad-playing singer-songwriter crowd is concerned, Raghunandan is not the least bit worried. “When I did start back when I was in college, there weren’t many artists who called themselves ‘singer-songwriters’; most were fronting a band and then coming in and doing solo stuff. Singer-songwriter is now a completely different genre on its own,” he says. But the sudden surge in singer-songwriters and the opportunities to perform is yet to bring rich returns. Raghunandan says frequent appearance in viral online lists and fashion spreads are only deceptive signs of success. “They see us in articles and believe we’ve ‘made it,’ but I’m trying to say, ‘No I have not, I’m right here with you, just sharing my music.”
To give people better insight into the life of a struggling singer-songwriter, he launched a weekly vlog series called Mahesh Music Diaries on February 1st, 2017. Each video features glimpses into his life, chronicling gigs, song meanings, the lives of fellow artists and more. “There is so much back-story that is supporting this experience,” he says, revealing that he plans on documenting the entire process of making his upcoming EP too. “Hopefully in the beginning of next year I’ll be out with an album as well. Things are looking good right now.”
Watch Mahesh Raghunandan perform “Untitled” for Sofar Sounds in Delhi NCR below: