Sid Sriram, Singer/Composer/Song-writer
"I'm pretty guarded in regular life. But the stage is where I am at my energetic best"
April 15, 2017

“Keep the mind creative always,” you posted on Twitter two weeks ago. Personally, how do you do that?

My chief creative space is music. I’ve been blessed to operate in a few different realms in the world of music. Carnatic music was how I started; I started singing when I was three; my mother was my first Carnatic teacher. My grandfather was a Carnatic musician and had a background in films too.

I went on to pick up R & B, Soul, Hip-hop and other alternative forms along the way. In 2012, I joined the Berklee College of Music, Boston and that stint exposed me to a ton of music. My foray into playback singing also happened that year.

So, basically, musically speaking, I have so much going on because of these three different streams constantly operating in my mind. I also sketch on and off and write fiction too. In my fourth semester in college, I also took a course in slam poetry and enjoy doing that as well.

I try to be as spontaneous as possible whether it is singing, practicing, writing and I think all these, in a sense, feed into each other…

A lot of my music deals with existential ideas, the purpose of purpose; our place in the world, past memories, significance of different events in my own life

Your website says that your debut full-length album, Insomniac Season, is all set to launch in April this year.

Actually, it should be out in a couple of months.

How long has that been in the making?

Well, I began work on it in March 2014 and I wrote the lyrics for the last song on that album when I was in Chennai for six months (between July through December) last year.

Has it been an all-consuming experience?

Oh yeah! In fact, the studio I recorded out of in Los Angeles, has no windows so after a point, I lost perception of time. I lost a bunch of weight randomly because I didn’t feel like eating at all. So yeah, you go through these battles, ups and downs…

But the joy comes from listening to what you are creating and realizing that the creation is something very real, very raw, very vulnerable.

What inspired the title of the album? Are you an insomniac?

Well, when I was younger, I’d have these nights when I couldn’t sleep, periodically. But then you are young and you don’t pay attention to it. And then, when I went to college, it settled in as a real problem. There’d be many many nights I’d go without sleep…

And what would you be thinking?

A lot of my music deals with existential ideas, the purpose of purpose; our place in the world, past memories, significance of different events in my own life. College also coincided with my first time, alone. I grew up in the suburbs, in Fremont, California and when you grow up like that, life is very comfortable. I remember in high school, I had this feeling of something being incomplete, of needing more and I never took the time to hone in on why or let me say, the opportunity to think deeply didn’t present itself…

So, when I went to Boston, across the country, from my home in CA, that’s when some of these thoughts really started taking shape. You must also remember that I grew up Indian in the United States and we don’t have role-models in popular culture; so I spent a lot of time navigating the idea of identity…

So, Insomniac Season is a very personal album…

The project that I worked on right before this was called Before Dusk and the project just before that was called Day Dreams. It’s not intentional but both these projects in a sense track where I was at those points in my life. But with Insomniac, I was keen conceptually to see how I could allow people an entry into who I am, not merely musically but also into my mind, into me as a person because the arts is where you can really be most vulnerable. So when I actually titled it, I titled it with each song representing a different thought process that occurs through a night of not sleeping.

Existentialism, I’d say is bitter-sweet, even at the cost of sounding clichéd. You see, the chorus lyrics of the final song on the album, titled The Heir goes like this…
“Why is it hard to comprehend that we could be nothing and absolutely everything at the same time
I think that idea encapsulates my whole perspective on existentialism…”

And where did Season come from?

It just came from my periods of insomnia at different points in my life. Insomnia for me comes and goes. It usually manifests at points of great inflections, where something is about to change, something exhilarating is going to take shape…

But insomnia cannot be fun, right?

Not at all. When I started work on the album, the idea was all cool. But over the course of working on it, this idea that I had seen from afar, became a real problem, it settled in…

I wouldn’t say it was a deliberate effort to be an insomniac or something; I wasn’t for instance being a masochist or something but when I dug so deeply into my own creativity, it took me to places that just had me up, and thinking a lot.

What is the creativity that emerged from that experience?

