Prateek Kuhad, the enigmatic singer+songwriter who has successfully helped many a heart heal through his soulful songs, met us on a cold-ish winter afternoon at Delhi’s bustling Khan Market. What started off with a slightly reserved Kuhad, ended with him being rather candid and unassumingly charming.
The Juice: You’ve already won a whole host of really prestigious awards like the MTV Europe Music Awards (something not many Indian indie artists have won), were given the Indie Album of the Year honours by iTunes, and also won first place at the International Songwriting Competition last year – does it still feel like a bit of a dream?
Prateek: It’s all happened so slowly and gradually. I never really had any expectations. I got into it thinking I’ll give it one year and see what happens. And I pretty much expected my music to fail, but it kept growing and sometimes you just have a moment and you’re like “sh*t I’m really doing it.” 16-year-old me would have really laughed at the me now. When you’re recognised for something, you do get excited, but it goes away after a few days or weeks, but every now and then I do have a moment.
IMAGE CREDIT: Sukrit Nagraj
The Juice: You sing in both hindi and English. How do you manage singing in both with such ease?
Prateek: I think it’s just a mental block. As Indians especially if you’re living in the North, you usually do end up with good hindi, and I grew up in Rajasthan where everyone talks in hindi. If you know a language, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to write a song in it. My hindi is normal, more conversational. I feel like my vocabulary in hindi is still very limited, and I find there’s no point putting in difficult words, so I keep it simple.
The Juice: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt since you first started out?
Prateek: I’m a pretty paranoid person, and there have been lots of times where I’ve had bouts of doubt for no reason at all and have been like ‘I should just quit‘. I almost didn’t put this album out. Mixing the music is very important to me, and it takes roughly 6 months to mix it from scratch, and one month into mixing it, I wasn’t really feeling it. Sometimes I have to push myself to not be a crazy person.
IMAGE CREDIT: Gorkey Potwal
The Juice: Your music has a very folksy/pop vibe. How would you describe ‘cold/mess’ to someone listening to it for the first time?
Prateek: Defining genres has become increasingly difficult as an artist ‘cos it’s all blended. Apart from ‘100 Words‘, none of the other songs are very folksy. ‘For Your Time‘ is almost rock ‘n roll – I can’t really pigeonhole the entire record into one genre. Overall, it’s very chill and relaxed. It’s not techno, so don’t expect techno.
The Juice: Do you read reviews of your music? How would you react to a bad one, not like you would have ever had any.
Prateek: I honestly feel like it’s not about it being a bad review. A lot of times they are just wrong about things. It’s my music, so if someone says something ridiculous it’s going to annoy you. In this one interview they were comparing the art work for cold/mess to Wes Anderson’s aesthetic and they are completely different. I’m okay with people saying this sucks, I don’t like it. If people have negative or positive reactions from an artistic point of view, it’s good. Art should move you. And if it’s not moving you, it’s pointless, even if it’s in a bad way.
The Juice: What’s been your craziest fan encounter?
Prateek: A really cool thing happened when I was playing a show in the US back in August. I’d bought this beautifully packaged Pistachio Orange bar from this random New York store on my trip there earlier. Six months later, I was doing a fan meet & greet after a show in New York, and this girl comes to me with a bag, and gives it to me saying ‘it’s a small chocolate brand we are running‘, and it was the exact same one. Not crazy, but definitely the most coincidental.
I’d met this one girl in Bombay who’d got ‘Raat Raazi‘ tattooed on her forearm. People also say very intense stuff in fan mail about my songs, and it feels nice and very gratifying ‘cos you end up putting so much work into it.
The Juice: You have a rather chill vibe about you and how you dress. How important is fashion to you?
Prateek: Whatever I wear has to be super comfy ‘cos if it’s not, then I just can’t wear it beyond a point. I like to keep it simple, and don’t like wasting time on deciding what to wear. I have 8 or 9 printed shirts from the same store in Jaipur that look nice and are super comfy, and feel like pyjamas. I usually don’t like shopping, especially shopping at malls. I do however enjoy walking in cities like Paris and London, and getting lunch with a friend, and then just shopping on the side.