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The Evolution Of Harsha Iyer

The solo producer and musician is working on a double album

Shawn Fernandes May 15, 2012
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Harsha Iyer (Photo: Varun Suresh)

Chennai’s Harsha Iyer is only 20 and by the end of the year he’ll have released three full-length albums. Last year, his critically acclaimed debut album Curious Toys showcased his talents as the poster boy for the new breed of Indian indie musicians. Working out of his bedroom studio, Iyer does everything from composing to singing and playing all the instruments as well as production and mixing.

Harsha Iyer spoke to ROLLING STONE as he wraps up his double album and told us how he’s evolved as a musician and as a songwriter.

Tell us about the new albums and how your sound has evolved since last year’s Curious Toys.

The second album When It’s Time is going to be out in two parts consisting roughly of 10 songs each. So in a sense, it’s a double album, although I’ll be putting out the two parts with a two-month gap between each release. When It’s Time (Part 1) will be out in June.
Sonically, the new album is very rich and lush. It has its moments of dynamics between fast and slow and the songs are theatrical. Each song is set in a mood and is highly textured with layered arrangements.

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Musically, I’ve definitely explored more and there’s a shift from the first album’s raw electric guitar-dominated sound to a more refined and polished acoustic guitar sound. The new album also features the piano as well as entire orchestral string and brass sections (and many other instruments) with some electronica influences. I’ve tried to create a musical world in the second album where the overall sound is more grand and cinematic.

Those who’ve heard the first album may be surprised with the new sound but they’ll definitely notice the evolution of an original style and sound of my own. Lyrically, When It’s Time deals with a bunch of characters who are caught in various situations during particular phases of their lives, in an almost surreal manner. Bad times, ironic moments and cruel injustices occur in their lives and they are put in psychologically traumatizing, yet relatable situations. Sometimes the situations leave them with a disturbing sense of fate or destiny, the feeling that they don’t seem to have control over their lives.

The characters in your songs may not be in control of their lives but you definitely are. You’ve just hit your 20s and you would have released three albums by the end of September. What’s next, in terms of your career as a musician?

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Well, I’ve already got plans and ideas brewing for another album. My next goal is to get my music out a little more to people across India. I’m also working towards getting my music abroad, to markets like the U.K. and the U.S. The internet is a boon for independent artists in today’s world, so thank heavens for that.

Also I think I owe a lot to fans because they’re a big part of getting the word out there, spreading the music to their friends in a chain and I’m very thankful and grateful to them for that.

Will there be a live set soon?

Yes! There will indeed be a live set with lots of new material coming soon. It will probably take a couple of months before we start performing, but I’m definitely working on bringing my music to come alive on stage. As soon as the second album is finished, definitely. It should be fun!

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