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Ricky Kej on Grammy Win: ‘I’m Going To Continue Promoting This Album For A Very Long Time’

The Bengaluru composer and co-creator of ‘Divine Tides’ on Stewart Copeland and becoming twice honored on Music’s Biggest Night

Anurag Tagat Apr 04, 2022

Ricky Kej and Stewart Copeland. Photo: Courtesy of Lahari Music

In a true testament of how music was made remotely in the pandemic, Bengaluru composer Ricky Kej eventually met Stewart Copeland – drummer extraordinaire from The Police and collaborator on their latest album Divine Tides – a week prior to them winning the Grammy award for Best New Age Album on April 3rd in Las Vegas.

Kej, seated in his hotel room on the 28th floor with the glitz of Vegas behind him, spoke to Rolling Stone India just hours following the win for Divine Tides. Copeland’s stature and involvement and the fact that they worked remotely are things that Kej chalks down as the biggest difference between his previous Grammy-winning album Winds of Samsara (2015) and this time. “I’ve grown up listening to his [Copeland] music like a lot of people have. I’ve had posters of him on my wall. He pretty much influenced my musical career,” Kej says.

Beyond Copeland’s work with The Police, Kej also name-checks the drummer’s projects like Klark Kent (named after his debut solo album released in 1980) featuring bassist Stanley Clarke and soundtrack work for films such as Wall Street (1987) and Rumble Fish (1983) “I think [Rumble Fish] is one of the best movie soundtracks ever done […] To actually work with my childhood hero was quite amazing,” Kej says.

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Kej, Copeland and their teams worked entirely through phone calls, Zoom sessions, WhatsApp messages and other online communication. Then, last week, they got to hang out in Nashville. The composer adds, “That was the first time I’ve ever met him in person, the first time I could actually hug him. And then after that, we spent quality time some more quality time in Los Angeles, and now we’re in Vegas. This whole thing has been quite a surreal experience, because just meeting him was the award in itself for me.”

The Indian artist also wrapped up his first international tour since the pandemic, performing in nine cities and rounding it off with a visit to the Grammys. The important part, as Kej stresses, is that he’s nowhere near done with the Divine Tides promotion cycle. After all, a collaboration with Copeland has been in the works since 2016 and the album finally released in 2021 via Lahari Music. Interestingly, with the label’s digital head Naveen Manoharan on the call, Kej compares his association with Lahari as one of family. “This is the first time ever that I’ve worked with a label, where I’ve not signed a single paper. Absolutely nothing has been signed between us, because of the trust that we have,” he claims.

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Even after taking the long road, Kej is not one to immediately hop on to the next project. “I’ve always felt that the biggest mistake that independent artists can make – and I’ve been guilty of this my whole career – is that the minute we are finishing off an album or a project, we are always thinking about what to do next.”

He laments the pressure musicians apply on themselves to immediately begin working on a fresh project following the release of a record. “[It] is very dangerous for an independent artist simply because the minute you work on a new project, the previous project is dead. It loses its life. So I’m going to try not to make that mistake with Divine Tides. I’m going to continue promoting this album for a very long time, because it’s not a mainstream album. So till the time I feel that the audiences who would actually appreciate the music have listened to it, I will continue promoting the album. Only when I’m 100 percent sure that every single person who could potentially like the album has listened to it, then I will move on to the next project,” Kej adds.

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