It was a very cathartic experience, the entire process of creation. Some of the songs are very happy, celebratory; some, very deep, reflective.

For instance, there’s one song, called Danger Design; its second verse goes…

“Are we designed to feel fear before honour…
danger designed into our tears before love has its time to find a place to stay…
but I’ve learnt that the only enemy to fear is the self locked up in hideaway”

For me, the entire album was a journey of self- exploration, a kind of an embracing of the self.

Prayer T/ Danger Design - The visual is a collaborative effort, capturing Sid’s journey as he traverses parallel journeys, shuttling between two completely different parts of the globe. This piece begins with a prayer, establishing a haunting mood.

Has existentialism always been your thing; how would you describe it; is it a positive or a negative emotion?

Bitter-sweet, I’d say even at the cost of sounding clichéd. You see, the chorus lyrics of the final song on the album, titled The Heir goes like this…

“Why is it hard to comprehend that we could be nothing and absolutely everything at the same time”

I think that idea encapsulates my whole perspective on existentialism… I believe we as individuals have a strong purpose to serve, and at the same time, you do realize that in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter…. I ultimately started to find peace in that; it freed me… So yeah, it’s bitter-sweet but beautiful… I’m still figuring it out.

You spoke about the arts allowing you to be vulnerable. Are you like that as a person?

I’m pretty guarded in regular life. I don’t let too many people in. I have solid relationships with a few and I keep them close. But the stage is where I am at my energetic best… There’s a comfort I feel when I’m up there, on stage. I’ve been performing since I was very young. I remember insisting my mother put me on stage when I was four and when she taught me a little Tirupugazh. I loved it. There’s a certain energy that settles in that is kind of transcendent… I’ve always tapped into that.

I also think the stage allows me an opportunity to form a connection with the audience and no feeling can match that. And finally, the stage for me, has always felt like a safe space. For better or worse, you feel like a king when you are on stage. You have your own parameters on what you do how you do. When I perform Carnatic music, for instance, there is a shield that exists in that space which is the music, the aesthetic of it and with that there is a power that one feels that allows one to open up all the way…

When I sing cinema, it’s pure joy. In person, I’m not really a loud person but when I’m on stage, I jump around and you have nothing to adhere to; there’s no social construct and everything goes out of the door.

When I am doing my original music, that’s when I am allowing people into who I am… Basically, in all forms, that vulnerability exists…

Adiye, a song of longing, catapulted your career in cinema. Are you a romantic like that?

I am definitely more a romantic than I am a realist. My head’s normally up in the clouds and that’s just what gets me going - whether it is visual arts, literature or music. For me, personally the purpose of music and how it satisfies me and what it gives me is the fact that there are these lofty ideas and concepts that when communicated through art allow people an opportunity to grasp on and hold on to them. It allows you to dream. There’s a certain feeling when you come across great art.. Like magic in your gut and I think that comes from being a romantic and let me tell you that feeling exists even in the most pragmatic of people…


Are you a solitary reaper?

If I’m in a social setting, I try to keep to myself for the most part. I keep my close circle very close. It takes me a while to get comfortable with most people. I love alone time. I was in New York last week and I was performing everyday but my favourite part was the days I’d walk around by myself with my headphones on randomly hanging out. I’ve been trying to tackle this book by David Foster Wallace called Infinite Jest for a while now… so I got some time to read. When I have time off, I’d rather spend time in the studio working on some music, practicing my piano…

When I was younger, I had to be around a lot of people and talk a lot. But thanks to art and writing my own music and exploring Carnatic music deeply, I’ve found a sense of inner calm to spend time on my own…

Interviewed by Akhila Krishnamurthy

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What he said about insomnia in some sense being a part of where his music comes from was really fascinating. this was like a peek into the mind of the man who has created so much beautiful music

Raguraman Sundararaman

May 02, 2017

I was there at your recent concert in Chennai, you are amazingly talented and this interview is like the icing on the cake. Wow!


April 26, 2017

Very insightful, I am a great fan. Thank you.


April 19, 2017