Meet India’s Newest Fingerstyle Guitarist, Manan Gupta
The Mumbai musician’s work is reminiscent of veterans Tommy Emmanuel and Jon Gomm; his debut album releases today
Manan Gupta was about eight years of age when he first got fascinated with the building blocks of music—when his grandmother would play the harmonium at home, he would sit next to her and follow her fingers gliding effortlessly on the keys. Later, he would try it out himself. “I started figuring out popular melodies on my own on a toy Casio keyboard,” he says. Gupta would eventually end up mastering the instrument and soon pick up the guitar. “I was inspired after listening to [the veteran American fingerstyle guitarist] Andy McKee’s track, ‘Drifting,’” he says.
The Mumbai musician started his solo career five years ago with a single, the delicate instrumental, “Dear Mother.” In 2014, Gupta released two more instrumental tracks, “Gratitude for Dad” and “Unity Unify.” “My early compositions were influenced by the likes of Jon Gomm, Andy Mckee, Mike Dawes, Tommy Emmanuel, Kaki King, John Mayer, Michael Jackson and A.R. Rahman, to name a few,” says the 24-year-old, who is now all geared up to release his 16-track debut album, Mix Mood, on May 15th. The LP has been recorded, mixed and mastered at the musician’s home studio and includes eight instrumental tracks. He says, “My dad commented on my album’s title and said that ‘mix mood’ is the flavor of true life… Although the album features some really complex and technical songs, it also has simple, easy-listening melodies which will hopefully appeal to all kinds of music lovers.”
Gupta’s unique playing style not only makes him a rare artist but also offers him great musical advantage. He says, “By playing fingerstyle guitar I can arrange a whole song by playing the bass line, melody and harmony all at once without using a backing track.”
In this interview with Rolling Stone India, Gupta discusses his influences and the new record.
As a child, what have been your earliest musical experiences?
None of my family or even relatives is into music but my grandmother used to play a bit of sitar and harmonium. I used to simply observe her playing and without any training I started playing. My grandmother and my parents were surprised to see that musical aptitude in me and they started showcasing my talent to pretty much all of our family friends and relatives. Gradually, within a couple of years I became so proficient on my own in keyboards that my grandmother started taking lessons from me and my parents eventually enrolled me into professional piano lessons in Western classical music from Trinity College of Music, London.
I’ve heard your upcoming album and the tracks “Nature” and “Stabilize” stand out for their high production value. Can you tell me more about them?
A few years ago, I was challenged by numerous hurdles–a taxing workload, amidst other responsibilities. I wanted more than anything to take a break and run away from all of it to explore myself and my art, but was unable to do so. Ironically, the extreme frustration of not being able to get away inspired me to write “Nature.” The melody just came to me somewhere from above, but I felt great after finishing this song.
When you come to think of it, nothing is actually stable in real life. We are surrounded by waves of happy and sad moments. When we desire something, we work towards achieving it and once conquered, we start desiring new things. “Stabilize” is about existing in that incredible moment of achievement and victory, while also being painfully aware that it isn’t going to last forever. That heartfelt wish of not wanting this amazing moment turned into a memory while I am subconsciously ready for my next prize, even though all I want to do is still revel in it.
What inspires you to write the kind of music that you make?
Ever since I started traveling for shows, meeting new people and exploring new and different things on my own, the inspiration started coming from within. From personal challenges and life experiences.
What are your plans to promote the record?
I am planning on doing both music videos and tour to promote my album, but I am focusing majorly on touring for the rest of the year which will include some international shows too.
Apart from your solo act, are you involved in any other music projects?
I produce music for T.V. commercials, jingles and film scores. I also teach [music].
Click here to stream ‘Mix Mood.’ Watch the music video for “Stabilize” below: