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Ricky Vasan Releases Poignant Debut Album ‘Treading Water’

The eight-track LP comes after last year’s ‘Weekend Smile’ EP

David Britto Oct 26, 2021

Dehradun-bred singer-songwriter Ricky Vasan. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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After releasing his debut five-track EP Weekend Smile in 2020, Dehradun-bred and Boston-based singer-songwriter Ricky Vasan decided to lay low for a while due to the pandemic. He says, “[I was] taking it one day at a time.” Now, the musician is out with a follow-up, his debut full-length album, the emotionally driven eight-track Treading Water.

In this interview with Rolling Stone India, Vasan breaks down his new LP, talks about his future plans and more.

When did you begin writing Treading Water?

I think the album writing process started around April 2020. I invested in some basic recording gear and turned my bedroom into a studio. The writing process in itself was pretty challenging because I didn’t really have a goal in my mind, I was just writing and recording songs and then just hoping they would make sense together. I ended up with at least 25 demos and then it was a process of choosing which ones I liked.

What can you tell me about the songs on the record?

My inspiration for the lyricism on the LP was all over the place but I looked a lot at poetry and focussed on individual lines instead of trying to weave a complete narrative. Some of the songs are more personal like ‘August’ and ‘For the Time Being’ while others are completely removed from me for example ‘Swan Song.’ The title ‘Treading Water’ also came from the numbness that last year brought, not knowing what the next day entailed. A lot of the writing was done with me just coming up with a song title and then writing a song based on that. The production on the LP was just a lot of experimentation, the songs don’t follow a clear-cut structure either. My one goal was to make the music feel cinematic and intimate. I also opted out of extravagant solos and just kept the whole thing incredibly grounded.

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Treading Water is a product of just observing the world and reminiscing about the past from one room. The album is also a very new sonic direction for me as there was something about the intimacy of acoustic folk music that resonated with me. The record is indebted to the records and artists who inspired me – Leonard Cohen, Damien Jurado, Bon Iver, Kevin Morby, Laura Marling, Bob Dylan and Fleet Foxes.

Where did you record and who did you work with on the album?

I spent some time setting up a pretty bare-bones bedroom studio. All I had at my disposal were some cheap acoustic guitars and a keyboard my parents got me when I was in the second grade. All of the audio on the LP was recorded through one single microphone and the mixing was done by me, the album was mastered by Shikhar Arya at Acid Studios in Dehradun. 

What plans do you have in promoting the LP?

I have been performing around Boston at any venue that I can find just singing stripped-back versions of these songs. It is very fascinating for me to participate in live music because I have only ever worked as a studio artist which has kept me detached from the most basic and integral goal of music which is just performing and sharing it with people in a live setting.

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What’s next for you?

I spent some time working on a second LP over the summer which is more like a sequel to Treading Water. The LP is more stripped back as I was thinking about translating my music into a live solo setting without it being boring, so that meant more engaging lyrics and melodies along with intricate finger-picked guitar. I also felt like the ending of Treading Water is pretty open which made me want to expand upon the idea.

Stream ‘Treading Water’ on Spotify below and on other platforms.

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